Thursday, June 11, 2015

Why I don't drink

A few years ago I stopped drinking. I started moderately again. But I realised I didn't really enjoy it. I got roaringly drunk after a friend's funeral, whilst at a particularly low ebb, realising it was both a sedative and a release. I thought back to my younger days, to the desperate hangovers, the swaying, the failure to keep up on a bender and wanting to sleep in nightclubs, the awful things I said to people when sozzled.

So I stopped for good. It's been three years now.

I've now become one of those weird people who doesn't drink. In the past, when I did socially have a bevy, or had a bottle of wine, no-one ever asked me why I did it. And yet now it is me not drinking that always has to justify it. Including the answer to the well-intentioned observation: "I didn't realise you had a problem". By the measures of many, I really didn't, but as a society, I really think we all do.

So, here are three reasons why I don't.

1. Horror. It's a point that's been made this week as Alastair Campbell has been touring the studios in the wake of Charles Kennedy's death. The awful sights of drunk teens at a prom in Edinburgh, student parties, stags. I could add my own stories of carnage at all-day cricket and concerts. It's a fairly unattractive picture of our rather drink-sodden culture.

2. Health. Since I stopped I have lost weight. I do more, I feel well. I don't think I would if I was absorbing the calories like I was. There is a different debate about alcoholism and the disease that killed Charles Kennedy. But hard as it sometimes is to have judgement, enthusiasm and professionalism - I can't imagine how I could manage that with a thick head. There is another health risk, falling over, losing things, getting beaten up because you misread situations.

3. The kids. There have been some occasional surveys that show how young people are turning their backs on a culture of excess. But one of the thoughts in the back of my mind was the effect it has on the kids. Now my eldest is 16 and experimenting with independence, I have to be there in the background. What if the call came - "can you come and get me, I'm in trouble?" "Sorry son, I've had a drink." I shiver at the thought. And how can I hope my kids don't get stuck into the rut of benders if our example is the rowdy middle-aged version of that?

The thing that mitigates against me talking about this more is coming over as a pious bore who won't go for a drink with someone. One of the nicest things said about me during the election campaign was that I was a normal bloke you could have a pint with. I chuckled at the irony. But I hope I still am, and if anyone does want to go out for one with me, mine's a cheeky lime and soda.

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