The first big test – The festive drinking season

So with the week one down, and what side-effects I had in abeyance, peak drinking season began in earnest.

A couple of work Christmas parties, various festive celebrations with friends and family, Christmas and New Year themselves.  This must be the toughest time of year for anyone attempting an abstinence-based approach to managing their drinking.  There is alcohol everywhere, and it is the one time of year when even the most moderate of drinkers are excused for pushing the boat out.

Part of me was regretting making this change half way through December, but I did know that if I could get through the most difficult part of the year then I would always have that to strengthen my will in moments of doubt, and that I wouldn’t have it looming ahead of me next year.

Now I’d be lying if I said the Selincro was some kind of miracle drug that stopped me drinking to excess during this time, but there were some real differences worth mentioning – some real changes in the way I approached drinking, and some very tangible effects.

My biggest worry was my work Christmas Do, which seemed to be hurtling towards me apace, and I knew I needed a strategy.  My first fear was that when the day came I would lose my resolve, and decide to skip the pill and just enjoy a bingey night – for old times’ sake.

When the day finally rolled around I was astounded at how it unfolded – not so much because of what happened, but because of how I felt about it.

In a break from our traditional 1 o’clock Christmas lunch, and 14 hour drinking session, this year we were booked for a 7pm meal.  Undeterred, the first wave of drinkers left the office for the pub at 2pm, and there is no doubt that had it been two weeks earlier I would have been with them.

This time, though, I didn’t even want to go out so early.  It already seemed that The Sinclair Method working not only to help me reduce what I was drinking while I was drinking, but in just over a week this was the first clear sign that my relationship with booze more generally was starting to shift.  This was a turning point, being the first day when I felt like I was in control, and not feeling the urge to start drinking as early as possible and continue for as long as possible.

The next wave left the office at 4pm and this time I went to the gym, finally meeting everyone in the pub at 6.

I had one pint between six and seven, rather than racing through the first to make sure I could fit in a second and maybe third, and that’s when people started to notice that something was going on.

It wasn’t a light night of drinking, by any means, but I kept pace with people around me - no more buying an extra drink and knocking it back at the bar on my way to the toilets or when I was buying a round. 

This was my first proper night of drinking with nalmefene in a big group, and out of the house, and – more importantly – the first time since my late teens that I’d been out drinking in a group and drinking like a ‘normal person’.

I was watching other people bumping in to tables, spilling drinks, drifting in and out of groups without really focussing, and spotting people rolling their eyes as their really drunk colleagues approached. 

This was an entirely new perspective.

I was watching my old self, from the point of view of everyone I’ve ever been out drinking with.

 

Looking at the heavy drinkers that night, I realised that I was always one of the characters in the stories that turned in to standing jokes and lingered for weeks, months and years.  It felt like I was being shown a film of highlights of over twenty years of my drinking career, and it made for some uncomfortable viewing.

This is when it started to dawn on me that while I’ve made some great progress already on changing my drinking habits using The Sinclair Method, and while observing and reflecting on these changes is both interesting, and, to be honest pretty easy, I have a bigger journey ahead when it comes to reflecting on my behaviour over the last two decades because of those habits.

There is a whole other dimension to making these changes that I am going to need to confront next, and a balance to be struck between recognising and acknowledging what has gone before, and not getting drawn in to a world of retrospective shame and embarrassment when all I can change now is what happens in the future.

This, by @SoberRachel captures it all up beautifully.