It’s easy giving up beer for a month. I’m doing it right now.
But no one serious just gives up beer for a month. It’s a cop out, because you can still get blackout drunk without it. In fact beer is the least efficient tool when it comes to this, too many carbs taking up space for the stuff that gets the job done properly — the booze. At best it deserves credit for being a good gateway. But no, serious people don’t give up beer, they give up alcohol entirely.
Sometimes it works out — your trial separation is a success. When it’s over you gain a newfound respect for the relationship, and promise not to hurt each other again. You declare your love openly once more and consume an entire bottle of expensive Australian red wine. It’s not abusive if it costs a lot of money right?
At other times, you fail miserably. You even use the term ‘failed miserably’ when you tell the story of your latest go at abstinence, then giggle at all the fun you had while not being particularly sober.
This month, I’ve been attempting to do exactly that, remain sober, and at the same time write this column. I’d agreed to write it during my annual comedown from Christmas — an F&B bender of the highest order — so I’ve been seeking some inspiration without the assistance of booze. It eventually came from my colleagues — who, for this issue’s cover story about beer, were arranging cool stuff like blind tastings in convenience stores and photo shoots with promo girls.
However, their serious journalistic approach to the topic left me feeling intellectually dwarfed. How was I going to match up to girls in tight uniforms? Where would I find similar pearls they’d be getting from beer men in Circle K? I had to come up with something special. That’s when I decided to give up drinking.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy in this city — a place where you’re never more than 50 metres from the next opportunity to get smashed. Almost immediately I was offered free beer at a restaurant I sometimes go to. Not wanting to cause offence to my host, I quickly reassigned the gift to the table of tourists next to me. It was clear that I needed to set up some safety nets to keep me on task. That’s when I started telling people.
The reactions I received varied, a mixture of who cares, surprise and disbelief. “You’re doing what? Why?” they asked, sipping drinks in the bars I still went to. (And a note on this; awkwardly ordering three Sprites and seven ice teas in bars, as your drinking buddies’ conversations get louder and stupider, is a pretty exhausting experience.) I even stayed up all night dancing at T&R, completely and utterly straight.
Others were congratulatory, some laughed out loud, a couple questioned my sexuality. One guy went even further, pouring vodka into an orange juice I had, just so he could ruin my streak. What a champ.
VIP = Very Intoxicated Person
Despite temptation — and there have been many in a month including Australia Day and the usual number of weekends — I started off strong. A massive four days in and I wasn’t missing the drink at all. Go me.
After a week I felt a noticeable difference. No instant six-pack yet, but my head was clear and I felt more productive than ever. With my confidence soaring, I believed I could do it, but that’s when my sober world came crashing down.
How did it happen? In hindsight, accepting a VIP invite to a Vietnamese nightclub wasn’t the smartest thing to do.
My colleague had invited me and I was determined to keep on living, despite my crippling condition. Arriving at the club I thought I could do it sober, but as soon as we entered I knew that my streak was done. There was no way I was not going to have a drink in this place.
Apart from being a luminous screaming baby of a nightclub, the same sense of not wanting to offend anyone that had happened at my friend’s restaurant happened here. When complimentary bottles of Belvedere vodka are put in front of you, then management starts pouring it out, the expectation to drink is pretty high.
I could've said no, but I felt too bad for them — we were the only ones there. From that point things became a blur. One bottle became two, some shots were had and cocktails were bought and consumed. Fruit bowls were inhaled, sheeshas were smoked, my date turned up and I couldn’t believe how well we were being treated.
Caught up in the hedonism and high quality alcohol, and possibly accentuated by my week-long abstinence, when I got home, I hit that pillow and passed the hell out.
The next morning I knew I’d broken a promise to myself, but I’d felt there was a sense of duty about it — my nightclub blowout had been justified. The owners had splashed out on me, and I had delivered them a guy who had had a good time, encouraging the others in my party to do the same.
Sure, I was weak, I’d 'failed miserably' in my mission to remain sober for a month. Tempting as it was to see it as a depressing allegory for my life — do I not have any strength of character? —the fact remained that no one got hurt and everyone left the place happy.
So my streak ended, lasting just seven days. However, as in life my goals were re-adjusted, and to this point I still haven’t had a beer during January. I’ve wanted one, sure, and my mates are still confused, but I’ve held firm.
That nightclub was f*#king funny though.