Saturday 20 December 2014

Giving up drink was the best thing I've ever done

Katie Byrne celebrates four months off the booze with a nicely chilled glass of sparkling water

I remember an anecdote that comedian Frank Skinner told about giving up alcohol and the reaction he often received. "You're lucky," people would enthuse, "you remember everything from the night before". "Yes," he agreed, "but there is nothing to remember because all I do now is sit in front of the TV."

I relate. Despite my better attempts, my social life underwent a seismic shift when I gave up alcohol. Most nights out now are trying without alcohol to lubricate social cohesion.

I can't speak for alcoholics because mercifully I'm not one, but I think there is a fallacy surrounding the social habits of ex-drinkers.

Many think we opt out of social situations because we don't want to be inveigled by temptation; that if we have one drink we'll fall off the wagon and end up poised – mouth wide open – under the beer tap.

In fact, the big fear is that we'll fall asleep such is the boredom. You see, nights out in Ireland are long – unfeasibly long when you're not drinking.

If you have dinner booked for 7pm and you leave a nightclub at a reasonable 3am, well that's eight hours of socialising; a work day, so to speak.

Add to this our inherent social awkwardness and it makes for a bit of an Odyssey when you're not drinking. The irony is that Irish outgoingness is generally alcohol-induced. We need the alcohol to alleviate our crippling social shyness.

This is one of the reasons I gave up alcohol four months ago. It became apparent that I wasn't comfortable in a social situation until I heard the familiar glug, glug, glug of wine being poured into my glass.

I realised that it was a social crutch, that I felt naked in a nightclub if I didn't have a glass in my hand. Hence, I couldn't get enough drink down me on a night out, and I often noticed that women of my 'type' were much the same.

We alpha women have an unusual relationship with alcohol, in particular wine. It presses our self-destruct button. Sorry to go all Oprah on you, but I think we're terrified of our potential.

My main reason for calling it a day, though, was when I had to admit that every mini crisis in my life had been caused by alcohol. Every argument with my friends and partners, every lost item, every missed flight. All those bad decisions . . . Yes, there was drink taken, officer.

Alcohol is a drug, and its legality and availability makes it all the more insidious.

I often think back to the days when head shops were on our high streets. If you went into one of those shops and bought a drug that blurred your vision and affected your mobility; a drug that made you say things that you regretted, argue with people that you loved, vomit, black out, wake up beside somebody whose name you didn't know and spend the next two days with a ball of anxiety in the pit of your stomach, well, at the very least you'd be deeply disturbed.

Besides, I never actually liked the taste of it, despite my best wine buff pretensions. Velvety texture – gulp – soft tannins – gulp – whisper of spice – gulp, gulp, gulp.

How can you drink 'sensibly' when alcohol contains an instantly addictive element that makes you want more and more, irrespective of what kind of state you're in?

And with this moreishness comes amnesia. I really believed that I was just going out for one or two when I used to drink. But without fail, four drinks in, I'd be on the hunt for devilment, no matter what I had planned for the next day.

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Also in this Section

Promoted articles

Top Stories

Most Read

Independent Gallery

Your photos

Send us your weather photos promo

Celebrity News