Quitting Drinking16 August 2012
“It’s a waste of my time/ It’s a waste of my mind” - Reuben
As the next step in the ongoing mission to sort my life out, I’m taking a break from drinking alcohol. For the next 100 days, I’m not having a drop. Come November 24th, I’ll see how I feel and decide whether or not I want to start drinking again.
This isn’t because I’m a raging alcoholic who desperately needs to get on the wagon before my liver ruptures and my teeth fall out. As far as I can tell, my drinking habits and history are pretty normal for a 21 year-old English university student. The truth is, I’m just bored of getting drunk, sick of all the negative consequences and can’t be bothered anymore. As I just got back from six very fun weeks getting hammered almost every night in Southeast Asia, this seems like a good opportunity to end on a high note.
(I actually haven’t drunk any alcohol since I was in Thailand three weeks ago, but I’m going to call today Day 1 of 100 anyway, even though I could get away with calling it day 21.)
I got drunk for the first time when I was 14 years old, and started drinking “regularly” a few years after that. I’d say I’ve probably gotten drunk about once a week since age 17, on average, taking into account both periods of relative sobriety and the occasional week-long bender. I don’t have many regrets and I don’t take any of it back. I’ve had some great times while drunk, made good friends, and had many, many hilarious adventures that make for entertaining stories and fond memories. I’ve had a lot of fun.
I’ve also had crippling hangovers, thrown up more times than I can begin to count, injured myself, upset and offended people I care about (not to mention the people I don’t care about), poured hundreds (maybe thousands) of pounds down the drain, and done and said all manner of stupid and embarrassing things that to this day I cringe just thinking about. Try as I might, I can’t escape the conclusion that getting drunk simply Isn’t Worth It.
For four years, alcohol has functioned as the reset button for all the changes I’ve been trying to make in my life. Every time I get into a groove and I’m getting healthy, sleeping right, eating well and feeling good about where my life is headed, all it takes is one heavy night out to undo all my hard work. All the good habits that I’d been trying to establish disappear overnight and I’m back to square one. It’s been two steps forward, two steps back, again and again and again for longer than I care to remember and I’m just fucking sick of it.
I’ve done booze-free personal challenges twice before, for a month each, but both times were during relatively quiet periods of my life when there wasn’t much pressure to drink anyway. This trial, on the other hand, will take me over fresher’s week and Halloween, so if I can make it through this part of the year sober then I can probably handle anything. I love going out and partying and I don’t plan on stopping. It’s just well past time that I stopped using alcohol as a crutch.
On a physical level, I don’t expect the next 100 days will be very challenging. I’ve never found it difficult to have a sober night out, and I’m not one of these people who “can’t be in a pub without drinking”. If anything about this proves difficult it’ll be the social side of things. I know that plenty of people just plain Won’t Get It and I’ll probably have to put up with a lot of peer pressure and stupid questions. Part of the reason I’m calling this a 100-day trial rather than just saying outright “I’m quitting drinking” is because it’ll (hopefully) minimise the amount of both I have to put up with.
Some of my friends I’ve virtually never hung out with in a situation where there was no alcohol involved. If my sobriety means we drift apart, I’ll be sad to see them go, but such is life. I’ve been considering quitting drinking for over a year now and I’m not going to let anyone hold me back from the path I believe is right for myself.
So, today is the first day of the rest of my life. Maybe I’ll start drinking again once the 100 days are up, maybe I won’t. All I know is that this is long overdue. I’m looking forward to what the future has in store.
Oh, and just to prove I’m serious: If you catch me drinking alcohol between now and November 24th, I will pay you £100.
(PS: Just to be clear, this is a purely personal decision and it’s not my intention to criticise anybody who does choose to drink. Although if you didn’t work that out for yourself, and construed this post as an attack on your lifestyle even though I didn’t say anything about or pass judgement on anyone else’s drinking habits, that says bad things about your own self-image and you probably do need to drink less.)