First Drink in a Year

There is a line spoken by the late actor Lloyd Bridges in the 1980 Paramount Pictures film ‘Airplane’: “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking”.

So here we are, one year on since I had my last alcoholic drink. It was a bottle of Old Speckled Hen from the Morland Brewery.

Goodness me, what a year it’s been. People talk about taking one day at a time, and when things get rough this approach is a little like slipping into a low gear whilst cycling up an unpleasantly steep hill. You get your head down and you push the peddles, immersing yourself in a rhythm. The days become weeks, the weeks become months and the months become years. One push at a time. At the end of coronavirus, we will be at the top of a large hill, looking back at what we have endured, suffered and achieved. As a species, we are slowly and surely swimming beyond these turbulent currents. We must continue to persevere. It’s not as if we have a choice, is it? Change can be stressful, even when it’s good. Keep going everyone, you’re doing great.

As for drinking, I’m glad I gave it up for a year. My mind wonders whether this year would have been easier or more difficult with an extra prop in the form of drink. Perhaps it would have been both, at varying stages. I haven’t found it too difficult keeping dry in the last 12 months, any more so than when I’ve had patches of abstinence at other times – although there were times when I’d have dearly loved to let go and dive into the unique relaxation which drink can sometimes offer me. Like many people, I have an obsessive-compulsive streak, so for me, giving up totally for a long period has been worthwhile and easier than it would have been to just cut back on daily intake.

When I last had a drink we had one child fewer in our family. The new arrival, along with some musical project-planning, has assisted my focus during the current crisis. As I am relied upon ever more at home and at work, I’ve found over recent years that drink has become less important to me than it once was. So, as life’s cup has filled and overflowed with other responsibilities, I’ve simply found too much else going on for me to make time to have a glass or bottle.

Working on an arrangement in ‘The Shed’.

Many people have been extremely supportive of my annus sobrius, and I am most grateful for this support. On several occasions – up to 10 – occasions since I stopped drinking, I have had vivid dreams in which I have had a drink. These dreams have all felt disappointing and it has been a huge relief for me to wake from them. Apparently, it’s quite common for people who stop something like drinking, smoking or chocolate to dream that they’ve caved into their cravings. In an awakened state, I have been to pubs and I have bought alcoholic drinks for other people, but I have managed to stay on soft drinks and decaffeinated tea. With my hand upon my heart, as night is not day, I can say I’ve gone a full year without alcohol, and I did this for myself and for my family. I did this because I wanted to be strong for my family, friends and colleagues. I believe, we all have something to offer, and I want to make my offering count.

Over the next three and a half months, I’ve decided to allow myself to have some beer at the end of each day if I want to. But I’m thinking of taking two years off alcohol, starting in January. There are some reasons for this; health is a big one, a greater ability to remain compos mentis is another. Life seems to have been quite interesting over the last few years. I used to find it a buzz to lose some control over myself. I’d think: “Who knows what will happen if I lose control today or tonight by having a drink or two?”  It is also possible to think: “If I remain sober, I will do exactly what I want to do, and what I want to do is rather exciting.”

Giving up alcohol certainly isn’t a silver bullet, and life has thrown all sorts of surprises in my direction from many angles. But I’ll repeat this – quitting for a year has been very good for my health.

Raising an empty glass three days before my birthday.

I’m going to raise a glass on my birthday to friends who have suffered over the last year, and to dear friends who have left us.