|Paul Makepeace > On > Drinking
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On the night of the Circle Line Party, Friday 14th March 2003 I took along with me a half bottle of Jack Daniels. Having popular hard liquor is a great way to meet people. It's also a great way to quite royally trashed. So trashed in fact that it was the beginning of the end for my drinking days. Here's what happened, and what I think about the whole experience.
So after the Jack Daniels, why stop with Old No.7? The CLP crew took on board a tequila bar disguised in a sax case from which I liberated a few shots. It didn't even stop there: a woman in a severely altered state offered me some absinthe. 70% absinthe. In a plastic bottle. (Later, barely conscious, at 2am I wrote the CLP website which is more or less as it stands, in all its hideous lo-tech hooch-sloshed horror.)
So the next couple of days were pretty unpleasant: headaches, sweating, mild nausea, loss of appetite, feelings of stupidity. I decided at that point a six week detox suggested by Dom Pannell was probably a good idea. Heck, I'd get a week "free" as I sure as hell wasn't going to touch any booze for that first week anyway. On the 21st March, I took part in the Landmark Forum which requires of its participants abstinence during the course. For me this was theoretically quite easy since I was already on a detox. Practically, it was quite hard. Still, I stayed off it and found the process of being entirely straight both novel and refreshing, not to mention a little cheaper. How much effect the Forum had long-term I'm not sure, but certainly during the Landmark Advanced course I have met a significant number of people who've spontaneously and effortlessly stopped smoking.
The latter half of 2002 and early 2003 for me has been a turning point in actively getting out and socializing both for fun and business. This requires frequent evenings out which in England means frequently getting drunk. ("You say that like it's a bad thing!" :-) I began to notice on some of the heavier weeks my reluctance to go out and realized it was anticipation of the effects of the alcohol and the next morning - alcohol as drugs go is a pretty heavy body load.
Part of the effect of the detox was to require myself to interact with people sober, the whole night. This might sound straightforward for many but for those who are used to a particular style or mode of behavior, especially in a country with an entrenched drinking culture, it's definitely a change. Thankfully, I love this kind of personal challenge and the opportunity to grow through putting myself in a tough situation.
I've discovered an absurd situation where a pint of orange and lemonade can cost more than a pint of beer, e.g. three pounds (US$5!) versus 2.50. Absurd because the materials cost almost nothing, absurd because the government as far as I'm aware doesn't tax water. The explanation I've been given is that "a pint is two glasses, which are 1.50 each". The solution is avoid orange juice: a blackcurrant (squash/cordial) and soda is usually less than a pound. Go figure.
So the six weeks ended and I stayed on the soft stuff. Having more or less conquered my "need" for alcohol to socially interact there didn't seem any point drinking it. During the last three months I've been to a raft of parties, social events, networking nights, hung out late with rowdy hard-drinking students and tutors (notoriously heavy drinkers), all without a single drink.
I've felt fresher, more alert and generally entirely fine the next morning. My sports training is now not affected. Opportunities for embarrassment have been fewer too.
One odd effect is that it's possible to get "drunk" without actually drinking: when almost everyone around is drunk I found myself in the same kind of mood I'd be in if I actually was drinking: usually this is playful, flirtatious, and often outrageous (although nothing [yet] like showing up with another bodybuilder friend at an admired someone's apartment soaking wet wearing just our underpants). Perhaps the psychologists know about this effect - it's quite marked. Er, the being drunk-by-proxy thing, not the tendency to fool around barely dressed in public.
Another effect is incredulity amongst seemingly most of society that someone doesn't actually drink. It is a genuine shock to many people, the only possible explanation being having to drive or take antibiotics. I've heard from others who don't drink there's some discomfort amongst those drinking upon discovering someone else who isn't: possibly this is them having to actually confront their own activities when the comforting "well everyone does it" safety blanket is temporarily shaken.
Everyone's different of course but I'd say: give it a try. At the least your liver will enjoy the break, and to know you can actually cope without it is reassuring. Let me know if you try it!