We approach the end of the 6 weeks in which I set myself the challenge of publishing 250 words a day and I am looking forward to a short break from writing despite feeling like I still have plenty to share.
So I now have a short priority list of things to write about and top of that list is a topic which we have all at some point or another, felt for ourselves or at least seen in others, the good and the bad: alcohol.
I’ve lost control in short spates, thankfully always limited to the morning after.
I’ve taken months off, followed by big blow-outs.
I’ve enjoyed and regretted drinks.
I’ve drank too little and too much.
I, like you, have had a journey and what I share here is a summary of my journey to now. It’s a journey which will continue but my sense is that from the age now of 36, it will be in a different direction than the average of the last 18 years.
Drinks were a big, consistent and generally healthy feature of my 20s. As healthy as social drinks can be.
Then something changed. I started to think about how alcohol was serving me. Funny how this was around about the time that the hangovers were getting heavier and longer. I spent longer and longer thinking in more granular detail about how the costs of consuming alcohol were weighing up against the benefits it gave me.
I like graphs and have thought about how I would graph this.
What Are/Were The Costs & Benefits and why are they moving like this?
Taste – This benefit was reducing as the taste of alternatives was improving so much and still is.
Relaxation – It will always serve this purpose, although less so as the ‘costs’ weigh on my mind while I’m drinking it now.
The ‘craic’ – It is and always will be fun to get utterly sloshed with one’s mates. The fact that this hasn’t been anywhere near as possible over the last year or so has probably served to expedite the decline.
Time – It takes increasing amounts of time to recover from a few too many*.
Energy – It takes increasing levels of energy to recover from a few too many*.
Inconsistent – Misalignment with who I want to be as a Dad.
Confidence – Every occasional but notable loss of control impacted my confidence in other areas of my life. “If I can’t always control this why would I be able to achieve my heightiest goals?”
*It’s rarely ‘a few too many’. It was increasingly more likely to be 1 drink or far too many drinks. And too often, the decision about whether it was 1 or too many was outside of my conscious control.
On reflection, the switch from net benefit to net cost came with becoming a Dad.
I want my Son’s experience of life to be a long string of positive, present, developmental, healthily challenging, dynamic, role-modelling and influential moments.
How can I facilitate that if I’m feeling a bit under the weather from a drink too many the night before?
Non-Dads might read this as a reason not to have kids. It’s anything but, but I only know that because I’m a Dad. Read Paul Graham on Kids and/or Fatherhood vs Ambition.
So from July 2018, the writing was on the wall, I was just coming to terms with it.
Then 4th July 2020 happened.
My Wife and I excitedly booked a table at a nice restaurant-bar which did good food for kids and we enjoyed a late lunch and a few drinks there before heading round to the neighbours for a BBQ. By the end of the night I think about 8-9 bottles of good red wine had passed the table. And at 1am it looked like one of them was pebble-dashing our bath-tub. And then again the next morning. It was not pretty.
I had planned the next day to be working on an exciting project I had on the go while my Wife and Son were visiting their friends. This was cancelled as my Wife hadn’t slept as she was looking after her 36 year old child all night.
So I spent the day at home looking after my Son while my Wife caught up on the missed sleep, cleaned the bedsheets, carpet and bath and entertained our Son after a morning spent on the iPad because his Dad was incapable of any higher level of interaction.
My relationship with alcohol irrevocably shifted that day. 4th July 2020, my Independence Day.
So what do I do now?
I still like the taste of a really good glass of red wine and as the alcohol free options haven’t yet caught up, I will allow myself a glass, albeit very slowly indeed. I probably burn it off before I’ve finished it. And that’s enough for me.
Interesting article and I can relate to all that you say. After many attempts I gave up drinking on the 6th November 2015. When I looked back on my life at the things I’ve regretted the most, they were usually done whilst drunk. I haven’t looked back. I can’t imagine drinking again.
Thanks Brian, appreciate your thoughts
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