Saturday 24 August 2019

Brendan O'Connor: 'I'm not off the drink, as such'

"You’re thinking, 'This guy is protesting too much, he's clearly an alcoholic'"

I'm not, as such, off the drink. That sounds like it was a big decision. And as if I might be making a lifetime commitment. It's more that I have a lot on right now so I'm not bothering with a few pints. Again, I should stress that so far that means I haven't had a drink in about three weeks. And I might well have had one by the time you read this. But for now, I am trying to maximise focus, energy, gut health and sleep and all that, so I am not drinking.

Technically this does not make a huge difference to my life. Sadly I don't drink much these days anyway. So really, 99pc of the time, nothing has changed in the last few weeks. Most days I don't have a drink, or countenance having one. Generally drink doesn't even cross my mind. (I know, I know. You're thinking now, 'This guy is protesting too much. He's clearly an alcoholic.') I'm not, for example, one of those people who has a glass of wine in the evening. In general I don't really bother drinking at home. I'm a weekend 'binger', and that's binging in the technical sense of four drinks in one sitting, rather than in the fun sense of a binge). Therefore, you would think that not drinking at all wouldn't make a difference most of the time.

But somehow it does. Somehow, now that I have chosen not to have a drink, I find I want a drink - cold crisp beer mainly. It doesn't help that there are ads for it everywhere. I never noticed them before, but suddenly it feels like there are billboards strategically positioned in my life with appetising looking pints on them. And like, since when was a pint of lager appetising? But somehow they look lovely on the billboards. I even get a yearn for a pint of Rockshore sometimes. Mainly though, there is a billboard for Archway lager that is (clearly deliberately) situated on my way home every evening at the end of a long day. I do like an Archway lager (Disclaimer - there are other beers available).

The other thing is I think I'm driving my wife potty. I don't even have to say anything. She can tell. She can tell when she has the odd glass of wine that I am silently judging her. She can tell just by a slight glance. I don't mean to be judging her. I'm not even sure I am, but I know she is thinking that I'm thinking, "Why are you having a glass of wine right now?" and maybe I slightly am. The irony here is rich indeed.

I am no one to judge my wife on her drinking. In fact, to call it her drinking is to overstate it. That sounds like she has some kind of habit, which she doesn't (So now you're thinking, 'Oh, he's getting a bit defensive there. The wife is obviously a lush'). It's only been a few weekends but I'd say she's thinking, 'I wish this uptight pr**k would lighten up and go out for a few pints and get out of my hair for a while and come back relaxed'. I'd say she's thinking, 'This is not what I signed up for'. Also, she and I communicate differently when we get away from the kids and have a little drink. It's like a stocktake. We communicate away all the time on a daily basis, but possibly about more day-to-day stuff. There is something about the ritual of getting out, and having a drink put in front of us, in a neutral space, that allows us to take a breath, and catch up on the more subtle things that come out when your mind has room to free-range a bit.

Maybe what I mean is that it takes us out of our roles and allows us to see each other properly again.

If she hasn't left me, I'll take her out for a drink soon now. We'll probably have a few things to discuss. Mainly though, I'd say she'll just be relieved that Mr Superior is chilling out and having a drink.

Brendan O'Connor's 'Cutting Edge' continues on RTE1, Wednesdays at 9.35 after News and weather.

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