(Still) Quitting Drinking24 November 2012
Yesterday was the last day of my challenge to go 100 days without drinking alcohol. It’s about 4 months since the last time I drank, but 100 days since I explicitly gave up.
I call it a “challenge”, but actually it’s been incredibly easy. I haven’t missed booze in the slightest, and, despite what a lot of people have assumed (I never bothered to correct them), I don’t plan on starting again any time soon. I knew this from the start, really – I only said “100 days” so that I’d save face if I ended up changing my mind.
When I told people “I’m going 100 days without drinking”, they usually had a ton of questions. When I met new people and I couldn’t be bothered with the full story, I’d just say “I don’t drink”, and they’d say “okay” and leave it at that. This was the opposite to what I expected, but it was a nice surprise. I can only think of one time in the entire last four months that anyone tried to pressure me into drinking, and they weren’t persistent, or successful.
(This was a nice contrast to when I was vegetarian, when I’d get peppered with the same moronic questions from defensive meat eaters – usually followed by them accusing me of being “preachy” when they were the ones who brought the subject up in the first place – every single mealtime for an entire year. Compared to that, going a few months without alcohol was a breeze.)
I’d been thinking about making this change for a loooong time. I’d have started in April or May, but I wanted to wait until after my trip to Thailand in the summer. In retrospect, if I’d known how easy the change would be, I wouldn’t have let my travel plans affect it. (I ended up easily drinking more in six weeks in Thailand than in the six months before it in the UK.)
I have no problem with other people’s drinking and I’m not trying to convert anyone to anything here. I’m only writing this post to make a public record of my decision, and to share my experience for anyone who’s curious. Here’s the brief rundown:
- It’s been easy. Really, really easy.
- In between staying sober, eating paleo (or at least reasonably close to it) and cycling 3 miles into uni every day, I feel pretty frickin’ great!
- I never felt much temptation to drink in social situations. I guess I’d had time to prepare – I’ve been drinking less and less over the last year or so anyway, so it wasn’t much of a sudden change. I’ve actually been going out more and been more sociable in the last 100 days than in any given 100 days from the first half of 2012, and I’ve enjoyed it more sober than when I was drinking. But then I don’t go to terrible clubs that I have to take drugs to enjoy anymore.
- Nothing I’ve ever done has had such a positive effect on my productivity. This wasn’t the reason I quit, but it’s been a nice side-effect. The last few months have been the busiest of my life, and there’s no way I’d have been able to get half as much done if alcohol had been in the picture. Maybe I’m weird, but usually if I get hammered on a Friday night I’m lucky to accomplish anything meaningful before Tuesday. The laziness and apathy linger long after the overt effects of the hangover disappear. If you’re capable of staying motivated while taking any kind of recreational drug on the regular, you must know something I don’t.
- I’ve saved tons of money. Again, this wasn’t why I quit, but it’s been a nice side-effect. I don’t even want to think about how much I’ve spent over the last few years on alcohol and other mind-alterants. It must be well into the four figures. I could have bought a car or a whole bunch of guitars or travelled the world for that money. What did I get instead that was so great? False confidence, tolerance for shitty nightlife, and the occasional sloppy, regrettable sexual misadventure with a girl I barely remember meeting? Been there, done that, threw up all over the T-shirt. I’ll have a tap-water please.
As for the question of how we can fix the sorry state of Binge Britain, I have no idea, and I don’t really care. Things do need to change, but the situation isn’t halfway as bad as The Daily Mail _makes it out to be, and anyway, reading _The Daily Mail is far more harmful to your brain than any controlled substance could ever be.
Whatever the case, the solution definitely isn’t “more education” like many would have you believe. (Einstein’s definition of insanity comes to mind when I hear people push for more alcohol and drug education in schools.) Everyone over the age of 16 knows everything there is to know about the health detriments of alcohol, and it didn’t stop me or anyone else. I didn’t quit drinking because I learned any new information, I just got sick of it after a healthy dose of first-hand experience.
I don’t even think it’s such a big deal when young people experiment with alcohol and other drugs. The whole point of being young is to act like an idiot and learn from your mistakes while there are still no real consequences. I don’t know what I could say to my teenage self that would convince him to stop being such a dumbass. Some kids are mature enough to steer clear of experimentation, but the only thing that worked for me was to learn everything the hard way.
(Not that the immature idiot inside of me is dead, but he’s definitely reduced in volume a hell of a lot since I was 18 and my friends and I would vandalise cars, sneak into strangers’ gardens to smash their flowerpots and set off fireworks in village pubs… not to mention getting completely fucked up on all kinds of horrible substances to the point of not remembering a thing practically every time we went out. Once again: no regrets.)
So will I ever drink again? Who knows. A year ago I was 100% convinced that I would be vegetarian for the rest of my life, and now I eat meat every day. These things are hard to predict. All I know is, despite my reservations and doubts, going sober has turned out to be a really, really good decision, and I’m struggling to think of a single downside.