Dry November: Day 1

November 01, 2018

First day of Dry November and I’m slightly hungover. Not much, but enough that I woke at 4:37 and 6:37 with some stomach pains and sleeplessness. This happens more as I age; I wake up earlier when I drink, and hangovers are worse. Throughout my twenties everyone in their thirties told me this would happen, but I regarded their warnings with indifferent scepticism. Not that last night was anything mad. I drank three bottles of leftover craft beer at home, figuring I’d have a little clear-out before starting the experiment with my friend. “Drink up baby,” I texted her, thinking of Elliott Smith, “Last chance.” She didn’t respond until the morning, and I felt proud when I learned that she hadn’t touched a drink since Saturday.

I guess my primary goals are to lose weight, save money, and express my solidarity for my friend. I’ve had some mystery illness this year and lost a bunch of weight anyway. In fact I’d started to get a bit emaciated, so I figured in my recovery I’d double down and try to get ripped, which has been a mild success. The money goal is because I am unemployed, so it feels a bit unjustifiable to spend hundreds of pounds on booze each month. It was already far lower than what I was spending when I was working. Round followed round like work followed sleep, and there was always a rationalising voice in my brain that told me that drinking is social, that it’s worth it for those rare, magical, booze-blurred moments of bliss, with friends or strangers, in situations that seem inconceivable without beer or gin removing the brakes.

But I know that it’s a rationalisation. Partly I know because I had several dry weeks earlier this year, when I’d just returned to London from a few months in the States. Determined not to get myself into the same destructive pattern I’d had in December, I told my friends I’d come out but not drink. I stuck to this for roughly a month, which was easier since I had drunk a lot less in California. This meant that my physical dependence was already reduced, which made resisting temptations easier. My friends were quite supportive, and, having not seen me for months, weren’t going to forego meeting just because I was trying some new thing. This allowed for a simultaneous social readjustment. But the most important thing was that I went out, and realised that a lot of the fun and energy of socialising had come not from alcohol, to which I’d always partly attributed it, but from the people themselves. My friends were great, with or without booze, and it was possible to have a very fun night completely sober. It usually meant leaving before things got too incoherent and waking up feeling fresh the next day as well.

“I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour, but heaven knows I’m miserable now” was the more common experience after “fun” nights.

So here starts a new attempt for a month sober before the predictable carnage of December. Who knows, maybe November will mark my Damascene moment, and I’ll never look back.

Bryan Kam

I'm Bryan Kam. I'm thinking about complexity and selfhood. Please sign up to my newsletter, follow me on Mastodon, or see more here.