Farewell to a troublesome friend
Tracy Griffen brings in the new year as a columnist without portfolio, the words ‘world’ and ‘oyster’ spring to mind
It was meant to be a trial separation. Just a year to see how we’d get on. I was worried about how I’d cope without you. You’ve been by my side most of my life, how could I turn my back on you?
It’s not been the easiest year, but I feel fantastic. I’ve had to avoid certain situations, not go to places I was used to going. Fridays nights were the worst, when we’d traditionally be inseparable. I told myself if I could sit through the discomfort, soon it would be Saturday, and I’d passed the worst.
Our relationship wasn’t all bad – you gave me confidence, got me pushing myself – whether it was from hare-brained schemes, or just fitting in socially. You were there when I needed a crutch, an anchor, some comfort. I did things I never thought possible – I shone like a star. I danced until dawn. I took risks and talked loud. I met amazing people.
It’s not you, it’s me that’s changed. You’ve stayed exactly the same, whilst I’ve had some seismic shifts over our break. I always thought it was my fault that I couldn’t live happily without you. And then I discover you’ve done the same to many others. I won’t accuse you of being a home-wrecker, as in your purest form, you’re benign (and sometimes also useful). So I need to let you be, how you’ve always been, whilst I get on with my life without you.
Adios alcohol, it’s been nice knowing you. I’m following my intuition and you’re not a part of it.
Having decided to do 2022 teetotal (after trying a dry year a decade ago in 2012), I spent the year doing other things. Going out less was easy, as there were no gigs at Leith Depot. The allotment got a lot of love, Griffen Fitness thrived (despite the blasted tramworks outside), I started to love Saturday mornings, many books were read. I’d assumed I’d want to celebrate the end of my sober year with bubbly on Hogmanay (as was tradition) however life sans booze was just too good to quit. No FOMO, for the first time – snuggling on the sofa with pug Coco was exactly where I wanted to be.
Competing in the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championships in October was a highlight, despite running away from the official Welcome Reception. I gave myself permission to leave social situations that were just TOO MUCH (when there was free booze), husband Andy learnt the ‘quick exit’ look. The flipside of not indulging in free booze was that I had a most excellent competition and finished in the top six porridge makers in the world!
Hangovers have never been fun. The older I got, the worse they seemed. Hangxiety was a new word to me. And my guts suffered (in case you were interested). Usually the more you do something, the better you get. I felt worse the longer I was drinking.
Over my dry year, certain boozy memories came back to me. The most vivid was of the first time I got drunk as a teenager. I can remember thinking ‘oh my God, this is so much fun, it’s going to get me into a lot of trouble’. That was over 30 years ago. I managed to stay out of trouble, but always felt that drinking was something I had to do to fit in.
Nowadays I’m happy being weird. I like my own company. I like quiet, and dislike crowds I used to cope with crowds by having a wee tipple to lose my natural shyness. I remember being told as a child that I had to learn to be more sociable. Alcohol was the answer. No longer. It took me a while to learn but I’m getting there, and here are my seven top teetotal tips:
Plan how long you’d like to stay dry and write it in your diary. What events do you have coming up? Form contingency plans.
Tell your nearest and dearest, they may even join in. Some of them might not ‘get it’, but you do what you think is best.
Fill your fridge with your favourite soft drinks. I like coconut water as a treat (cheapest from Lidl) and lots of herbal teas. Try new blends. Become a coffee connoisseur. Hang out with other people who are not drinking. Go for a walk to an indie cafe or market and enjoy weekend mornings.
Observe any changes in your body, and also your mind. What is your thought process associated with the enjoyment of alcohol? Are your jeans really feeling looser already? Be sober curious.
Remember it’s not the end of the world if you fall off the wagon. Many have. If you want to stay dry or drink less, you can. It’s entirely your choice.
If you’re really struggling, ask for help or look online. Useful resources include https://alcoholchange.org.uk and all the ‘QuitLit’ books out there nowadays. “Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol” by Holly Whittaker is one of my favourites. Be a rebel.
Happy 150th issue to my favourite magazine and longest-term writing project. I started with The Leither on issue No 52, time flies when you’re having fun.
I may be the oldest columnist in terms of columns written? 2023 will bring a year of guerrilla gardening, fitness (but not the awful type), Coco the fitness pug and more.
I’d love to know what you’d like to read, tweet me! ■
Tracy with Coco the Fitness pug and a porridge spurtle!. Image: Andy Wright