I like a beer. That is pretty well established if you have ever met me. I look like a bloke who likes a beer (and a takeaway.)
I have no airs and graces when it comes to beer. I enjoy real ales, craft beers and more than the occasional Heineken. In fact I dislike the snobbery that often surrounds some types of beers. The way some people talk about these craft beers reminds me of the worst excesses of wine bores.
I love pubs. All of them pretty much. Over the years I have been a regular in sports bars, gastro pubs, wine bars and just about everything in between. I am happy to be out in massive groups or on my own reading a paper and nursing a pint.
Most of my friends are the same. They drink as much or more as me. They spend even more time in pubs. This is pretty much the foundation of my life for 24 years.
Despite all of this I decided at the tail end of 2013 that I needed to challenge myself to lay off the booze for a while. I had become a binge drinking stereotype. Giving up drinking on weeknights had not really effected the overall scale of my consumption but rather had compressed it into the weekend and it was taking a toll.
I was regularly losing entire weekends to hellish hangovers, my general health was poor and despite walking more than five miles a day and some diet improvements I was still putting on weight.
I initially set myself a target of taking a full year off from drinking but I soon retreated to a target that seemed more reasonable — 150 days — which would have taken me up to the day I went on holiday which seemed a decent milestone.
In the end I lasted 101 days. On the one hand this feels like a failure. On the other I was never really convinced I would last that long so I am quite proud of myself.
It wasn’t easy. I find it very difficult to switch off from work and during an especially difficult time at my job I often considered just giving up and grabbing a beer on the train home. My social life was non existent for three months really. In part this was laziness on my part — when I made an effort to arrange things to do it was fine but a couple of decades of just ‘popping to the pub’ whenever I was bored means I was simply not used to sorting things out in advance.
Watching sport without a drink is a very different experience as well — I pretty much gave up on Rovers as it was simply too frustrating and the Six Nations sober was a very different experience.
On the plus side I went 101 days without a hangover. I lost weight and genuinely felt healthier. I was more creative and clear headed (at least I felt that way) and my productivity improved at work at an important time.
People are always telling me I should just try to drink in moderation and stop swinging from extremes but I’ve never really been able to achieve that but I am hoping three months has been time enough to break some habits and that I will be able to go out for just one or two now — rather than 11 or 12. If not I think my future is probably going to be much quieter as sober Jukesie looks like a better longterm bet.
We’ll see I guess.
Anyway for now at least I am drinking again so ‘Cheers’ and maybe I’ll see you in the pub ☺