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I have lost count of the number of times that I vowed never to drink again. When it dawned on me that renouncing alcohol had become a weekly occurrence in my social regime, I realised I was going to have to become more realistic with my life goals, as being tee-total was clearly not feasible whilst at university.
After spending 8 hours one Saturday languishing immobile on the sofa with heart palpitations, blurred vision, and chronic shakes, however, I decided that I needed to rethink my relationship with my old friend Vodka. As I had proved incapable of pursuing a life of sobriety, I decided that I needed at least a month off the bottle to let my liver recover, and what better month than the 31 days of desolate rain, misery, and introductory lectures that is October?
Suddenly came the realisation that October also brought with it five days of Fresher’s week, which – when in charge of 12 Freshers – would be nigh on impossible to complete in ardent sobriety. It therefore seemed just about feasible to Go Sober for (the rest of) October, as soon as Freshers’ was over. If anything just to try and abate the possibility of falling terminally ill with Freshers’ ‘Flu.
It would be a lie to say that my life changed drastically when I relinquished booze, but certain changes were very apparent. I was not only awake, but also early for all of my lectures, I went into the Sports Centre to use facilities other than the vending machines, for the first time in my life I could awake smugly clear-headed while my housemates were incapacitated with crippling post-Wednesday-night-social hangovers, and I no longer broke into a cold sweat when checking my bank balance.
I also realised, however, how integral an aspect alcohol had been to my social life. On attempting Lancaster’s nightlife sober, I genuinely felt as if some of my human rights were being violated. Everything was sticky, everything smelled, everyone sweated unprecedentedly, everyone danced atrociously, and don’t get me started on the toilets. But when you’re 9 drinks down, you don’t even notice this.
On quiet nights I realised I wanted nothing more than to simply enjoy one or two beers in the pub, yet as I had forbidden myself from doing this, I was forced to either stay at home and resist temptation, or sit miserably with a luke-warm lemonade. Either way, I realised I couldn’t win, and decided that what was important was not to set unrealistic goals, or even force myself to abstain entirely for the sake of a challenge, but to enjoy everything in moderation.
Just as diets are ultimately un-productive and impractical when one suddenly cuts out an entire food group, so was abstaining from alcohol when I only craved it in small amounts. I realised I didn’t need, or even want, to get paralytic on a weekly basis, but neither did I need to ban myself from drinking moderately in a social setting.
With this in mind, I decided to approach November with the view that ‘a little bit of what you fancy does you good’. That is, until I abruptly abandoned sober October in favour of a free bar, and woke up feeling as though I had had my brain replaced with Pavarotti. This time however, I decided not to be unrealistic or to lie to myself, and thus vowed not to drink for at least a week. I lasted 7 hours and 23 minutes.