Some Sober Reflections

Eaarrgghh! I've been too ill to read or think this week. Maybe it was those cold damp spaces between the beer and sausage emporia in Deutschland. Or maybe too much jabbering and coffee drinking with coughing and sniffling students. Wherever it came from, it laid me low for a good few days and I don't think my head has fully cleared yet.

And so I was given the opportunity to once again revisit the joy that is going to a work Christmas party and staying sober. Why do I have experience of this? Well for a whole year, I gave up drinking. Not because I had a problem. Well, look, yes, I did have a problem. I was boring. Not other people, no, no, life is far too short to worry all that much about other people, no, I was boring myself. And that is something that really has to be attended to. I'd heard all my one-liners, quips and anecdotes too many times. And on the whole, taking a break from booze worked. My worst (and most pathetic) fear - that my dearest drinking buddies would desert me proved groundless. My health might have improved slightly, although, rather gallingly I didn't lose any weight (I was furious to discover that the Gnome did - fewer nights out, fewer Guinesses, meanwhile my waistline continued in its quest for planetary status). I have seen the truth about drunkenness and sobriety and I'm here to tell you that office Christmas parties are the only occasions I've encountered where it is actually medically dangerous to be sober. A man can die from sustained cringing.

Ah yes, the pitfalls and side-effects of over indulgence are well documented, but the dangers of under-indulgence and abstinence are less well known. Of course gut-wrenching piety is the worst and the most obvious, but thankfully not something to which I'm prone. Too many traffic cones and bread trolleys are in a watery grave because of my nights out, too many people I don't think I've ever met eye me with loathing and suspicion, for me to ever be in any danger of preaching to anybody. But when you forego the drink, other, more sinister things happen. Chemical changes occur. Slowly but surely, your manly hormones return to their 1985 levels (for me anyway - I was sixteen). This has got to be step three or four on any alcoholics anonymous ten-step programme - "Get some baggier trousers!". And keep fit - who knows when you'll give in to that urge to chase the girl cycling past in a mini-skirt and tell her you love her. And that isn't the worst. As well as hormone levels soaring, self-knowledge levels rocket to potentially toxic levels. There is now no longer a point in the week where you think you are young, handsome and funny. There's no hangover to blame for your faltering memory, poor work performance and bad body odour and (why didn't I see this coming) when you give up drinking - you're sober the whole time! Friday night at midnight - there you are, bright as a button. Now you have time to do all those self-improving things that you'd always told your self you'd do, and if you're not very careful, you'll end up doing them.