A merry drinker’s diary of reluctant sobriety

It’s February and I have given up the plonk. Drat it.

This is all part of my year-long mission of self discovery, where I cut out one thing each month and attempt to learn from it. And this month what I have mostly discovered is that I like cocktails.

And I love gin.

And, God, I would sell my soul for a bottle of deepest, darkest red Italian wine.

It’s easy enough to say no to a boozy glow on a Tuesday night, when I’m not going out and I’m half asleep anyway. However, during the first weekend of February’s self-motivated teetotalism I was due to meet with old university friends.

Our Manchester reunion should have featured cheeky meals, sneaky bar crawls and lots of chatter. To be fair it had all of these things, but oh, I couldn’t have a drink.

Eleanor and Kathryn were supping Zombies, Rachael was drinking fruit beer, and I was drinking orange juice. This is my standard cure for a hangover, not a replacement for one.

I found myself attracted to drinks I don’t even like. I’ve never craved a Bloody Mary before but, on the Saturday in question, I would have danced the funky chicken on the bar tables for le boisson avec celery stick.

And more than the actual drink, I miss identity amnesia alcohol offers.

For the price of a mild-to-moderate hangover I forget what makes Helen Perkins Helen Perkins. I become history-less, inhibition-less, more inclined to dance, liable to tell you things I’d normally blush over. 

“Well, I hope you know this phase is going to kill your sex life,” my friend said, in grave tones, as if had declared I was becoming a nun.

“Never had sex sober then?”

“Jesus, no.”

Late night drinks are considered to be something of a tradition in Lancaster – an unrefusable gateway to social activity. The following comments were prompted after I declined gin from super-generous friends.

“Then when are we going to see you?” – Tom.

“How on earth will you switch off?” – Sarah.

“If you’re sober we’re all going to be incredibly annoying.”

“This sounds like an eating disorder to me.” – Harry, never dilutes his opinions.

It’s not all been bad news. I’m more than two weeks into my diary of sobriety and, grudgingly, I feel better for it.

Early mornings are easier, and, without the head-screwed-to-the-wind-turbine feeling, I have managed to get more projects set up, more stories written (I write news for a weekly paper), more conversations had and I feel vaguely more optimistic (depending on the day, hour, minute you ask me).

The western world clearly has an odd relationship with alcohol. It’s bad, it’s a liver killer, it’s a hangover, it’s full-fat hedonistic activity that leaves you part-conscious scrabbling round a central reservation in Birmingham at 3am.

Still, it’s also a guilty secret shared, it’s bedroom antics to terrify the older generations, it’s excuse for conversation. It’s not something I’d ever want to give up.

In March I’m taking the tipple back up and attempting to give up Facebook – Satan’s procrastination temptation. 

Cheers to that.


2 Responses to “A merry drinker’s diary of reluctant sobriety”

  1. I never realised alcohol meant so much to you 😀

    Very funny – especially the convos/comments from others.

    Personally, I can give or take drink. (Preferably both :D)

    But, I find it quite sad what your friend said about not having had sex sober. Jees – how alienated from our sexuality are we? It’s pretty depressing if it’s true that the average UK sex life is: infant curiosity > adolescent frustration > drunken fumbling > banality of marriage. As Patrick Henry said, on the eve of the American revolution: “Give me passionate sex or give me death!”*

    Good luck with the rest of your quitting, Miss. I’m enjoying the blog posts, if nothing else! 😀


    * This is often misquoted in historical accounts, due to puritanical censorship laws and historical revisionism.

  2. Was the lack of alcohol the reason you did your German homework for a change? March sounds a cheat.

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