“The chief reason for drinking is the desire to behave in a certain way, and to be able to blame it on alcohol” – Mignon McLaughlin
Imulled for a ridiculous amount of time over whether I should post this. Not because it’s hopelessly self-indulgent – that’s never stopped me before – or because it’s too personal – ditto – but rather because there’s so much weirdness and angst and back-story that I would really need a whole self-indulgent book to tell it all. Lucky I’m writing one, I guess.
Getting straight to the point: a few days ago I decided to stop drinking. Or, rather, I decided to stop properly. Completely.
It was actually back in July – during my month-long London visit – that I realised I needed to take a break from the ridiculously Bukowskian cycle I’d got myself (back) into. And – with a few dramatic exceptions – I was doing ok. But then, as someone pointed out after my last binge, in recent weeks those dramatic exceptions had started to move closer together – to the point where they were inevitably going to collide. Almost-quitting is just not something I’m capable of. It’s all, or it’s nothing.
One complicating factor (in my head at least) is that I’ve forged a career – and a respectable income – from drinking too much, doing idiotic things and writing about them. My last book floated on a sea of booze, and if you were to ask anyone who knows me to give you three keywords about me, drink would certainly be one of them. Barely a week goes past without a PR person trying to bribe me with a bottle of good rum (really, it’s got weird now – and each thinks they’re the first to think of it); and the look of disappointment on people’s faces when I say I’m not drinking is heart-breaking. Last week I was at a party where someone said – and I swear this is true – “of course you’ll have a drink… you’re Paul Carr”.
But the thing is, there’s a line between doing entertainingly idiotic things under the influence and doing irreversibly damaging things. And what sells the most books and makes people read blog posts – losing loves, getting arrested, being fired, inching towards cirrhosis of the liver – is not actually that much fun when it’s you doing it. The truth is there are people in my life who I would rather trade every single funny anecdote I have just to avoid hurting them again. Or in certain cases, just to speak to them again. When you get to that point the decision isn’t the difficult part. The difficult part is the execution.
To be honest, drinking for me became a habit – a prop – rather than a necessity; I’m perfectly capable of doing dumb things stone cold sober, and it’s not like I need a fucking confidence boost. I also never – ever – write while drunk. But having a drink in my hand – and another, and another – is also one of those habits that has proved incredibly hard to break. Hence the decision to write this post.
I figure by making the statement – I’m not drinking – I don’t really have anywhere to hide. Maybe people who have read this and who see me drinking will look as disappointed as those who previously were disappointed that I wasn’t.
I’ve been lucky enough to get advice on quitting from some really good friends in the past week or so, including one friend who has been sober for seven months despite previously writing a drink-fuelled memoir of her own. No doubt some of the advice will work, and some of it won’t. But I’m going to try it all. I might write a follow-up post on the subject, or there might be more in the book, or I might just get on with it. It’s too early to tell. All I know is that it’s my 30th birthday in a couple of months, and I really hope I’ll be spending it sober. And alive. And with friends. Those are decent enough goals for now.
And to those worried that a non-drinking me means fewer hilarious fuck ups; don’t be. The only difference is I’ll be able to remember them in the morning.
God help me.