THIRTY TWO: Thinkin’ Bout Drinkin’

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

Bruce Lee (probably)(not)

How shit are hangovers? I mean, looking back on a dusty Sunday morning with a missing sock and a thumping headache is funny after the fact, but boy oh boy I hate being hungover. Far too often over my early twenties would I wake up with the familiar feeling of regret for how much I drank the night before, as I try to piece together the events of the previous night with the help of a sloppy text message thread and some of my fellow drinking buddies.

I’ve never been a regular drinker, my job never really allowed for it. I had been in bar work in my early twenties and spent over 5 years in management positions in a few places, so I was often on the “wrong” side of the bar on a Friday/Saturday night. I saw a lot of shit, fights and tears, all alcohol induced. Because it was rare that I would drink, I’d often make too big a night of out the occasion and wind up making a dick of myself. Whether I said something dumb, did something dumb or completely lost my inhibitions. As I got older, I started asking myself;

What the fuck am I doing this for?

The last few months I started having a real hard think about my relationship with alcohol. Sure, I like a beer as much as the next guy, and I don’t sit around craving one, but it had become apparent that after a certain point I lose track and the enjoyment level of the evening plummeted. So I started to consider, what is the actual purpose of getting drunk? Not “having a few” with some friends one evening, I’m talking getting plastered and passing out. What am I trying to achieve?

That’s drinking culture for you. And I think some of it, at least in my experience, links back to that “toxic masculinity“ thing I spoke about a while ago. I spent a couple of years in a rugby club trying to prove how manly and tough I was. And that wasn’t just on the field, holding your booze was as much a part of the sport. And when it wasn’t the rugby club, it was the fellas I started socialising with that would tell me not to be “soft” and have half a dozen beers in quick succession.

It baffles me though, what was I doing it for? Like, honestly, what was I hoping to achieve? The more I reflected on the various experiences I had involving excessive drinking, the more I realised that, even at the time, I never actually enjoyed it. I didn’t enjoy it during, and I sure as hell didn’t enjoy the feeling of being hunger. So what the blazes was I doing?

So I stopped.

When I reflect, I consider that there’s two main reasons why inebriated brain thought it a good idea to keep boozing up. And it’s this;

  1. I’m trying to prove my worth (to pretty much no-one) according to how much I can drink
  2. I am suppressing a bunch of emotions that I would rather ignore until I lashed out at someone or punched a wall or did something else I would feel bloody awful about the next day…into the next week…into the next month…that I’m still regretting now.

It took me a long time to turn the idea into a commitment, over a year if I’m tracking. I had a reality check before I left Australia. As a matter of fact, I had two. One of them involved me being an absolute prick to some of my close friends for no reason whatsoever, right before my timely departure from Australia. I’m sure I made the exit slightly easier *nervous laugh*. The second one involved drunk dialling my ex (oh bite me, we’ve all done it), and doing something so monumentally stupid and dangerous that I’m lucky that I didn’t get hurt or hurt someone else. They’re two occasions that leave a knot in my stomach, but remind me that participating in this toxic, peer-pressure driven culture of excessive drinking just doesn’t work for me.

I think I picked the right time to drop off the drinking scene, seeing as bars aren’t crowded like they used to be, but it still came with a few minor challenges, most of them social. On the most part I’ve had a positive experience with the people I know when I tell them I’m not drinking, which tells me that I am associating with the right kind of people. So, thank you friends. But on the odd occasion I’d be met with what I could only describe as a scowl of disbelief, followed by ‘what do you mean you’re not drinking?!?!”.

To that, I would simply say that it’s not for me. If it doesn’t work for them, so be it, but what I’ve discovered from my decision to not follow the crowd as they collectively stumble through the street on a Friday night is that people seem to think that no booze = no fun. Like Tim, how will you go on dates without alcohol?! What’s the point of meeting up with us at a bar then?!?!?!?! Well, I mean, there’s more to being social of an evening without 5 litres of liquid courage. And as for dating, if it didn’t suit the suitor then maybe they’re not a suitor after all?

I’m not about to be a preachy non-alc guy because, to be frank, I don’t know if I’ll never drink again. But if I do, I’ll be working on my relationship with it. But, what I want you to take out of this week is considering, what do we do it for? Not a couple of quiet drinks, but big nights out into the early hours of the morning. Do you genuinely enjoy them? Would getting more intoxicated than you are now really make you enjoy yourself more than you are now?

If you do enjoy it, then all power to you, my friend. But no matter what you do, be safe pals, both physically and mentally.

Happy Mental Health Monday!

The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out joy

Jim Rohn

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