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Resolution 4 (of 4, it seems): Booze

My final resolution is not, as some people insinuated, a 'January detox'. Yes, I have decided not to drink any alcohol this month, but I prefer to think of this as Straight Edge Month, thank you.

My reasons are, to be frank, vague. I've always had a slightly uncertain relationship with alcohol (in fact, you could say my attitude towards drinks is mixed*). It's fun to get drunk sometimes, but at other times it's just depressing, and I find it hard to tell in advance which it's going to be. It's a mood-enhancer, I guess, but it doesn't consistently enhance the right mood.

Also, when I drink it's normally at a pub or party with my mates, and the purpose of the gathering is chatting (at least, as far as I'm concerned). What I'm hoping for is to hit that sweet spot where a few drinks have been drunk, the conversation's flowing, and fancy flies free. The conversation takes strange turns; schemes are hatched; jokes recounted, re-purposed or created; and we collaborate in producing a ephemeral structure, a house of cards of speculation and invention which pleases and surprises us all.

I'm not sure whether this blessed state is actually induced or assisted by alcohol, or just frequently coincident. The problem is that it requires a perfect conjunction of mood, circumstance and company that's rare enough that it's hard to draw firm conclusions. And for every time it helps, there's a time when it hinders, making me tired and withdrawn, or leaving me feeling (rightly or wrongly) that my conversational skills have been impaired. Perhaps bizarrely, if I'm going to say something really ill-considered or incoherent, I'd rather that it was because I'm intrinsically insensitive or rambling than because my judgement was clouded by alcohol.

The deciding issue is simply my biology: when I get drunk, my memory is the first of my faculties to fail. Quite apart from the slightly creepy idea that I then wander around like a philosophical zombie, it sucks to only be able to remember the start of the party or the support acts at a gig, even if other attendees can attest that I seemed to be enjoying myself.

So, I've jacked in the booze, for January and perhaps beyond. I'm in good company:
Richard Herring, comedy genius, does this on a regular basis; and white_hart & topicaltim are the ones that gave me the idea+. Part of white_hart's reason really resonated with me: 'I'm starting to wonder whether I even enjoy drinking that much now... in the right company I can have just as much fun sober as drunk; in the wrong company alcohol doesn't really make things any easier.'

The practical effect has been fairly minor. I've attended a few gatherings and not had less fun than I reckon a hypothetical drinking 'control' oxfordhacker would have had. I've been tempted a couple of times (I often feel like a beer after a few hours lugging books at Oxfam) but haven't caved in yet.

I don't feel any particular peer-group pressure (apart from the good-natured mockery I mentioned in my introduction), because my peer-group has always ranged from tee-totallers to fairly hard-core drinkers. I think I'd feel more self-conscious in front of 'new' people, but I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps I don't like the assumptions that I assume that they would make about me based on this. I'm sure I'd cope somehow.

I've lost a couple of pounds, which was not really part of my aim. It is quite reassuring though, as I've always told myself I'll give up booze if I start getting fat, and it's nice to know that that might actually work.

Ideally, after this experiment is over, I'd go back to drinking in moderation. As I say, I like the relaxation that a pint or two can lend. I do enjoy the taste of many alcoholic drinks as well, though (un?)luckily I'm not much of a gourmand, so I feel don't feel this loss as highly as another might.

However, I know from past experience that moderation is difficult, much harder (for me at least) than giving up altogether. I suppose imposing inhibitions on one's consumption of a inhibition-lowering substance is bound to be a tricky endeavor. This is especially true when the reasoning behind the inhibition is pretty flimsy. Perhaps the perspective that I have developed from performing and writing about this little experiment will help in future. We shall see...

* Be grateful that I scrapped the draft which had a pun like this after every sentence for the whole paragraph... It was nigh unreadable for several different reasons.

+ Though at the time of posting, I believe that both have revised their resolution to 'drinking only in moderation'.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 24th, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC)
Hoping that you will take this in the spirit (again no pun intended) in which it is given - I'm not sure about your choice of userpic for this post. I'm not sure if, at first glance at least, it really sums up your drink-free status... *grins*
Jan. 25th, 2007 01:45 pm (UTC)
in the right company I can have just as much fun sober as drunk

When I stopped drinking 14 years ago*, that was pretty much my mission statement. To prove to myself and others that I could have as much fun sober as drunk. It didn't take long to find that people thought I was drunk anyway when I wasn't, and this sowed the seeds of playfulness in all manner of circumstances I guess...

Over the last few years, I relaxed my own prohibition a little. It all started when my sister was really distressed one time, and I figured a decent 'shock and awe' would help, so after 8 years of teetotalling, I ordered a 5 litre glass of beer to get the evening started**, an evening of mayhem and spirits ensued, it was fun and it seemed to have the intended effect...

That was a one-off, but over the last few years I've had a few one-offs... Generally at thoughtfully chosen times.

Nowadays I say that I don't drink, which is true most of the time. But I will make exceptions when I consider there's a particularly good reason. For me, having a good time is not a good reason by itself (don't need drink for that anyway), neither is celebrating something (don't need drink for that, and there are so many celebrations). Reminding myself and others that it's choice not dogma is a good reason, as is metaphorically playing with fire from time to time. I like keeping it rare; it stays potent that way.

* For reasons that had nothing to do with my biology and everything to do with sociological observation.

** After years of avoiding it, the sensation throughout my body of the tiniest sip of alcohol, even just breathing the vapour, was quite fascinating. Tingling to the fingertips and unstoppably sexy. It seems difficult to reproduce now, I suspect I'd need a few years without any and a suitably potent situation again.
Jan. 25th, 2007 07:15 pm (UTC)
I've reasonably successfully tried to a) moderate my drink intake so I don't ever stumble against the definition of binge drinking, and b) make sure that there is always at least one day a week in which I don't drink at all. (Yesterday at the terribly pure and spiritual Korean vegetarian restaurant HanGawi I was in the right ballpark though not strictly sticking to the letter of the law - the one small beer I had was outnumbered by a very tasty pear juice and a delicious ginger tea).

Quite often recently it has worked out that the one day that I don't drink is Tuesday night at CBS. To be honest, I do find that the pub night can be a bit more boring without the affluence of inkahol, but partly that's because I arrive early (because there's not enough time or reason to go home in between work and pub) and I then sit and eat / read by myself for a while before any significant numbers of people turn up. Once more people turn up, it's great and I don't miss the alcohol at all.
Jan. 26th, 2007 12:08 am (UTC)
I'm off alcohol and tobacco for January and February, more for mental health reasons than anything else - winter always gets me emotionally unstable, and I'm experimenting with specific exclusions to see if it has a positive effect. Mainly it means I don't go out so late; despite alcohol being a depressant I find I get more tired when sober, and drunk people don't tend to be so much fun to be around if you're sober. I can see how sobriety can be a state of mind one can slip out of by choice in the right company, but I haven't had the right cause to test that recently. I do intend to get back on booze in March though, not least because I have quite a bit of very nice wine and whisky that needs to be consumed. And I do like a good ale.

Though I miss the tobacco much more than the alcohol. It was a symbolic quitting at midnight on new year's eve, to prove to myself I still had the will to do it, I guess. A small act of personal control-freakery. I suppose it's a couple of Straight Edge months for me too. Solidarity, brother (etc).
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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