So, in my last post, I was setting off to go to a musical evening in a Suffolk wood where there would be food, drink, campfire and music. This was my first big test after 20 days alcohol free. It was the kind of evening I could not have envisaged going to in the past without drinking.
During my drinking days I would not drink before performing but once that was out the way, it would be “bring it on!” If I couldn’t have nabbed a lift or stayed over or it was too far for a taxi I simply wouldn’t have gone. In the past being able to have a drink took priority over socialising. For years I have carried this false belief that I wouldn’t be able to get through the night without a drink because drinking at such events is what I have always done for the past 45 years.
Anyway. I went armed with my non alcoholic beer and some food to share. It all went well. People were lovely, food probably wouldn’t have passed any food hygiene tests, music quality was variable, the setting and weather very un English like (i.e. warm, pleasant and dry) and the atmosphere wonderful. And only one small craving. When I arrived the BBQ was set up in a saw mill. People had put their beers and wine in a communal space and I spied one of my favourite beers. There was a brief pang, like when you see an ex lover and fleetingly think, “Oh God she was so nice why did we split up, what was I thinking?” before remembering the arguments, tears and mutual incomprehension. It passed. And that was it. No more cravings. I was surprised and a little disappointed. I wanted to experience the pain and anguish of craving so I could feel a bit more heroic, but no, never happened. The next day I asked myself why. Why did I not experience a sense of missing out or any physical cravings? Lets do a list. I like a good list. (BTW that’s a generic photo- not me)
List of probable reasons for not having cravings:
- I was going to play and sing and typically I never drink and perform. I used to drink a lot after performing but the performances went on for a long time and by that time it finished it was time to drive home and any thought of wanting a drink had gone.
- My playing partner doesn’t drink. This is a massive factor I think. I knew there would be no pressure, questions, offers to fetch a few beers etc. We both had an alcohol free evening. We joked, muttered some funny remarks to each other about some of the performers, behaved like immature adolescents and when we played we really bloody enjoyed ourselves. Wow, a great, fun evening without booze. It can be done. Big lesson for me.
- Drink wasn’t a big feature of the evening. There was beer and wine but no-one was really drinking a lot. It reminded me that many drinkers are sensible and moderate but that was never my style. Good luck to them.
- I had at the back of my mind all the benefits I had from being being alcohol free at this event; being able to drive home, no hangover in the morning, better singing, more alert, more able to enjoy the moment.
One song I sang was “Thunder Road” and singing it in a Suffolk wood by the light of a campfire, feeling truly alive was a great feeling. I also reflected on the song (I mustn’t get sidetracked into talking about Springsteen or the post will go on for ever) and how that song isn’t just about boy meets girl and leaving behind small town life. It suddenly sounded like an anthem for change. Most of us at any time can choose to do things in a different way. We can hop in our metaphorical cars and escape the place we think we are fated to be in for the rest of our lives. Just start up that engine and drive baby!
Moving on. Last night I went to a restaurant and then a pub. Restaurant was tricky at first. I always drank in restaurants. Last night it was Chinese food and I went for Jasmine tea. It wasn’t the same but hey ho that’s conditioning for you. A couple next to me enjoyed their meal and had one small beer each. That’s it. I wish I could have been a drinker like that, but I wasn’t and I’ve tried to be but it just isn’t the Jim way. If one beer is good, ten beers must be better, right? That, in a nutshell was my problem. I got through the restaurant experience and it did feel like a test and I wasn’t enjoying being in the moment. Restaurants may take a little time to adjust to.
On to the pub. Not too bad I have to say. Noone who I met there was a big drinker and the ocassion was to wish someone a happy birthday. I drank a no-alcoholic beer which was great because it looked like a pint and tasted quite good. I realised by 9 that I’d survived the evening.
All in all I have got through three potentially difficult situations and done so without having to exert massive amounts of will power. The change of mindset has definitely helped; seeing alcohol-free as being a positive choice rather than as being denied something. Plus all three ocassions were marked by an absence of drink being that big a deal even for the drinkers. Indeed in the pub out of 7 of us 4 were not drinking alcohol. The drinkers were in the minority. That helps.
The weekend after next will be my next big challenge. I’m going to see my son and his girlfriend in their new house. They love a drink and my son is a prodigous drinker (wonder where he got that from). He has a good job and doesn’t drink during the week but he does drink a lot at other times and I think part of the reason that I wanted to stop was to show him (by my actions, not preaching) that you don’t HAVE to drink alcohol to have a good time or to cover up difficult emotions. He had a tough time when his brother died and that still hangs over him so maybe he needs the sedation of alcohol for a little while longer. I hope that one day he will decide, as I did, that alcohol doesn’t change tragedy, it just dulls it a little. What one day seems to sort the problem then becomes the problem.
Enough of the problems. I feel emboldened by getting through some challenges in the last few days. This is not a journey of denial, despite some nagging nostalgia/dependency issues instead it feels like a journey of liberation and improved living and a journey I wish I had started years ago. Still I’m here, essentially intact and ready to liberate myself along my own Thunder Road.