booze


Looking about for something to say to mark 300 days since last orders, that doesn’t involve referencing a certain film…

So I was turning over the maths of it and there it is: 60 sets of five-bar gates tallied on the wall, next to J4M and various pithy obscenities concerning the current state of politics in the UK. ‘Looks like I picked the wrong year to quit drinking!’ Brief pause, eyebrow movement.

repeat

The implication of viewing it in these terms is, though – as I noted fairly early on when I started writing about this in February 2019 – that something is being denied. That there is some sort of sentence being served, time done for crime done.

I don’t find those a useful way of thinking.

The difficulty of not-drinking-alcohol in the society I’m in (the UK) is how the pervasive normality of it makes it near impossible to explain in positive terms. Still can’t think of a way to phrase it without sounding evangelical. ‘I’m spending a year sober’ sounds relentlessly po-faced, enthusiastically well-scrubbed and twitchy of eye, with an added hint of being perched on a particularly lofty horse.

I’ve become comfortable talking about a dry life just as something I haven’t done before. People seem to accept the challenge aspect of it quite readily, if slightly uncomprehendingly. Someone I was in conversation with recently said that they did a booze fast twice a year, for a couple of months at a time, though admitted they usually stopped because they got bored with it. I quite like ‘booze fast’, even if it carries the connotation of breakfast (of champions).

It feels good, though! I don’t feel anywhere near the levels of dreads about mundane matters like, say, getting up and going to work, that I did when I used to drink lotsobooze to quell those dreads.

And, it’s not something I feel like I’m getting bored with, yet. Maybe there are dark shadows flitting about the mirrors that I’m disregarding (pause for Stephen King-ish italicised chuckle). I don’t mean periodic nostalgia for the sting of a decent malt whisky, or the contemplative pleasures of an afternoon pint in a quiet bar. The glinting golden glow softening the edges.

Those are quite enjoyable phantasms, really, partly because as moments they depart quite readily anyway, and mostly because I recognise them for what they are: flowers with serpents underneath, a first beguiling glimpse into a somewhat hazy and increasingly threatening upside down, in which the encroaching darkening evening would inevitably lead through more measures into messiness, clouded mornings of self-recrimination, and so on and on, rinse and repeat, miserably scratching off lines on breezeblocks.

There they are; regard was had for the dark shadows. Cooee! (shadowy tendril waves back as it slurps in reverse into the mirror)

Having regard, I would say, at this stage of my process, works for me. It’s an acknowledgment? Not of something missing but of something positive revealed.

So, yes, still keeping a tally, but not to the extent that that becomes another thing to carry about, a self-imposed sentence, a punishing regime. This is not Sparta.

1st October 2019 appears to be a time earmarked for considering habits of consumption.

Media consumption… In an interesting series of tweets, unrolled here, Venkatesh Rao suggests leaning into, rather than withdrawing from it. I found it quite an instructive read. I would not go so far as to say I have been waldenponding, but I’ve not been leaning into it. If our contact with the Global Social Computer In the Cloud (and Rao is right; there might be a snappier term for it) lends us oracular agency, I am at present mainly a scanner darkly muttering about it all being a bit complicated. Concentrate and ask again later.

However, having enjoyed an extended period of sequesterment, it feels right to announce a farewell to digital hermitry. Perspective shift. There is plenty to share, perhaps dependent on handling a complex system of holding patterns correctly, but shared it should be, not stacked.

Today it’s just sincere good luck wishes to all people starting Stoptober, or Ocsober, or SoberOctober, or whatever your chosen variant name for NOT BOOZING til November might be.

It may seem you are in some sort of defensive retreat from something, but you are in fact going for enthusiastic gonzo immersion in something else (to paraphrase Rao, again)…  and you will feel better for it if you stick with it.

I’ve been holding off on posting anything alcohol-related, waiting for something worth saying about it, and here it is: 184 days.

The story of stopping began earlier this year (check out the Booze tag). Lots of those first posts were foundation stones; some laid carefully, placed with precision, some just tipped out and left where they landed. There’s a bit of biography, a fair bit of working through ideas about process and motivation. I spent a month or so writing my way out of something and into something. Finding myself inhabiting a different kind of mindset, kind of one I always had in mind but maybe didn’t feel set on, was where a need to write about it all so much fell away.

Perhaps my motivations altered.

“…distressing memories succumb especially easily to motivated forgetting”

– Freud

There have been a lot of associations with drinking bubbling up. I have been intending to document them (a richly-stocked draft folder attests)… but it all felt a bit too personal. As the above quotation suggests, it’s quite easy to ignore “that stuff”, seal closed a door and move on. That stuff beyond the symptoms (a constant sense of inability; feeling bloated in a vast, round number of ways; impoverishment (same); self-negation…)

While I have got on pretty well with being a sober person – lots of exercise, and diary, and making music, and reading a lot, and leaving my old job, and all that stuff – what all that clear-eyed thinkery reveals also is that, even with the dampers off, one’s head still works in certain ways, and that one of the reasons for applying the dampers is because those ways of working can be pretty fucking annoying.

Stopping seemed easy because I was ready to do so. Talking about the things that had me doing it in the first place… the walled-in rooms, the crumbled ruins discovered beneath the lake, are where the interesting stories are, of course.

Today, though! Strike up the anniversary waltz. It’s officially just over six months since I stopped drinking alcoholic drinks. Halfway to my target of a year off drinking, feeling good about it, break out the cake.

“Anniversaries”, though. As discussed in one of those early pieces, how to signify short-term dates of significance is unclear. Checking back through the booze tag from earlier in the year, I think a week was pebbles. Rocks tend to appear later in the anniversary stakes. Six months being a semiannual return, it’s better than pebbles. Something concrete, perhaps?

Easter holidays. Springtime associations of refreshment, rebirth.

Despite an overarching theme of annual rejuvenation – green shoots of recovery and all that – over the Easter weekend the negative implications of return and revisitation sat squat upon the mantelpiece. A chocolate figurine of Cthulhu, glowering.

With a dismal sense of familiarity, I found myself struggling through a four day festival of booze triggers. Classic sweet and sour British combinations of hot weather, no work to endure, personal and social stresses kicking about half-resolved and shoulder-barging good vibes aside, football matches not even remotely going one’s way…

The perfect half-empty cup for topping up with a little something to Set You On and See You Through.

The weather was kind of awesome. In particular, I was jonesing for iced cider – “Two pints of cider. Ice in the cider.” Ah, crisp freshness! The sun meandering into that golden hour glow, refracting through the glasses, the mellow clink and fizz of fresh cubes dropped in.

Then of course a turn to paschal red wine for sorrow and mournful contemplation as the weekend pressed on, and a heaviness accumulated in the air, suggesting rain and thunder were needed if not quite imminent.

It wasn’t just the football. For me, considering the combination of contributory factors, there’d been a fair bit of build up. It was bound to take a week or so of not having work to take one’s mind off things to filter through. Family things… and I need to get a new job, so there’s all sorts of associated existential angst, and blah, blah, blah – how about a beer?

Because that was another element that recurred, a familiar odour in among the cocoa wafts and barbecue scents and fresh mowed grass, generating instant recall. The little voice questioning what business I had in not drinking, in denying the urge to fest and to commiserate with such a true and tested companion.

Savour the solace! Trust it. Let it soothe and slake your thirst. Let it slip down and softly caress away those cares and strifes…

Kind of Kaa in The Jungle Book? Only I was on to it, so the voice modulated into sounding more like Sylvester the cat, thuth lothing itth efficathy.

So, no. Every excuse I was making for myself to have at it and recommence boozing was allowed to express itself, then given a polite yet firm nod of acknowledgement before being shooed away.

I mean, yes, I seemed to have eaten my weight in sugary treats… but even that ebbed over Monday, as with a final baleful glance ever-waiting dread Cthulhu slunk off in search of someone else to pester, leaving a trail of chocolatey footprints.

What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise.

Today I made it to 72 days off boozing, anyway. A number of cosmic significance! Re-set.

Two weeks of Easter break. Opportunity to relax, most importantly. Rejuvenate, re-tune the engines, all that.

Got in the car after an extended meet-the-parents evening. The habitual finish to the term, the usual mix of nice things to say and awkward conversations, both of which with students wishing they could be anywhere far, far away.

Switched on the radio, and it’s in the middle of Madge, Holiday. Of course.

The universe meshes gears in wonderful ways, some of which form pleasing patterns to entertain us in our journeys through consciousness.

Some patterns lose their capacity to please. For a moment around dinner, there was a feeling like a glass of red wine might be in order. I didn’t go for it. The quite complex rush of thoughts that that inspired is worth unpicking a little.

…but not today. Today it’s time to put it in neutral.

Sort of Churchillian sentiment to the post title here. Easter holiday approaching, and preceding that today a bit of closure on this Difficult Process (TM) that has been unfolding at work.

Oh, and Leeds won at Preston. Mercies. Takeaway and a John Crabbie’s ginger beverage to celebrate.

Maybe not quite a finest hour, but it was pretty good after the last few weeks.

 

Today was one of the Mondayest Mondays I’ve endured in quite some time.

There’s a global village feeling of all the now being moments in the End Times. There are a lot of things to get exercised about, and a concurrent feeling of there being little-to-nothing that one can do apart from get exercised. The late-capitalist hamster wheel.

Locally, there’s a general sense of weariness on the air: low professional motivation occasioned by imminent threat of job loss, a not-approaching-quickly-enough Easter break, classes in the dismal zone of end-of-year examinations…

This communal emotional lethargy is being compounded on the personal plane by a cold that’s lurking on the threshold of my upper respiratory tract, unable to make up its mind as to whether to step in or not. Also, I had joint aches, and a colossal crimson roundel of a nascent pluke on the very end of my nose, ffs.

Still! Endured it all was. In the teeth of uncertainty, one thing I can say for sure is that I have a pervading feeling of equanimity, which I am in very little doubt is occasioned at least partly by not drinking alcohol.

It’s a habit that seems to be entering a self-sustaining stage. 56 days today, and increasingly just a thing I’m doing, rather than The Thing I’m Doing. I was talking about it with a pal yesterday – various processes at work are all easier to set in an appropriate perspective because they’re not amplified/filtered as they might have been, have been, in previous iterations, around the spiral, with booze.

So yes, thanks, Mondayish Monday: got your number, ta. *thumbs up*

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