Thursday, 30 July 2009

Teetotal in Sri Lanka - not quite

Anyone who reads this blog will know that I was trying to stop drinking alcohol altogether in the 3 weeks leading up to my holiday. I thought summer recess when I had a bit more time to meet up with friends would be my tricky time and there would be lots of pressure from friends to "just have one". I was wrong. I had very little time to socialise because on top of work, there's a by election in my constituency. But to be fair to my friends, whenever I was out with them, nobody cared if I drank or not. I'm going to try again in September when parliament is in full swing. That's when there are many many receptions, lots of free alcohol around and lots of cajoling to "just have one". What I did discover in my 3 weeks was that if anyone was whispering those 3 little words to me, it was me. I'm glad I didn't find it hard to resist but we'll see how we get on in September.

I also said I would be posting about my cousin, who constantly inspires me in the alcohol story. I didn't do it before I left and I'm not doing it from an internet cafe in Sri Lanka because it deserves more attention than that. Her story is a very interesting one and worth devoting some time to. She has agreed that she will then post from her point of view and I know when she stopped drinking, she faced a lot of peer pressure to "have one".

Having come on holiday I've done as I said I would and started drinking again. I had a gin and tonic on the flight over and I have to say I remembered the attraction as soon as I took a sip - the warmth that spreads over your body, the total relaxation and that feeling of putting all your troubles behind you. The latter was probably more to do with actually getting on the flight but the psychological pulling power of alcohol is so strong that when you are drinking you associate all good feelings with the actual alcohol.

Anyway since then, I've had a few beers and I was dying to get an arak and ginger beer - but again, like the egg roti, like the Sri Lankan curry, it was more to do with the association in my mind. Arak and ginger beer was drunk at a time when I was having a fantastic time in Sri Lanka and all the memories come back. But to be completely honest, it is all losing its alure for me. The alcohol that is. I'm thinking now that it just "ain't all that" and I'm wondering if I COULD happily do without it ever again. Perhaps the real test (apart from being back in parliament) would be to not drink on holiday or not drink at my friend's wedding in August. That last one could be a real test. A big group of my mates will be there. A friend from Ireland is coming over. We're all staying the night. How would my enjoyment of the night be any different if I drank orange juice all night? I went to my friend Sid's wedding last week at the Central Mosque in Glasgow and that was obviously alcohol free. It was great and a relief not to be "Drunk".

Last thought - as I'm writing this I'm realising how lucky I am to be able to navel gaze about all of this. Not everyone can. The cousin I am going to write about is a teetotal alcoholic. She can't pick and choose which events to be teetotal at and which to drink at. I'm aware of that and my intention with all of this has never been to suggest that I face anything like the same pressures. I know I don't. But I do believe none of us are immune to addiction and so the higher our self awareness the better. I wonder if she finds it frustrating reading me prattling on about "I'll just have one at this event but none at that one". I hope not. We'll find out soon enough when she writes for this blog.

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