The biggest change is that I will no longer be drinking before or during comedy performances. As a comedian I can drink while at work, and often alcohol forms part of the payment, but that doesn’t mean I should. Actually those are two very good reasons why I should, but still I’m ruling it out. I want to make this a career. Not something that covers the rent, the cost of a night out and sometimes food.
After having a month off booze and completing over sixty gigs at the Perth and Adelaide Fringes during February, I’ve learnt that I’m a better comedian without it. There’s even video proof.
At the start of the month I was afraid of failing at comedy while sober, which would be a lot harder than failing while drunk, because at least then you’ve got alcohol as an excuse. During the whole month, it was only when I was properly drunk that I properly failed.
The astute may’ve noticed that I haven’t mentioned drinking AFTER gigs. That’s because I’m not going to stop that. Got to get through those complimentary drinks somehow.
By reducing how much I drink at comedy gigs, instead of having up to six big nights a week, now it’ll be done to one or two. Probably even a couple of alcohol free days a week. Before February, I hadn’t had one of those in over a year.
From others who have had time without alcohol in the past, I’ve repeatedly heard that they had more energy and got much more done. I suppose I noticed a slight change, but nothing revolutionary. For me, the main thing that changed was my mood. There were still good and bad days, but no run of days where it was all too much and there was no point to anything, which seem follow every one my benders.
In terms of my to do list, I did learn that whether drinking or not, it always takes longer than expected to knock off each task, and if I continually put work before exercise, friends and relaxing, the one big loser in that equation is me. I still haven’t got it right, but I’d like to include more of what makes me immediately happy, while still getting enough done to feel satisfied.
One peculiar thing was the amount of very normal people who told me they couldn’t do it, and admitted they had a problem. They weren’t slurring, stumbling, swaying, covered in filth or living on the street. Most of the people I know through comedy and performing do seem to regularly drink, I just never realised that so many saw it as an issue.
Thanks to FebFast I did learn how to say no to a big night out. By refusing that first drink that would lead to many more, and the next day I never felt like I missed out. Instead of standing around talking to people I half knew and didn’t know at all, I was happier by myself working, reading, watching or sleeping. It used to be that I didn’t feel right if I wasn’t out on a Friday and Saturday night, that I could start without knowing anyone and quickly gather together a crew. I believe that this change is more commonly known as becoming a boring prick.
When it comes to good friends or romance, that’s the time to be out and drinking and it’s awesome. Except when the friends or romance don’t happen as expected. Then I regret not watching a movie instead.
As well as now being able to refuse a big night out, I’m now comfortable saying no to just one drink. During February I lasted through so many situations where I’d usually have a drink. When something goes wrong or right, meeting up with someone, when I’m offered one, when I’m waiting for someone, it’s a mammoth list.
Whenever I’m in a situation where others are drinking and I’ve decided not to, I still look at their beers and wish I had one. If it’s a mixed drink, not so much. So I still don’t know how to properly socialize without drinking, with those that are. As I’ve mentioned before, maybe this is something for FebFast next year.
After a month off, the alcohol buzz only feels even more fantastic.
Quitting things are far easier with a support network. It’s why people join weight watchers, alcoholics anonymous, and the rest of it. I know there’s much more to it than just joining a group, and that after leaving the group lots of people slip back into bad habits.
The only way for me to stop anything is to make a bet about it, which I did with alcohol at the start of February. The money was a factor, but far more important is that I really like betting. If there’s ever a month for not gambling, I don’t know how I’d get through that, because just by betting that I’d make it, I will have already lost.
While not drinking, I also became aware of how in Australian society, making that choice marks and taints you as the weird one. People stare at you and say things like,
‘Why wouldn’t you have a drink?’
‘You’re have a month off? What a stupid idea.’
‘Can’t handle your grog mate? What’s wrong with you?’
Then if you have a few drinks and decide to stop you’re told, ‘There’s no point unless you get smashed.’
I was one of these people. On a big night out, I worry that I still am.
In Australia, is it even possible to celebrate anything without alcohol?
Drinking to excess your whole life is unhealthy, and another big reason for me cutting down is that I don’t want to turn into the older men who reel off the above statements, and are continually drinking and smoking. Hanging out near them, I’m constantly worried that they’re about to keel over.
I also learnt how many pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes shut off their coffee machines several hours before they close. It’d make being in these places and not drinking much easier if more places offered something other than alcohol that was worth drinking.
For me, the whole purpose of FebFast was personal, and it was to stop alcohol controlling me. Now that it’s getting towards the end of March, I’d have to admit that it’s probably been a draw. When I’m about to perform, I no longer need that drink in my hand to feel safe, and I no longer feel weird in a bar without one. However there have already been times in the past few weeks when one drink has too quickly turned into too many, and I’m the drunkest person at the bar, nightclub, festival.
Over the coming months it’s going to be interesting to find out if I maintain, start drinking less, or slowly slide back into drinking more. I’ll be back with an update at the start of 2014. Until then, enjoy dry July and all the other months where you can choose to abstain. I won’t be. One month a year is enough for me.
For those who bet me that I wouldn’t make it, you lose. Now buy me a beer to say well done, and I’ll buy you one back because beer is delicious.
Lastly, a big thanks to everyone who sponsored me, and everyone who sponsored anyone during FebFast. You deserve to feel great about it. All that money goes directly to helping those struggling with addition, as well as the many other associated problems and people affected.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian with upcoming shows in Melbourne (Mar 27-Apr 9), Sydney (May 7-11) and Brisbane (May 12-19).
Melbourne International Comedy Festival (March 27 – April 9)
2013 – When We Were Idiots
Comedy walking tour
At 6pm w/extra show 2pm Sat & Sun (1.5hrs)
Walking tour starting point: Cnr Swanston & Collins St
At the Burke & Wills Statue (city centre)
Tickets from: http://bit.ly/12E2WXh
Xavier Toby – White Trash
Sydney Comedy Festival (May 7-11)
2013 – When We Were Idiots
Metro Theatre Box Office
624 George St
Sydney City Centre
Tickets from: http://bit.ly/X8HLon
Brisbane Anywhere Theatre Festival (May 12-19)
2013 – When We Were Idiots
Brew Cafe & Wine Bar
Queens Street Mall, Brisbane CBD
Tickets from: http://anywherefest.com/idiots