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Posted by spritzophrenia on February 24, 2012

Instead of intimating once again that much has happened and leaving you tantalised, I shall simply write: About five weeks ago I foreswore the use of alcohol. Although there was much going on in my life at the time – I had just completed a five day festival involving drugged binges, nudity, dancing, abberation and chaos – it was not for these reasons that I decided to permanently abstain. It was more a feeling of enlightenment, a feeling that my time had come, that I was “done with alcohol”.

Annual or tri-annual weekends of excess are not unusual for me. I plan for them, I enjoy them, I become obnoxious, and I recover from them. Sleep and solitude is a wonderful therapist. The thing about alcohol is that it’s one of the few truly pleasurable drugs for the tongue. It has a palette, rather than choking your lungs or tasting like metal chalk. Due to my mental illness and my medication for such, very few illegal drugs are available to me. Hence, I have enjoyed the legal ones far too much at times. The irony of course, is that alcohol, our pre-eminent legal drug, is probably one of the more dangerous of the pack: Addictive, depressant, destructive, instigator of violence and death, destroyer of families, jobs and lives. For myself, I managed to stave off addiction although I will say that I was becoming perilously close. At the end, I was imbibing an entire bottle of wine every single day. Sometimes more. For months and months on end. It’s a testimony to my genes, my stamina and my caution that I was not sucked into the bottom of the barrel.


I am glad I could give up so easily. From the moment of my decision I have not had cravings, nor had difficulty staying on the wagon. In the words of an old hymn, Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow. I confess, I have had two drinks since then. It’s part of my agreement with myself that I am allowed a glass of wine with one particular friend as it’s something of a ritual. However, the difference between a single glass per month and 7 glasses per day is palpable. And speaking of differences, if you want to lose weight – give up alcohol. The weight has been falling off me with very little effort and I now require belts to hold up trousers that were once bulging.

Alcohol is a wonderful friend. If I may borrow from a noted enthusiast, Christopher Hitchens drinks, he says, “because it makes other people less boring. I have a great terror of being bored. But I can work with or without it. It takes quite a lot to get me to slur.” Or so he says.

Elsewhere, he writes:

“Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing. The only worthwhile miracle in the New Testament—the transmutation of water into wine during the wedding at Cana—is a tribute to the persistence of Hellenism in an otherwise austere Judaea. The same applies to the seder at Passover, which is obviously modeled on the Platonic symposium: questions are asked (especially of the young) while wine is circulated. No better form of sodality has ever been devised: at Oxford one was positively expected to take wine during tutorials. The tongue must be untied. It’s not a coincidence that Omar Khayyam, rebuking and ridiculing the stone-faced Iranian mullahs of his time, pointed to the value of the grape as a mockery of their joyless and sterile regime. Visiting today’s Iran, I was delighted to find that citizens made a point of defying the clerical ban on booze, keeping it in their homes for visitors even if they didn’t particularly take to it themselves, and bootlegging it with great brio and ingenuity. These small revolutions affirm the human.” ~ Christopher Hitchens in Hitch 22.

However, alcohol is also the friend who stabs you in the back. It’s probably churlish of me to suggest that Mr Hitchens’ terrible death may have been assisted by his vices. It’s likely that tobacco was the direct cause of his throat cancer. And there may be an argument for making the adage, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” the cornerstone of one’s social life. Nevertheless, a bevy of cancers, obesity, strokes, brain damage, rotting teeth and general deterioration can be laid at the feet of alcohol. For every Christopher Hitchens who can control himself, there is a Manson-esque figure who abuses his family when taken by the demon drink.

I’m not here to preach the virtues of teetotalling for others. Occasionally I do miss the flavour – non-alcoholic wines, thus far, leave something to be desired although there are a couple that may be alright once I have acquired a taste. The range of potable non-alcoholic drinks at most bars is revolting. I am developing a skill in very nice alcohol-free cocktails.

All things considered, however, I am rather enjoying a clear head and a full wallet.


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George Thoroughgood – I Drink Alone

3 Responses to “Alcohol”

  1. Good job, that sounds like a pretty big change! I really enjoy alcohol but I don’t go to many parties and often simply don’t bother to drink it at other times. My father avoids it completely. I respect his decision, and yours, because both seem to be made on the basis of the damage that alcohol does to people. However, he makes the mistake of assuming that his decision to avoid alcohol should apply to everyone. I think that its going too far when the responsible and reasoned protest against alcohol by the individual is turned into the proscriptive rule that any and all alcohol is simply bad.

    As you probably know, i work in a mental health crisis respite service. It often frustrates me that we get so many people who have secondary stressors on their life caused by alcohol or drug use. If a person is experiencing grief or depression, alcohol might seem like an easy way of easing the burden but the vicious irony is that it actually seems to cause more problems in too many of those cases.

  2. Good luck, with the abstaining! I found it harder to quit smoking, but love my newfound cardio capability! Congrats on the slimming sideaffect!

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