It’s the end of an era. Or appears to be. I have always loved and enjoyed alcohol – for its taste as well as for its mood altering properties. My consumption of the poison – for that’s what it basically is: hidden beneath delicious goodness and, nowadays, a lot of chemical shit – has varied over the years anywhere between two or three so-called units per week to 30 units per week.
My recent spiritual oddysey (cliché, but true) to Rishikesh to become a yoga teacher meant that I went without for over two months. The longest I have ever not drunk alcohol in my entire life. Out there it was easy. You couldn’t get it in any of the cafes, restaurants or shops and the mindset out there is definitely not one where getting lashed and chundering everywhere is the objective.
Coming back to England I poured my first glass of wine with all the reverence of a priest at the altar and raised it to my lips with the excited expectation of a particularly pious child on her First Holy Communion. I sipped, I drank, I swallowed. It was like I had never been away. Or was it?
My experience with alcohol has changed dramatically. And so has how I experience life, for that matter. Whether this is down to heightened awareness from a substantially deeper yoga practice or simply down to moving into a different phase of life, I am not sure.
Alcohol is no longer affecting me in the wonderful way it used to. Instead of making me feel warm and uplifted, it is making me feel drowsy and lethargic. Even a couple of glasses of the stuff. Tinges of the old feelings flicker now and again, but generally it is a sure fire way to make me leave the party early, inciting admonishments from friends. Maybe I am just not going to the right parties?!
The social awkwardness of not drinking presents itself two fold. First is not drinking in situations that call for it, around people who drink. You’ll be met either with derision, flack or incredulity for abstaining and left feeling uncomfortable and apologetic. It becomes even more tricky when you have always drunk in the past and so the choice not to comes as a shock for friends who are used to your old habits.
Debrett’s offers solutions in etiquette for both sides of the argument. They warn tee-totallers against acting the martyr and expounding the virtues of an alcohol-free existence. They also encourage the drinkers not to make prying inquiries into the reasons behind the abstinence. I do not consider myself a tee-totaller, although I am finding myself deciding not to drink alcohol more frequently. Not only so its effects fall short of what they were (the taste is still gorgeous), but the hangovers are getting worse.
So I have several options: to man up and endure any questioning looks and comments about why I am sticking to soda, to avoid situations where alcohol is drunk, to only drink within the vicinity of my bed… Or to wait until this period of silliness is over and my body can handle its liquor once more.
On a side note, the government invented the concept of alcohol units to solve what has been a deeply ingrained culture of alcohol abuse in Britain. The magic numbers of 14 units per week for women and 21 or whatever it is for men were basically plucked out of thin air.
Just to go off on another tangent – when will the medical system stop treating our bodies as if they are all mechanically identical machines? One size doesn’t fit all – it doesn’t even fit more than one!