Why I Stopped Drinking

August 29, 2017

Audio version of post available here:

My dear friends,

Our story begins with a pair of very smelly shoes. Really smelly. Those trainers actually stank to the point of me needing to wash my feet after removing them, for fear of choking to death. Oh, and as for taking them off in public? Forget about it.

One night after work, I was preparing to carry out the necessary ritual. I’d fallen onto my bicycle two days prior, so I was a bit bruised and stiff. Naturally, I'd indulged in a fair few free pints after my shift. And as you all know, whilst inebriated, logic tends to go out the window, along with any hand-eye coordination you might boast whilst sober.

One foot was washed, and in hindsight, the bath mat was missing from its normal place. Don't ask me why, but I was washing my feet in the sink, instead of the much more stable bathtub. Whilst lifting the next foot up into the sink, my left foot slid forwards and I fell to the tiled floor like a sack of potatoes. Whether I didn't feel it, or was just stupid I'll never know, but I have a very blurry memory of repeating the attempt, only to slip over again. What terrifies me now is how it could have been my skull cracking on the ground instead of my shoulder.

When I awoke in the morning (let's face it, it was probably afternoon) I found I couldn't move my arm. It hurt so badly! As the haze in my mind dispersed, I began to remember how this came to be. That evening England were due to play that game against Iceland, so of course, I went to the pub to meet my friends. Getting dressed was near enough impossible. Luckily, my bicycle was damaged from the drunken accident a few days earlier, so at least I didn't have to worry about riding that(!) This was just to be another "hehe look how much of a drunken mess I am ... LOL" story to pass onto my friends.

Eventually, I took myself to the hospital and ended up missing over a month of work. I still went out drinking, but less. I think the seed had been planted that drinking too much could be fucking frightening. Though the seed was not yet enough. A life of sobriety seemed bleak and pointless. It was difficult for me back then because drinking was so ingrained in my social and working life. How could you ever have fun if you weren't throwing up in your mouth with every shot of Jagermeister?

My friends and I looking rather worse for wear at Oktoberfest (no offense...)
Incidentally, I’ve removed myself from social circles since losing interest in getting drunk, and spend a lot of time watching Netflix alone. Did I really love the people I was partying with or was each and every rendezvous just another excuse to get drunk? I wasn’t really drinking at home, so it took a while for me to realise that I was essentially using people and occasions as an excuse to drink too much.

And it wasn’t even that fun! I’d feel myself becoming less of a person as the alcohol sunk in. I’d become silent and withdrawn from whichever interaction I was engaged in. Of course, after a few beers, the “socialness” does reveal itself, and all of a sudden you’re best mates with some girl in the toilet because she complimented the lipstick you’re haphazardly reapplying in the mirror.

I fear that I no longer have anything in common with the acquaintances I once called friends. Not that there is anything at fault with these people, but I just don’t have the patience or stamina to listen to someone chat shit for 20 minutes on the way to the toilet anymore. It’ a shame, as I really do like these people. But lately, without social lubricant, I’m finding myself in serious contention for “most boring conversationalist alive”.

"Who wants to do a shot of tequila?" Literally never again, please and thank you.
With some distance, I can see the patterns of problems occurring in others. You just want them to get a clue and stop drinking! They become aggressive and repetitive, all the while you’re willing them to stay the great sober person you want to be in the presence of. They become sillier, and make bad judgment calls, almost as if this drug is killing off their brain cells (!)

But you can’t tell them. Nobody wants to think that they have a problem. It’s not like smoking, where you can rationalise with them - ‘listen, you stink, and you’re killing yourself’. Even that isn't a powerful enough argument most of the time. So who is going to listen to that smug sober person who’s just realised you’re actually a bit of a dick?

I quit smoking after failing to run more than 1/10 of a 10km race. It was three days after my 23rd birthday, and the past month had seen me working and drinking through a busy Oktoberfest. My decision was supported by a bout of pneumonia and a terrible hangover. It’s safe to say that I was feeling incredibly sorry for myself on that fateful Monday morning. I also quit drinking properly for the first time that same day to help kick the fags.

"Burger Queens" taken at around 7:30am on a Monday morning (because that's normal behaviour, right?)
When you quit smoking, people’s reactions are usually positive and full of encouragement. Even heavy smokers will reason “Yeah, fair enough. Wish I could, we know it’s bad for you”. But when you stop drinking people are filled with a mixture of intrigue and outrage. They require an explanation, questioning your decision - as if it affects them in any way whatsoever. They try and barter and offer you drinks, like you don’t know what’s good for yourself! What they are trying to do is force you to admit you are an alcoholic. I’m not an alcoholic, and even with four months of distance, I agree with that statement. But you don’t have to be an alcoholic to have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

I guess, in a roundabout way, for now, maybe, I am cured of my lust for drunken debauchery. But the-rest-of-my-life is a very long time, and to pledge to perfect behaviour is an incredibly large commitment. I will leave you with a quote from the questionably great Iggy Azalea, this is something that’s stuck with me for years. When asked if she drank or did drugs she proclaimed herself sober and said “I am me, 100% of the time”. I might be missing out on a little bit of fun, but at least I won’t lose sight of who I am.

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