Warning: Not Drinking Alcohol is a Bad Habit
Post #17, 2014.12.13 | Roll With the Punches
“I don’t drink.”
“As in, nothing? You’re on holidays!”
“Nah, as in nothing.”
I get a troubled look from the Dutch hotel manager.
“But I used to drink a lot,” I add.
An understanding smile returns to his face.
It wasn’t always like that. High-end clubs in Ibiza. Illegal raves in Amsterdam. Festivals in Asia. More high-end clubs and raves in almost every place imaginable. But also countless nights in my local hometown pub. Nights in other pubs, people’s homes and many other adventures on the trail with friends old and new. Fuelled by alcohol, there are few party-scenario’s left unexplored. Shots, double-shots, wines, Whiskey, Vodka, Rum, Tequila, B-52, Sake, Bijou, more wines, even more shots and of course Champagne.
I never developed a real drinking problem. No emptying the glasses the morning after a party, or a secret shot of Whiskey on a Tuesday lunch break. Nor did I drink often on weekdays or even Sunday. Just peaks of high volume madness concentrated on the Fridays and Saturdays. From mid teens till mid twenties the peaks were every weekend. Then they started on a downwards trajectory. Once every weekend instead of twice. Once every two weeks. Once every month, then only once every few months. Then nothing.
I haven’t had an alcoholic drink for exactly six months now. The initial plan was staying completely sober for three months, but I’m extending the period to indefinitely.
It’s not that I’m against drinking. That would certainly propel me to top-hypocrite of 2014. I don’t have any problem with those around me drinking themselves into the ground, nor would I recommend anyone to go without a good drink for their entire lives. But for an “all-or-nothing” person like myself, there’s no middle ground. Only drinking “sometimes” is a balance I find hard to manage; 100% not drinking is easier for me than 98% or 90% not drinking. But even more importantly it simply feels like this chapter is done. There are other things to do and explore. My brain has turned into a sponge for knowledge and writing comes naturally. The intellectual activities all seem to flourish since I decided to turn into a monk.
It mostly comes easy. It helps it was me and not somebody else who told me to give up drinking, nor did I have any significant health problems. I was just tired of losing an entire Sunday. Or those blue Mondays where you feel you’re not performing at 100% but at 70%. And the mild mini-depressions inevitable striking on those same Mondays. But most of all because all those things were simply not worth it anymore. From my fifteenth till my twenty-somethingth every weekend was a new adventure. Every party was a story unfolding and every upcoming weekend would seem at least as exciting as the previous one. Until it was not.
I can’t determine the exact tipping point, but somewhere things flipped. Every possible party-scenario had been explored from every different angle imaginable. The ritual of going out and usually getting drunk seemed to be performed out of habit now, not because it brought any real fun. The blue Mondays, the feelings of deja-vu, vast amounts of money spent on pure madness, nasty hangovers; at some point it had to stop.
It’s not a good habit for my environment though, me giving up drinking. If you used to party heavily, you can be assured a lot of your social fabrics are woven along all kinds of obvious, but also not so obvious drinking habits. Not (necessarily) actual drinking games like beer pong and 21, but also much more subtle things: sharing expensive bottles of wines during dinner amongst a group, a glass of Champagne at a wedding, having a beer after a job well done with colleague’s and so on. Abstaining from those social rituals can really test your friendships, work relationships and your will to give up drinking.
A person with no apparent (drinking) problems giving up alcohol, seems to be a difficult concept to grasp. As soon as it’s clear you’ve completely given it up, with no medicines or religion involved, only two justifiable explanations remain: a) you’re a freak or b) you’re a recovering alcoholic. Out of the two, the latter somehow seems more socially acceptable. So if you ever consider giving up drinking, just remember all it takes is that little sentence to put people at ease:
“But I used to drink a lot.”
Reassured looks guaranteed.
👉️ UPDATE: Here’s what I wrote after four years of not drinking: Another Year of Not Drinking a Drop.