So I Might Have a Problem

Hank Moody from Californication. The classic good times guy. Who doesn't want to be him?

Hank Moody from Californication. The classic good times guy. Who doesn’t want to be him?

FebFast is nearly done. Am I worried about what’s going to happen next? Yes. Very.

So will this be part of some lasting change? Or will I revert straight back to old habits?

Reverting back to bad habits is exactly what happened the last time I did FebFast. At the start of March I went on a bender, and lost a girlfriend and an iPod. I couldn’t say which I miss more, but I definitely miss both for different reasons.

Before I began not drinking this time around, I was more aware of my issues with alcohol. One of my main reasons for doing it was to break my dependence on drink.

For years I never saw it as a real problem. I’ve worn my ability to drink like a badge of pride and often in our society, that’s exactly how it’s seen. There are different badges, based around the speed of your drinking, and the amount of time you can keep drinking, but it’s always something to be revered and I reckon I’ve collected them all.

Among many I know, being able to remain standing after consuming buckets of alcohol is seen as a sport, and it’s one that I’ve always been good at. In reality you save money by getting drunk faster, but it’s only ever legends about the man or woman who could drink more than entire groups, and keep going for days, that are retold.

Downing a full beer in one go has never lost its allure as a party trick, but it’s also the length of the drinking session. Downing ten beers and four bourbons in an hour is impressive, but not as impressive as downing forty beers and twenty bourbons in twelve hours. Or being out for over thirty-six hours. I’ve done all three.

For years I’ve constantly been out and always with a drink in my hand, as well as constantly finding new ways to smuggle alcohol into my everyday life. It sounds like fun and it is.

I know these feats aren’t revered by everyone, and that’s an added part of the allure. There’s respect to be found in drinking as much as you want and still being able to function, at the same time as pretending not giving a stuff what others think.

It’s that shake of the head, the slight smile at the edge of the lips and the whispered acknowledgement, ‘Far out. He goes HARD. Classic Xavier.’ When you see that and know they’re talking about you, it doesn’t feel like you’ve got a problem. It feels like you’ve just successfully run a marathon in a desert up a mountain.

And who doesn’t love a larrikin? Bob Hawke’s still our favourite Prime Minister because he sculled a yard glass. Tony Abbott runs a marathon then swims from Darwin to Nauru towing a boat of asylum seekers, and he gets laughed at for what he wears while he does it. If Julia glugged down a few glasses of vino, her approval rating would only go up.

Sure there’s shame in taking in too far, but afterwards, there’s also always that tinge of achievement that comes with pushing things way too far and coming out okay. Who doesn’t love a good bender story? Or tale of addiction? Often it’s hilarious, shocking and just plain amazing that someone did all that and is still breathing. Seldom does anyone make a story about what happens to the addict after they’ve beaten their addiction. Unless they fail.

During this February, I’ve discovered that I’ve used these visions of being the good times guy to cover up a bigger problem. That without alcohol, I don’t know how to socialise, and I still don’t. I’ve tried going out and hanging out with people who are drinking in a pub, club, and at the dinner that extends into the early hours and I just get bored. Talking to girls has become something I used to do. Without alcohol in a social situation, I’m rubbish. I find other people boring, however I find myself by far the most boring of all.

So that’s my problem. I’d really like to be one of those people that can have just a few drinks on a night out. For them it seems like they drink because they want to.

This month I’ve learnt that I drink because I need to. Then after everyone I know has gone home, if I’ve drunk enough I’ll find new friends to have fun with, and I don’t know when to stop. There have periods of my life when I haven’t been able to sleep without a few drinks. During this month, some nights I’ve been alone staring at Google or a poker machine hoping for some stimulation, not tired enough to do anything productive, but my brain still too wired for sleep.

This month I’ve learnt how to say no to a drink, but the wider problem of how to have fun without one remains. I’ve handled my abstinence from alcohol the same way as I handle a painful breakup. By deleting every trace of her from my life.

On March 1st when that temptation is back, I wonder what’s going to happen and I already have my suspicions.

Last night someone asked me, ‘Are you going to have a drink on Friday night? Or are you going to keep this non-drinking thing going?’

‘Neither,’ I replied. ‘Why wait? As soon as it ticks past midnight on Thursday, I’m going to get stuck straight into the beer.’


With less than 48 hours to go, there’s still time to sponsor me here:

Come see me at the Adelaide Fringe, until March 1:

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