On not drinking.

This January I went in dry. It hurt a bit but I found that if you just kept working at it, eventually you could get a fairly smooth motion going. That’s enough E L James-esque wordplay, I’m talking about quitting drinking for the month or what is known as Dry January. For the most part the hashtag on Twitter seems to be composed of people confessing to their sins and posting emojis of cocktail glasses. I did it anyway. There are some strange things I have learnt as a result and I would like to share them with you.

1. You know that strange feeling where death is coming at you on a Saturday or Sunday morning well that isn’t there if you didn’t drink on the night before. I have sprung out of bed (aside from the fact it’s freezing in my flat and no amount of layers can keep that off) and been ready to carpe the fucking diem. I feel more focused and more driven. I’m not quite as lazy as I was before and I’m able to think about things much more clearly.

2. People assume you have a problem if you tell them you aren’t drinking or they feel sorry for you. You don’t need to feel sorry for me. I went out on Thursday last week for a reunion with some of the fine people I walked to Machu Picchu with. I was the only person not drinking. Every time I explained it to someone they would say “oh, I’m sorry” as if my dog had died. My dog hasn’t died and I felt pretty swell on Friday when I got up for work. From the conversations I have had since with them, they didn’t. Shortly after I left for my 52 minute commute back home they got on the Jagerbombs which is of course liquid funeral for the next day.

3. I come home from nights out with money because for some reason I was still withdrawing the same amount I would if I was going to be “getting on it”. That money now lasts through the week. It buys me my coffee, because caffeine is one monkey I definitely do not want off my back. It buys me food and stamps and whatever else it is I spend my money on. Not drinking is actually pretty great.

4. I feel a lot healthier as a result of not drinking. I’m also trying to do some kind of exercise regime and I go running twice a week but not being bloated out on beer or staring at my haggard reflection on a weekend morn has done wonders for me. I feel positively nauseating.

5. You realise everyone is very annoying when they are drunk. I worked in a pub for a couple of years. I also worked as a DJ when I was a student, although I tended to be in a worse way than most of the clientele when I was deejaying. I vomited on more than one occasion. Once I pulled the CDJ plug out of the wall in the middle of a song and the whole night fell out of its own arse. Where was I? Oh yes, everyone else, very annoying. It takes them ages to be ready to leave, doing rounds ends up costing you a lot more than getting Cokes on your own would have done and everyone stinks. There is nothing worse than the bleary-eye and Fosters breath approaching you for an intimate chat about what you’re doing so wrong.

6. Tee-totallers are getting dicked on by pubs and bars. At one stage or another we have all had to be the designated driver, unless you don’t drive and then hooray for you, you should be drunk all the time. You should be the Oliver Reed of your friendship group. You may have noticed drinking soft drinks is not actually as cheap as it should be.
I went to The Swan at The Globe the other night with a lovely lady. Neither of us were drinking so we got two lime and sodas. Two lime and sodas cost us £5.00. I’m not being funny but that is a lot of money for two lime and sodas. The pub I worked in – 30p. More effort should be put on making non-alcoholic drinks cheaper. The mark up on draft Coke (I’m calling it that because I can, you know the one I mean, comes out a cranky hose under the bar) is ridiculous.
The other issue of course is you can’t possibly keep up with the rate your friends are putting away their drinks. You try going on a night out and drinking six pints of coke. It’s tough. My friends were doing the equivalent amounts in lager with much less bother than I was.

I don’t think I could ever be entirely free of drinking. I enjoy drinking quite a lot. I’m a writer. It works well with what I do and I like the taste. This little experiment has made me think about how reliant we are on it as a way of dealing with life though. Go without, you’ll probably be surprised.

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