Ambivalence; mixed feelings, contradictory views- yup that’s me right now. So i’ve been 5 weeks alcohol free and part of me feels, “great achievement” and part of me thinks, “big deal.” Yes 5 weeks AF and I’ve had lots of benefits; no hangovers, marginally better sleep, lower blood pressure, bit of weight loss, blah, blah, blah. Another part of me misses what I’ve given up – the bonhomie of drinking, the getting slightly squiffy and the sheer delight of sampling new beers often in cosy, covivial surroundings.
Life is often not black and white and so it is proving with this alcohol free journey. I went to visit my son and his girlfriend at the weekend. They have moved to St Albans. My son, not knowing I’m not drinking bought some of my favourite beers and some corking wines to go with some stonking cheeses. This used to be my heaven. I tell him I’m not drinking. We head off to the town centre and the pub for some food and a drink. I order AF beer. They have real beer. I feel terrible. Why am I denying myself? I always used to love that first hit of alcohol. Now I sit there thinking about not drinking just like before I used to think about drinking. Brilliant, we’ve really moved on haven’t we!
Tangent. ‘This Naked Mind.’ Seemingly the bible for the newly sober, amen. I read this and bristled at some of her arguments. I get the idea, turn people off alcohol, it’s easier to give up. Her argument about taste though really annoyed me. She says that alcohol is ethanol, true, and that drinking it is like drinking poison, true, and that we may learn to aquire the taste but really we don’t like the taste of alcohol, untrue. Alcoholic drinks are not just alcohol. They are often complex drinks and alcohol carries taste. Try AF wine next to real wine and there’s no comparison. The alcohol carries the depth and range of flavours. Good wine tastes lovely! For me denying that wine can be tasty doesn’t help one bit. In fact it puts me off ‘sober propaganda.’ I know alcohol is not good for you in excess but you can say that about many things that give us pleasure. I like the taste of wine and a well crafted beer. I like the feeling of getting slightly squiffy. Let’s cut to the chase- people drink because it’s pleasurable. There, I’ve said it. Apostasy. Sacrilege. Jim’s gone to the dark side!
No, I’m just reminding myself that I have given up something that at various points gave me much pleasure. My problem, and it is MY problem, is that I am an excessive person and you play the excess card with alcohol and you are heading for trouble. I know this weekend that had I been drinking, a couple of pints during the day would then have transformed into several beers later on then gin and tonic and once the wine was opened… hello hangover and a ruined Sunday. That is why I am not drinking but I wish I could be a moderate drinker. Ambivalence!
So what stopped me drinking this weekend? I was seconds away from cracking. I wanted the companionship and lightheadedness, the pleasure of drinking in company. But I didn’t drink. I thought of two fellow bloggers in particular, Anne and Nadine, of how they are peservering and how much the mutual support means to me. I reminded myself of why I had embarked on this journey in the first place and I also knew deep down that I’d be really annoyed with myself if I cracked. I want to see how I feel about alcohol in 3 or 4 months. It may well be I get to a point where weekends like this one just gone do not feel like massive feats of denial. Life is for living and I want to savour it’s many pleasures, but I also want to be healthy and there is much I want to accomplish in the time I have left.
So, I’ll continue, not in the bubbly, naive, trumpet blowing way I started out, but in a more realistic way. Life is often contradictory, our own thoughts and actions likewise, but there can also be moments of clarity, calm and certainty. My hope is that after wading through the swampy mire of ambivalence I’ll end up on firmer ground.
Maybe. One day.