Let's get this out of the way first: I am not an alcoholic.
I never drink alone, I rarely drink during the week, and I don't think of booze unless I'm socialising.
I am, however, what you'd call a classic binge drinker.
Just like many other things in life - romance, friendships, food - I'm an all-or-nothing guy. I fully commit and that applies to nights on the lash too.
But the default of Saturday night out x free-flowing booze = fun hasn't been sitting so well with me for quite some time.
And it's not just because the hangovers are getting worse (or longer). Anyone who's ever sworn themselves off hooch whilst in the midst of fighting The Fear knows full well that the after-effects of a booze-filled night are no deterrent to quitting for good.
But more and more, that's exactly what I'd been thinking about.
For someone who has spent most of their weekends over the last two decades necking booze of some description, something had to give, and I wanted me to instigate it before my liver did.
I'll readily admit the thought of knocking it on the head was one part exciting and two parts terrifying. Or to shoehorn in a lame drink-related phrase, I was more shaken than stirred at the prospect.
My main concern was my social life. Would it cease to exist? After all, 99% of my friends were just like me, and drank like fish at weekends. And on a personal level, would I, you know, be any fun if I wasn't boozing? And would my mates be, you know, really fucking annoying?
There was only one way to find out and I was determined to give it a go.
Three things spurred me on.
The first was my best friend, who, after years of hardcore partying is five years booze-free. Knocking it all on the head saved his life, and he's now the sort of man I aspire to be.
The second was the end of summer. I was officially over boozy anything.
Thirdly, Sober October has a nice ring to it.
So, I decided to quit - with a few rules:
1. I would initially give myself a month off booze. If I wanted to drink after that then I would.
2. I would still socialise around others who were drinking alcohol and would not judge them for doing so.
3. I would not become a hermit.
So four weeks later I'd love to tell you the struggle was real, but honestly, it wasn't.
I socialised even more than usual - one week I went out for four dinners (I know, get me, etc). I quickly realised that without booze to rely on, you simply make more effort. Not that it is an effort. The feeling of being fully immersed and completely engaged for an entire evening (instead of half of it) was seriously addictive. Plus you remember everything the next day.
A key moment was a mid-week outing to an All Saints gig. I stuck to sparkling water as my five mates polished off three bottles of wine at the pre-show dinner. At the gig, they continued to neck overpriced cheap plonk along with pretty much everyone else in attendance.
By the time we were all singing along to Never Ever, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who could remember the actual words - for once.
As I headed home, clear-headed and buzzing from the night, I realised it was the first time I'd been to a gig and not drunk a drop of alcohol.
Then it really hit home how so much of my adult existence had involved booze to one degree or another.
That's also when I decided to extend my four weeks off booze indefinitely.
I'm now into my fifth booze-free week. I'm happier, healthier, sleeping better, flatter of stomach and a damn sight richer.
Ok, so it's still early days, but just like when I stopped smoking eight years ago, there are only positives to quitting the booze, the greatest of which is that it's given me a whole new perspective on life - and myself. Or to put it another way, I like me more. A lot more.
Will I drink again? Yes, I will. I'm not labelling myself as a non-drinker. But my binging days are behind me. Finally.Suggest a correction