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Friday, 3 January 2014

Some thoughts on giving up booze...

Ah... Hangover free. My New Years Day is almost like as if Carlsberg did sobriety... But they don't and anyone that drank that last night knows about it. But not me for only the fourth time in 30 years...

One of those hangover free festive seasons was back a few years ago. A mate did a photo essay following me around taking photos at the G8 and the events surrounding it when it came to Scotland. After seeing the pics (and wasting most of my morning in Edinburgh at the Make Poverty History march with a huge hangover and then after the march starting on to the booze again...) I went off booze for a year (and blogged about it here if it still exists!). I missed the deadline by 13 days- this video is of me going back on it (listen to the commentary- it explains why...)

I think without that year off, and the subsequent realisation that I didn't really miss the booze, I wouldn't be where I am now. After I went back on it, I took the attitude that if I was going to wreck myself with drink, it might as well be good quality stuff- like Billy Connolly did after Pamela Stevenson reminded him he could afford better stuff. I probably couldn't, but I thought that better quality meant better taste and less damage, the former being true, the latter perhaps marginally so. And like Connolly, I suppose that was the first step away. Also, I realised that drink nor drugs gave me peace of mind. The peace they offered was fleeting and then the comedown was at least a day of blackness; doubt; depression. I don’t need drugs to depress me!

I stayed off the booze last Christmas and New Year, and the only other booze free festive season I can remember was one year I was doing night shifts as a Night Auditor at the Dunblane Hydro hotel.

I'll do without it in 2014, like, for the most part, I did without it in 2013. I have come to the realisation that even though I might not talk as much as I did when I drank when I'm out, it means less rubbish talked and to be honest I don't really miss it. Is the inability to say, "I won't do without it; I might go back on it; I'll go back on it for 'x' event," 'dependency?' Genuine question. And I don't want to be drug or drink dependent.

Me enjoying a drink in Bayeux in 1992. 
For the past 15 months I have said I might drink again- and still say that knowing the power of the "drink" lobby combined with past enjoyment etc, but I think the longer I go and the more of other peoples hangovers I witness, the least likely I will.

Hangovers in my opinion, are no longer worth a few hours of less inhibition and feeling clever and although the taste of a good red wine is nice, it is the alcohol in it that is the attraction- some non alcoholic wines have a nice, dry, rich taste, but without the effect, I don't buy them.

One point in this coming year I thought I might celebrate with a drink is in September when Scotland becomes independent, but I think I'll probably celebrate with a nice meal and a song or two or something!

I've no regrets, just some great and some not so great memories, but just think for me, it’s time to move on without it.

I hope this doesn't seem pretentious, preachy or patronising, but this is/was my experience, and I can't totally explain why I have stopped - this will inevitably miss out chunks of my reason.

It kind of feels like I just stopped.

I didn't tell anyone I had, and I hadn't a previously thought out plan or date to do so. I had had a good few drinks with an old mate one night and then a few nights later with my mum and dad when they visited and then just stopped.

I think I just stopped being interested in it.

I had a lot of thoughts about it, ranging from realising that alcohol kind of defined me for some people -which is perhaps the biggest thing - not to insult others, but I suppose I started to think of the Biblical phrase (I am an atheist by the way) "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me," and lots of the behavior around alcohol and with alcohol was the same as it had been when I was 17 and I'm now 47.

I've had wild days and nights and weeks and fortnights in the past, but once you've done that for 30 years, where do you go with it? Do the same things with different people? In different pubs? I found it repetitive. It wasn't a true break from the Ground Hog working week. It was just a more fuzzy, ill, tired, migrained Groundhog Day.

Also- the alcohol and tobacco industries are perhaps the two most invidious capitalist machines in the world and why give them my money when I need it? I have given up human relationships including long term relationships on political differences, so why should I keep up a damaging, one sided relationship that actually encourages and funds one of the biggest perpetrators of a political genocide on the working class?
Drunk, early  2011

No-one I have ever met who continued drinking at the binge levels I did ever looked healthy past 50 and in photos I was just looking like a really unfit, middle aged soak and I suppose middle aged crisis was making me NOT want to look and feel that way. I could pretend and feel young once or twice a week in a pub or with large glasses of wine in front of the telly/listening to music. But that was not being pro-active.

Hangover and alcohol accerbated depression were a waste of time... And I was reading about more and more sober people achieving so much, celebs, writers, singer/song writers and friends- not that I'll achieve a lot, but would at least like to be more healthy, wealthy and happy like most people.

Most of all, I think I probably suppressed ME in alcohol. And it was time I found out who that was. I wanted time outside work and being a dad to explore and find me without a hangover or being tipsy/drunk/longing for that Friday tipsiness or drunkeness.

I worried that when I gave up that people would see me in a different way and not like me- but I think now that people can accept me -or not- as a sober no-it-all rather than a drunken or hungover one.

Sorry- that was long, pretentious, preachy and patronising! And actually, I will never say never again. I might be pished again sometime in the future... But it would have to be for a good, fun, very worthwhile reason to give up time to hangover and mild depression. And at least I am not on a twice weekly attack on my health both mental and physical and feel a wee bit healthier for that.

Sober 2013
I was thinking about why. I think it is easier for me to change my lifestyle here, in Scotland, for a number of reasons- first and foremost, I am not originally from here and since movng here I have moved around a lot. My childhood and youth friends are mostly not from Scotland- and that's the most difficult thing to break- socialising in the way your mates socialise.

If I still lived in Norn Irn, I know it would be very difficult for me to give up the drink, and to a certain extent, meat, because of the culture there etc. Before I came over to Scoylsnd, I was very much in to pub culture. In fact, in the two months leading up to coming over hete, I was in the pub every night, and that 'culture' was one I more or less held on to through University.

When I left Stirling Uni a couple of things changed things in a way that made, eventually, a total lifestyle change easier- one, Sonya was not a pub person and two, my son.

Most of my drinking was reserved for visits back to Norn Irn, visits of friends and going out the odd time we had a babysitter. I wasnt really a drink at home person- but that crept in over time.

Sober me, Christmas 2013!
Another thing that has helped is the fact that our family take after my grandad on my mums side, a man who broke norms and did his own thing, and my gran on my dads side, a very strong woman who had to fight adversity all her life (and my grandad who was a quietly stubborn man). I also have a mum and dad who, even through my stupidest times, gave me huge support. I'm not really someone who is pressured by peers (though of course peer pressure has been part of my life) etc- I plow my own path (that sounds like I have "a bit of a wire about myself," but I know its true- once I have something in my head I have to do, I'll do it- which is not always a positive thing!). I wasn't pressured into drinking- my first drinking session with my matrs came about after I invited myself along- and most of the time I was the instigator in drink related madness. As I said, drink at times, defined me.

So I think both the fact I have few roots here beyond Sonya, Michael, Sonya's family and lifelong friends, my SSP branch, work and a few scattered friends due to our moving so often, and add to this the support I have had from a strong family, I am a reasonably resilient person.

I don't have any regrets.  but there are more changes I will make in 2014 now this monkey is off my back!


  1. Very well written, you look a lot better in 2013 than you did in 2011, well done. I am starting out very late in life (68 years!!) but I have a new partner who is concerned out my drinking (he does not drink) so 2014 I am going to sort myself out. I am sure it will be one step at a time..... happy new year

  2. I hope it goes well. Let me know! It does get easier. And there is no time like the present, regardless of what age you are, to start something new!


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