The funniest phrase I've heard in some time was uttered a month ago by Mr Russell Brown. In his review of the APRA Silver Scrolls awards, he referred to me as being "a danger to shipping". I like it because while I've no idea what it's supposed to mean, it's such a visual image it's hard not to at least get the gist. A rudderless ship, careening out of control. Or, as I prefer, a semi-submerged shipping container, lurking about two metres under the water, endangering all passersby.
Whether it was that night, or the fact summer is just around the corner and I've a new bikini to fit into, the aftermath of the Silver Scrolls gave me pause for thought. I've had worse nights on the piss, and I tend to measure their severity by the number of days I spend with with Involuntary Cringe Recollections (ICRs). A few ICRs the next morning are commonplace – "did I really say that? Oh God." When the ICRs stretch into the next day you know you have exceeded yourself – "I hope he doesn't remember me saying that… I wonder if I should apologise." And occasionally the ICRs of a particular moment stick around a week or more. Those are the nights I'd like to avoid.
I have some friends who change markedly when they drink. You can spot it a mile away, Dr Jekyll develops an observable glaze over his eye and out comes Mr Hyde, who bears no resemblance to his former self. In my experience, these people also seem to let their Mr Hydes out a little too often.
I don't change that markedly. Instead I become 150% myself. And those aren't always the best traits: Louder. Arrogant. More of a show-off. Obnoxious-for-effect. Lascivious. And on those nights, I can drink a lot.
Waking up on the Monday following the awards, having polished off a litre of spirits by myself on the Sunday afternoon (not a common occurrence, but the ease with which I did it was concerning), and being unable to recall even a week without drinking in the past 18 years, I decided to try something. A month off the sauce. My month ended yesterday.
Starting was the hardest thing. Monday became Tuesday, thanks to a Moet-supplied Fashion week opening, but it was then I realised there was always going to be some excuse or another. A friend's birthday – "come on man, you have to have a drink for my birthday – don't be boring"; a romantic weekend away in the Coromandel; or just a day out fishing on my mate's boat – every occasion seems to call for a few drinks.
I’m not going to lie, over the past month I ended up having a drink here and there. But never more than a couple, never drunk, and on most occasions, including weekends and some big nights out with friends, I had none.
It's been revelatory.
I've lost a bit of weight (3kg or so), weight that a couple of years of sporadic gym attendance and eating relatively well had failed to budge. I've started running a bit too, which I'd never enjoyed before, and ran 10km the other day, the longest I've ever run in my life – a half marathon is next – watch out David.
I've realised how boring being drunk makes most people (and obviously must apply that to myself). Not just the Mr Hydes out there, but pretty much everyone. If you're an interesting drunk it's because you're even slightly more interesting when you're sober. The idea of having to get drunk to make everything seem interesting again ("you're the only one being boring") seems a zero-sum-game.
Being in control can be a kick in itself. Of course it can also be appalling, and I've had occasions were I've excused myself to go and stand in a toilet cubicle for a few minutes simply because people were doing my head in.
I've discovered what it feels like to have seven full days each week, including mornings. Turns out you can get a bit of stuff done.
I've noticed how incredible the peer pressure around drinking is. Maybe my friends and acquaintances drink more than others, maybe they don't. When I gave up smoking, most people – even smokers – were really supportive. Everyone knows it's an undesirable habit that's best left behind. No-one says "Come on dude, you've got to have a cigarette for my 30th." But drinking? I reckon it'd be easier Coming Out at a rugby aftermatch in Taranaki than telling the boys you're not drinking for a bit.
The biggest relevation is how utterly unsurprising most of my findings were, but how much I needed to be reminded of them.
I have a friend who gave up drinking for a month, and three months on hasn't touched a drop. He gave up smoking around the same time too. While we were out spending obscene amounts on vinyl the other weekend (some vices aren't worth shaking) he told me that alcohol had been his longest relationship, around 18 years, and it was the only one he'd never questioned. But once he had, it seemed to make absolutely no sense.
I'm not going dry. But nor am I, as some of my friends expect, going to celebrate the end of my month by getting sideways. I enjoy the taste of a nice glass of wine, and a cold crisp beer on a hot day is something I will not give up. I expect there will be some occasions over the summer months when I'll wake up late in the morning and reach for the Ibuprofen. But it'd be good to think they won't be a regular item on my grocery list.
I haven't forgotten about the Customer Service Competition. Your entries have been noted and some good, big, prizes are being amassed. Look out towards the end of the week, or early next.