I have been alcohol free now for two months. Early days to pledge eternal sobriety, but, as I write this, I have no plans to return to my tipsy lifestyle. It’s also not something I’ve been publicising, as there was no real catalyst to it – a friend mentioned that she’d given up during the summer, but I just woke up one morning and decided I’d had enough. I’ve always been a big boozer – head of my college's womens’ drinking society, always first down the bar and last to leave. Lockdown days of neither the school run nor any set place to be, made drinking rose wine of an evening almost compulsory and with the recycling stations closed, the heap of bottles I amassed became quite an embarrassment (not that it ever stopped me!).
What do I miss? Almost nothing... I’ve always been the sort of person literally unable to do things by half measures and envious of someone who can have ‘just the one glass’ of wine (you know who you are) whereas, if I’ve gone to the effort of opening a bottle, then I may as well polish off the whole thing – it would be rude and wasteful not to. Quality lady that I am, lager is my absolute favourite drink and I could quite happily get through a family special offer pack over the course of the weekend. The positives of abstinence: waking up clear-headed on a Saturday is a delight, as is driving out to quaint country gastro pubs for evening meals (lockdown rules permitting). There’s also a stack of quality AF beers out there; long gone are the days of sweet, watery substitutes and if you DM me I’ll give you my top five which I’ve hunted down to make watching the rugby with a few tinnies a possibility. Most importantly, time has become my friend – I’m achieving so much more. Ah! Charlie, quit showing off.
But, as I said earlier, almost nothing. Believe it or not, I miss waking up in the early hours of the morning. Not the hot and sweaty bit with pounding head and unquenchable thirst. But that was the time when most of my most bizarre, creative and strangest thoughts took place. Lying there, in the witching hour, head buzzing, and more alert than ten cups' worth of coffee could induce, that was when I would conjure up the weirdest ideas. Suddenly bits of unconnected story would slot together – I used to tell myself, during the day, not to worry if something wasn’t working out – my alcohol fuelled, night-waking would be bound to sort out the dilemma. Vivid images of scenes and strange scenarios would project themselves into my mind. Over and over again, I had a vision of an oak tree with a huge branch chopped off – super weird, but all put to good use (see next novel for reference!).
The moment I quit booze, I started sleeping with the depth of a hibernating brown bear. I go to bed now, fall straight to sleep and don’t wake up until my alarm chirrups. So now I’m panicking about plot holes – how will my subconscious correct them? Do I set my alarm for the early hours so I can wake up and consult the night-time muse? It just so happens that I bemoaned this on a long, socially distanced walk with one of my besties who is a few years older than me (I’m soon to be 46). She just looked into the distance and gave a knowing smile – ah, don’t worry, she said, if it’s insomnia, palpitations and night sweats you’re after, you won’t have to wait long…