Friends, I am not here to tell you not to drink alcohol.
I love to drink, largely because I am better at it than most people ever get to be. Or should be. But I don’t just like drinking, I like the easy conviviality that it brings, the way it opens people up, and I love how it gives us social license to really talk.
I just went three months without drinking alcohol.
That’s the longest period of not putting a significant portion of my wages through my kidneys and into the Armitage Shanks that I’ve had for more than a quarter century. Again, I’m not here to evangelise — hell, I had quite a few this past weekend to celebrate not drinking for a season — but here’s an entirely incomplete list of things I did over the past 90-ish days.
Because who’s counting?
I started writing every day
As a habit, writing’s as easy to drop as a humanities elective at RMIT. If you don’t care about it, and you don’t keep at it, nobody else is going to give at rat’s arse either. The world being the yawning fistula that it is these days, it’s easy to slip into the 35°c clawfoot razor-blade bathtub of writing only about things that just are objectively awful (like Karma Kola), but I wanted to get out of that mindset for a bit. Instead I’ve been writing about things I enjoy, that make me happy, and about which I might not normally write. Some of it is here, and some is at other places, but the important thing is that I have kept my fingers moving on the regular. There are a few cafes in Melbourne that probably wish I’d give their Facebook pages a little bit of respite, but I won’t be cowed by their confused messages asking me what they ever did to get on my organic cola blacklist.
Updated some skills I’d let lapse
One thing I realised later in life than most is that while everyone says they want to collaborate, everyone also has very real reasons why they can’t make the planning meeting on Tuesday at 8pm. Life gets in the way once you’re an adult, and that’s ok, but negotiating around the schedules of two or more people is a complex problem (just ask polyamorists). To avoid the disappointment of conflicting Google calendars (just ask polyamorists) I’ve decided that I need to learn to do as much I can to get my projects from my head to an audience’s without leaning on other people’s skills.
I learned video and audio editing at university back when cuts were something you did with a razor-blade, so I needed to get my skills up to snuff to be able to make videos or (shudder) podcasts that aren’t embarrassing. I delved into Premiere and Audition to the point that my work is probably at the level of ‘advanced amateur’, and I’ll keep building from there. Me and a few mates have some thoughts about fabric that are going to blow the doors right off of Big Tweed, so please subscribe to Freaky Fabric Fellows soon on iTunes!
Took dozens of portraits
I’ve always wanted to shoot portraits — I’ve been carrying a camera of some kind or another on my person for a decade or more — but I never really got up to gumption to ask people to pose. The camera on the iPhone 7 Plus changed that. Asking people if you can take a photo with your phone is a lot less intrusive than dragging out an SLR, and as a result you get more opportunities to shoot.
So I’m shooting more. Next time I see you, I’ll probably ask if I can take your photo too, so make sure to tell me exactly what your Tinder profile needs to round it out. Yes, you can pose with my dog.
Set up basic home automation
Three hairstyles ago I bought some WeMo switches for a project at work that never got off the ground. While moving recently I found those WeMo switches just hanging out in a dusty box having a bludge. A bit of muddling about ensued and I have a sensor-triggered lamp that lights up when I get up in the middle of the night totally not to pee.
Then one morning when I should have been sleeping off a hangover I saw that the WeMo smart-bulbs were on sale because nobody is poindexter enough to buy them. That afternoon I n00bed my way through IFTTT, a service that helps you connect your beep-boop stuff to other beep-boop stuff. It’s incredibly simple, and now I have an ersatz smart-home that ensures all the lights get switched off when I leave the house and turns them on again when I get home. It’s not perfect, but I’m happy to have played a small part in building SkyNet and I think as a result the robots will keep me as a pet while you are toiling away in the goo farms. An added bonus is that I can turn the lights off from anywhere in the world, which I think is a hilarious prank to play on my girlfriend because I am very easily amused.
Went to the gym, but not much
I can give up booze cold turkey, but I can’t build a gym habit in cold weather. I’m sorry. I failed at this one. Chalk it up to not caring about my physique enough to lift things that are heavy. There’s a lesson there for us all.
Exercised the dog within an inch of his goofy life.
In the past three months we moved house to Northcote, with All Nations park just around the corner. If you can’t find it, just follow the trail of Croneneberg’d Fathers John Misty walking their ukulele dogs. Hitch loves it, but he’s never seen Existenz or Rick and Morty, so maybe he’s not the best judge of that reference.
Went to see Razer talk at The Wheeler Centre
Normally, the chances of getting me out on Winter night to see something that isn’t a heartwarming tale about giant pirate robots would be exactly zero. Two months in with no drinking, I was paying infinity dollars to park at 6pm in the city like an idiot and missing the first 15 minutes of Helen Razer’s discussion of The Helen 100 (buy it) at the Wheeler Centre. Then I had coffee with friends and was shortly home in bed at a reasonable hour.
Have I mentioned sleep yet? Because hoo boy sleep is amazing now.
Anyone who knows me can tell you that I complain about lack of sleep like comic book nerds complain about the lack of realistic veins on Dr Manhattan’s translucent CGI doodle in The Watchmen film. Now I sleep the just and peaceful sleep of Zach Snyder on a bed of those same nerd’s money. I also Netflixed The Watchmen a few times, which I slept through. I hear people have strong opinions about it. Don’t @ me, bro.
Drove my car a lot
Turns out if you never have to consider .05, then driving to see friends and do things becomes viable. It’s just like being your own Uber driver without having to do it for 70 hours a week in order to eat! Anyhow, if you’re in the inner North and you see an old geography teacher blasting Run The Jewels out of a 17 year old Saab, then I am happy to have made your day a bit weirder.
Picked up guitar again
I’m still terrible, but I can play a a few more songs terribly. I learned some Father John Misty too, just so I can Pied-Piper all those ukulele dogs away from All Nations Park sometime soon.
Joined a Fitbit competition
I’ve written before about Fitbits and other proto-Borg stuff. I like using mine, even though I understand the arguments for why they’re daft. Your mileage may vary.
My mileage actually did vary when some friends in the US added me to their weekly steps competition. I’m probably walking an additional 20,000 steps a week just to keep up with these jokers. My cobbler is ecstatic. (What, you expect me to do my own cobblery? Like an animal?)
Ate 1/3 my weight in ice cream
Once I stopped drinking alcohol my body started screaming out for more cheap calories. Ice-cream, delivered by uber eats, was happy to be funnelled into that particular void. My litre-a-day ice-cream monkey took me about a month to throw, but I got there. You can too.
Organised all the apps on my phone into neat little folders
Not everything I did has a message.
Asked friends how their lives are
Catching up with friends for a cheeky lemonade instead of a ‘drink’ is a bit of a shock to the system at first, but I’ve made an effort to spend time with folks whom I’d normally see over the top of a beer glass. I hope it’s made me a slightly better and more engaged friend.
Went to the Festival of Steve
Saturday morning at 11am? That’s sleep time, normally. Not now. Went to the Kelvin Club, bought some nice things, and was home in the afternoon to solve the inner North’s devastating cola crisis.
Kept my social engagements with the usual crew of loveable reprobates
Often when people decide to cut down on their own drinking they socially quarantine their friends who drink as though having too much fun was actually (rather than metaphorically) contagious. I wanted to make sure that this wasn’t me — largely because without booze-hounds I’d have virtually no friends left. I made a concerted effort to meet up with friends who drink and maintain those friendships.
I mean, it’s not their fault I got boring.
A few days after my three months were up I had a couple of evenings on the sauce. It was fun, like it almost always is. But on the following Monday I decided to give not drinking another month because I’d like to see what else is waiting to go on this list.