January 14, 2013 by John Buckley
So New Years Eve came, we had the cheapish bottle of cava in hand, enjoying the bubbles and celebratory air. As always with New Years come resolutions, the ones we generally don’t follow through on. It was at that point I decided, it’s 6 months booze free.
The inspiration had started long before for me, from a number of sources. Firstly was the impact alcohol had on my own personal mental health, amplifying and exacerbating dark feelings I would have. Secondly was inspiration from a friend who was taking part in the Australian ‘Hello Sunday Morning’ Project, which aims to create meaningful change in our lives while off the drink. The final piece for me involved observations while sober on nights out. The aggression, the needless waste of money, the characters we sometimes become, the morning after the night before and the things we wish we’d never said. For me drink culture in Ireland this is not a real engagement with life. It’s at times and for some a real block to living.
What also strikes me is how alcohol surrounds so many things in our lives that we really don’t need to enjoy and appreciate. Music, art, people, sex, conversation. Booze may lower our inhibition and temporarily raise our mood but it’s not real, it’s not a real engagement with the beauty of these things. If you think about it we appreciate all the things I’ve listed so much more while sober.
Don’t get me wrong; I love beer, a lot. This is my 14th day without having a drink and I miss beer. I like how it tastes and having a pint with the lads. So why not just cut back you say? Well because I wanted to set myself a challenge that I can really learn and grow from.
So at the start of my journey I wanted to map out some of challenges I feel I may be faced with and how I may face them. So far the first fortnight has been good. I’ve engaged with society and it’s venues laden with alcohol with success. But I know this is only the start of my journey.
- Social Life: nights out, birthdays, work dos, gigs, matches, theatre and meals. The majority of these things booze is not an added extra; it’s rooted in the events. I read an article today. ‘Where can you go to avoid people drinking?’ It got me thinking. Do I need to avoid the places that I love and the people that I love because there’s booze involved? Why should I have to find other places? I don’t love gigs because of alcohol, it’s because of how the music makes me feel. So instead of looking for alternatives during the 6 months dry, I’m going to reclaim the places that I love. As someone said today to me on twitter “It’s only a problem if you give it too much importance”. But I know it will be tough and I’m going to try out those places that are drink free too and I’m looking forward to checking out Dublin’s new alcohol free club very soon.
- Relationships: This is the one I worry the most about and that I wonder how I’m going to deal with it. I’ve promised myself I’m not going to miss birthdays and celebrations. I’m also not doing this in order to judge others choices, but will those in my life view it as that? I feel we need to be honest all the time, open to speaking how we feel. But quiet often in Irish culture this can be muted until the booze lets it flow. How will people feel about me being the sober one? Will they change their behaviour around me? I don’t want that. I’m me, I’m the same person and I plan to have fun. I also worry about romantic relationships, where I’m the sober one, will that have an impact? What will the person I’m seeing think or how will they react? I suppose I have to remember I can’t control people’s behaviour; all I can do is show them I’m still me. And I have to be clear that for so many drinking is not a bad thing, it’s really not.
I know I’ve only focused on two challenges here, but I know there’ll be many others, that I’ll face when they come. So just to remind myself why am I doing this again?
- To re-engage with life and society in a different way, to renew my love of all the things in my life
- To give my mental health a chance to rebuild and repair
- To wake up to new challenges on Sunday mornings
- To swim against the tide and see where it brings me
Wish me luck!