I remember when one month off the grog felt like a major achievement and it was.
I’m now coming up on 5 years in May. 5 years!
Recently an old friend and drinking buddy(they are different) told me that he had given up the grog. He was a few weeks into it and was feeling good about his decision. As well he should. We shared stories of the good old days, drinking together. Drinking sessions that at times would seemingly roll on for days. We shared the same problem of never being able to have just one. Just one turned into a couple, then to a few, until it had transformed into a session.
When I finally stopped, it was my third or fourth attempt, I can’t exactly recall. On one occasion i stopped for a month, another was two weeks. I do remember the final time clearly though. I had fallen into depression, which I had suffered from for most of my adult life in various degrees, but during this period I becoming very dark and I was drifting back to “those” thoughts. I had been here before. I was thinking about having my affairs in order in the event that I would die, say in an “accident”. I had bumped up my life insurance policies a couple of years earlier and in the event of “dying” those closest to me wouldn’t be faced with any financial burden. Not a good place to be. Fortunately I ran into a cousin who put me onto a Psychologist, another in a long list of mental health practitioners that had crossed my path over the previous twenty odd years. But this one was different. She would only see me on one condition. I had to stop drinking.
“I’ve often heard people tell me they drink for the taste. I call bullshit! They drink for the feeling. A feeling that some can never get enough of.”
So I got myself a psychologist who wouldn’t accept anything but a grog free client. I told her how previous practitioners had said that it was ok to have a few and even when I was on medication I was permitted to have “a couple” provided I didn’t overdo it. Well you can guess what that turned into. Not pretty. That’s a story for another day.
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t had a drop during this time, however it’s pretty close. According to my calculations I’ve had two and a half stubbies of beer and nine, we’ll call them half nips, of “Rakija”, a balkan brandy of sorts, in some cases home made. I only usually have it as token of respect for a dear friend that passed away. This practise is not without it’s dangers and I am forever mindful of slipping into a bender even after only a few millilitres.
Drinking is engrained in the Australian psyche, but it is changing. Ask any person who works in hospitality how many lemon, lime and bitters they are serving today compared to ten years ago and you’re sure to be surprised. It is no longer a given to have to order an alcoholic drink when entering a bar. It certainly was in my day.
The benefits of abstaining are clear. But better mental and physical health come at what can sometimes feel like a cost. The uncomfortable question from friends and family “Are you still off it?” is sometimes easier to manage than the awkward silence that often precedes the question. It will often feel as though people are expecting you to get back on the grog or at least just “have one now and then” For those that are on the path, good for you and stay strong. And if you slip, get back up and dust yourself off, because I can tell you from experience it gets better and easier over time.
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