The fact I've had basically no physical withdrawals and little in the way of cravings for my favourite tipples since I gave up alcohol makes me feel like a bit of a fraud. Did I really have a problem in the first place? Did I need to give up at all? Well folks, I have absolutely no regrets. I think I'd been thinking about cutting back or giving up for so long, when I finally made the call I was more than ready.
Lotta Dann writes regularly in her blog Mrs D is Going Without about the ways her life is better now without alcohol - the inner calm, the personal satisfaction, the being more engaged in her life and with those around her. She writes about facing the hard things in life sober and about being more in touch with her emotions, both good and bad. I'm already feeling all of those benefits. I've gone without for a few weeks here and there before, but this time is different. So, for me, it's not just about my body being free of the drug of alcohol, but it's about carrying a different mindset along with it.
All that drinking energy is now going in more positive directions. I'm more engaged with my daughters, I'm handling stress better, I'm focussing on improving my friendships. To put it simply I'm just happier now, and I see how the ripple effect of that affects others.
I'm grateful I've been able to give up with little disruption to my life or to the people close to me. I've had the odd nagging voice but no real internal angst. I go onto Living Sober and read of people's daily struggles to kick this drug and I marvel at how truly brave they are - to be in such dark places but to be fighting to get into the light. That struggle is inspiring to me.
As I change my view on alcohol I'm seeing it more and more in a negative light. Yes, I've had many more triumphant nights out drinking than train wrecks. But it serves me better at the moment to remember the bad times.
I've lost count of the number of weddings or engagement parties where I didn't stagger off into the night and redecorate a garden bed or footpath with the ghastly contents of my stomach.
I've never been able to hold my liquor. If the true extent of my public vomiting escapades were known the council would probably assign a cleaning crew to follow me around.
There was one fun night (actually it was pretty awesome) I decided due to lack of taxi funds to stagger home through Hagley Park at 3am. I zig-zagged the entire 10km home, not before falling asleep on my feet and walking face first into a fence. I thought that shit was hilarious back then as I explained my facial injuries to my mate later that morning. Now I'm not so sure. I was in such a state I was pretty lucky to make it home with just a few scrapes and scratches.
I'll always remember that time I was underage and drunk with a bunch of similarly underage drunk friends and we were all too pissed to realise the driver of the random van we all piled into was also drunk. You would think when he rolled the van and we had to haul our bloodied friend out of the back of the upturned van it might have given me pause for thought about my drinking. but of course it didn't.
I used alcohol, like countless others do, to boost my confidence in social situations, to draw that slightly more extroverted version of myself out. To have something in my hand so I didn't feel the crushing feeling of self consciousness I always felt turning up to a bar to meet friends and being the first one there. I lacked self confidence. At times I truly hated being me. I always dreamed of being someone else. I think I felt I wasn't good enough on my own, that I needed the alcohol to become the person I thought people would like. It was very much about fitting in when I was younger, and as I got older drinking was just part of my modus operandi. I never questioned it. As I've gotten older I've learned to like myself more and worry less what other people think. That's another reason I think I'm strong enough to quit alcohol now.
I was never an angry drunk. I always thought I was a loveable, fun dude to be around. Most times I probably was, but what did I know. Looking back I think most of the time I was bordering on being more of a loud, annoying git. I know for sure I would never dance on a table in a Wellington curry house, or skull beers naked in a rugby changing room at midnight, or regale my captive dinner guests with my favourite sad-old-man music from my 300-strong CD collection if I were sober.
What I'm enjoying now is the challenge of going to meet my mates at a bar and not having to drink to get through it. It takes practice but I've found I'm making more of an effort to engage and enjoy it now. And I'm probably better company.
Tonight my wife and I are taking the kids to a friend's house for dinner. I got sent to buy a very nice bottle of pinot noir I won't get to try, but that's all good. I'll look ahead to my run tomorrow morning with a clear head and a sober mind.
Enjoy todays musical offering, and be thankful it's just the one!
One of the depressing tunes from my collection of sad-old-man music.