As I start writing this, I am 313 days sober. That’s 10 and a bit months. That’s nearly a year. I did not anticipate this. It’s the longest (by a very, very long way) I have been without drinking since I was 14 years old. Actually, I talked to my dad about this the other day, and he thinks it might have been 12 or 13. He might be right.
Originally, I was aiming for 100 days. Then I kept going. I’m currently aiming for the full year. I am still learning new and surprising things about myself and my old relationship with drinking, so – at least until that stops, and maybe beyond – it seems a good idea to keep going.
I wonder if lots of people are accidentally sober at the moment, as usually they only drink when they go out and see people. I am very deliberately sober. A lot of the time, now, I don’t think about it. Then, suddenly, I am hit round the face with a sense-memory: a cold glass of white wine with lunch, a delicious glass of red wine by a fire, a French 75, an icy margarita, a late-night whisky, champagne when it’s free. It passes.
Incidentally, I love(d) free booze more than almost anything in the world. The things I find hardest are still a) catered events; b) long-haul flights. I always joked that the classiest thing in the world would be to go on a business-class flight and not drink the free booze. I guess I’m classy now.
Anyway, I most definitely did not only drink when I went out and saw people. I loved drinking alone almost more than I loved drinking with friends. I loved all kinds of drinking. I was known for it. I was the person who you would call if you were in the mood to get drunk on a Tuesday. I was the one who would always be guaranteed to say ‘let’s get another bottle’.
I do miss it. But I’m better without it, these days. I’m glad not to be hungover.
It’s good to keep assessing what you miss and what you don’t. Sometimes it changes. Sometimes it’s surprising.
A few weeks before the lockdown started, I realised I was exhausted and I simultaneously realised how much time I used to spend horizontal and unproductive because I was hungover. I would get home from work, get straight into bed, and order enough takeaway food for at least two people. Then I would fall asleep with a film still playing on my laptop. If it was a Saturday, I might only get up in the evening to cook a mixing bowl full of pasta. I do not miss hangovers, but I kind of miss those days. I’m always so upright and productive now. Sounds perverse, which is probably why it took me a while to figure it out. There is something about a hangover that makes you treat yourself as you would a child, because you can only deal with an immediate and very base level of need. ‘Am I hungry? Might I like to get up and have a bath?’ I resolved to recreate those days occasionally, even though I no longer need to.
Sometimes you miss things you shouldn’t miss. Like hangovers. And having an excuse for poor behaviour or an irrational outburst (‘I was just sooooo drunk!’). But mostly, I don’t miss a thing.
I received a message yesterday, out of the blue, from someone I have not seen in a long time. Someone I used to miss a lot. Someone who I associate more than almost anyone else with days and nights of drinking – pink cocktails and white wine and pints of Asahi and even bright green absinthe. Secret boozy lunches, impromptu evenings, missed trains, hungover breakfasts. Never, ever sober.
Admittedly, in my life, this could be quite a few people. But this was the one I once enjoyed drunken arguments and poor decision-making with the very most.
‘I miss you,’ it said.
I used to miss this person so, so much. But when somebody offers you a plate of crumbs and tells you it’s a goddamn feast, you change your phone number and you move on.
I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the past, but it sometimes occurs to me that I do things very differently now. This is not a coincidence.
I gave up smoking. I cut all my hair off. I went back to school. I gave up drinking.
I feel like a different person now.