Not Not Drinking, just not drinking

notnotdrinking

231386085552BarneyWe’re now in May, so it’s now been 16 (and a half) months since I gave up drinking for, er, three months. While the initial 12 months of Not Drinking were trickier, the last 4 (and a half) months of just not drinking hasn’t actually been difficult at all – there’s definitely a huge difference between Not Drinking and I Could Have A Drink If I Wanted But I’m Not Going To.

I have had a few small sips of a beautiful hazelnut liqueur, a birthday present last year from Mummy Dinosaur Pirate, and I have tasted some organic Cider that my flatmate was drinking. That’s it. I’ve not had an entire alcoholic drink at all – and I am still not missing it much.

I recall six months in saying I wanted to get to the point with my attitude to drinking where I could walk into a bar, see an interesting looking drink that I wanted to taste, or liked the taste of, and would drink it because I wanted that drink and not because I wanted to get drunk, or needed to be drunk. While there have been a few moments where I’ve been out a pub with some friends and thought “I’d really quite like a drink actually” – most often when there’s been a nice looking rosé available or my favourite beer – there’smongozo_cocunut been two clear occasions where I’ve felt that I wanted to drink for the taste, for the experience – and not for the alcohol. It was a powerful sensation – to know that I  had the power to make that choice, to know that I could just  have one and that would be the end of it. To know that i could just as easily not have it, and have just as good a night. On both occasions I chose not to have one – mainly because I’d cycled to the pub and figured cycling home after the first alcoholic drink in 16 months would be, on the list of Stupidest Things I’ve Done, quite high up the chart.

My social life has definitely changed – whether this is due to the not drinking or circumstance (it’s been a crazy few months on Dinosaur Planet) I don’t know; but I go out dancing and to clubs, well, certain clubs, a lot less. There are some places which just aren’t really fun when you aren’t in an altered state. Where you are acutely aware of the state of the toilets, of the floor  being sticky, of a general sense of grottiness. A few clubs I’ve been to I’ve found the behaviour of other drunk people just a little hard to deal with. You start to recognise this unfocused look in people’s eyes, the way they stumble around the club and just sort of barge around or push through you like you aren’t there. I assume this happened before, when I went to these places as a heavy drinker, but that as I was one of them I never really noticed. Being around seriously drunk people does start to get harder, and so my social life has in the main shifted away from late night clubs and more into early evening pub trips with a pack of cards or a game of Fluxx or Love Letter.

The change to my social life pattern as also brought an interesting shift to many of my friendships. I have drifted apart from some of my old party buddies, and grown much closer to other friends. The quality of conversation, and your ability to really listen to people (and remember the conversation the next day) is considerably better, and some nights out have brought me closer to people I thought I knew, people I’ve known for years. There’s been many moments where I’ve been next to a friend in a bar, when previously our conversation would have been “LOL LET’S GET SHOTS OMG DO YOU REMEMBER THAT TIME WHEN WE OH GOD WE WERE SO WASTED” and I’ve said to them ” you know, I’ve known you for 10 years and don’t actually know what you do for a living?”

I’ve had marvellous conversations which have brought me closer to people I care about, and have learned how to tell these friends I care about them with full mindfulness and sobriety – i don’t have to be drunk to take a friend in my arms and say “mate, I love you. You know that?” and they know I mean it, and that makes it so much more meaningful. Even if they do get a little embarrassed and punch me on the arm and call me a knobhead. That’s just their way of saying “mate, I love you too.”

If I do go clubbing, I fortify myself beforehand with borderline unwise amounts of caffeine so I can survive the night; but usually once I am there and dancing alcohol just doesn’t seem important any more. My flatmate, a long time drinking buddy, has also discovered the joys of drinking considerably less of a night out. You still feel rubbish in the morning – today is no exception, as last night was in fact one of these rare clubbing adventures – but that’s mainly a combination of too much caffeine/sugar and too little sleep. It’s rather fun to feel a little wrecked occasionally, I do like the excuse to stay curled up in a blanket and watch terrible films and order pizza over the internet. And feeling a little wrecked due to overstimulation and fatigue is considerably more fun than feeling like if you move you might die.

16 (and a half) months without hangovers – and I cannot emphasize this enough – is FUCKING GREAT. I never want a hangover ever again. My time off from hangovers has given me a clarity that as much fun as drinking can be, it’s absolutely not worth the hangover.  Weekends are longer. You get so much more done with your life. The thing I miss least of all is that horrible sense of anxious foreboding and vague unspecified shame; where you are quite sure that you did something horribly embarrassing and that you are a terrible awful person who can never show her face again in public. I really don’t miss that. I hadn’t even realised that was a drinking/hangover thing. It took some time before I realised I wasn’t feeling like that every morning after a night before when the night before was a sober one. That waking up with waves of shame and fear wasn’t just part of waking up after a night out. I now wake up after a night out feeling like I probably should have drunk more water, less Cola and slept more, but that I had an awesome night and that my friends are awesome people and that as a person I am pretty ok actually.

tumblr_mkp8zkiay11s1txd3o1_500People  have asked if I miss drinking. My answer 6 months ago would probably have been that I don’t miss drinking, but I miss the sense of going on a shared journey with friends who are drinking. Now, I don’t even miss that, and am generally able to tap into that sense of fun an adventure without it. It helps that because I barely even mention it these days (it’s not new and exciting and a Big Experiment any more. I’m not a Not Drinker, I just don’t really drink. It’s a subtle difference, but a meaningful one) that often people don’t even really notice or pick up on it. Half the time I am clumsy and dorky enough for people to think I am drunk anyway. I am not entirely sure whether that’s meant as a compliment, but I am going to take it as one anyway.

What is most exciting is that at no point have I felt like I need a drink. Well, apart from briefly when I woke up on the 8th May and discovered the result of the UK general election, and had the fleeting notion that I needed to drown my sorrows – but I am pretty sure I am not alone in feeling that way and that for any lefty social justice warrior type finding out you’ve another 5 years of a right wing austerity mad government is perfectly justified in wanting to drink themselves into oblivion for a little while. But anyway, apart from that, I haven’t needed a drink, or felt like I had to have one. I’ve looked at drinks in the supermarket or at the bar and wanted a soft drink. I never dreamed when I embarked on this experiment 16 (and a alf) months ago. It’s rather wonderful and surprising.

I am fairly sure that at some point this summer I will have one of those coconut beers. It will be a momentous occasion.  My friends will probably take the piss. I will almost certainly selfie the moment for posterity. And it’s exciting that I am absolutely confident that I will be able to have one. Which is all I ever really wanted to achieve.

RDPP

14 comments

  1. I’ve been drinking a lot less myself recently, just a pint of decent beer (usually porter) at the beginning of the evening because I really like the taste and then I’m on the diet cokes. Like you I find that hangovers are not a thing that I miss, not one little bit. That being said; coconut beer you say? What is this alchemy? Clearly I must try some … for science!

  2. As with many things new habits take time and I’m pleased you’ve overcome many hurdles. I find the ‘conversation’ from drinkers one of the hardest things to get past. That may be why my ex-husband, a functioning alcoholic, insisted on calling me a ‘wouser’…I tried to hide what I thought of his conversation but apparently I’m not that great a pretender. I hear you re. hangovers!

  3. This is very thought provoking. I’ve been toying with the idea of giving up drinking for a while – not because I drink excessively, but because I think I drink for the wrong reasons. What motivated you to give up originally (if that isn’t too personal a question)?

      1. Thanks for that – I’ll take a look. Part of the reason I started my blog was to track my recovery from depression. Interesting… Thanks for replying, I appreciate you taking the time.

  4. This probably sounds like a strange comparison, but since I gave up eating meat (and later, dairy and eggs) I have had a similar revelation. Sometimes people say “oh you CAN’T eat such and such”, and it sounds foreign to me because I’ve decided that even though I CAN eat anything, I’ve chosen to eat other foods instead! Being able to approach the process as a positive choice and not as a limitation is SO powerful!

  5. I barely drink any longer myself, unless it’s really lovely wine, and I drink it because I enjoy the taste. I often get asked if there is something wrong, as I am not partaking of terrible cheap beer or acidic white plonk.

    Booze is so much more fabulous when you only drink the good stuff, and even then, little and not often. Also: life is cheaper.

  6. I think I’ve become a moderation bore. ‘Everything in moderation’ seems to be my stance on a lot of stuff these days. Alcohol, chocolate, exercise… They’re all better when you don’t overdo them. Friday nights are my ‘drinking nights’ and I very rarely top two glasses of wine. It helps that I schedule a run for saturday morning and genuinely love running, so have good motivation to be able to get up with a clear head and hit the road. It sounds terminally dull, but it works. Everything balances and I feel way better.

      1. I think the hardest thing is getting past that social glue feeling that letting somebody top your glass up (again) brings. It’s sooo easy to surrender to. Especially as that first drink tends to relax one’s discipline. It’s hard to keep your eyes on the prize (prize being clear head in the morning and no wasted weekend). My husband found an app to track his alcohol intake. It’s quite good having to record each drink you have, as stops you overdoing it almost unknowingly. Seems to help him.

  7. Well done on your “sobriety”. I myself have tried something similar and am going strong on 2 years now. Recently though, I’ve started having a glass of red wine with meals, mostly because it’s doctor ordered (low blood pressure and the such).
    And it’s true what you said about being able to enjoy conversations better – you’re in a state of mind where you can actually connect with someone, rather than just go through the motions.
    Well done, great post :)

  8. Life is so much better when you’re sober. I think it is great what you’re doing and it’s incredible how honest you are in this blog. You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but I am very proud of you. Keep on blogging in a free world – The False Prophet

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