I love alcohol. There, I said it. It makes everything more enjoyable. It's been a big factor in some of my closest, most meaningful relationships. In fact, it's the main reason some girls even find me attractive enough to enter a relationship in the first place. The only funny stories I tell my friends revolve around alcohol-based tomfoolery.
So when the people at Dryathlon enlisted me for a month of sobriety in the name of raising money for Cancer Research UK, I felt a tad concerned. I can honestly say I didn't go a weekend last year without having a drink. My social life revolves around a quiet pint in the pub, a couple of beers watching the football, a few cocktails in Covent Garden, a glass of wine with dinner, or a messy night doing shots in Clapham until four in the morning.
Why bother giving up something you clearly enjoy and which plays such a pivotal role in your life? I've spent time reading articles about giving up alcohol for January, and the limited impact it has on your long-term health, but I want to do Dryathlon for me, as well as a fantastic cause in Cancer Research UK. I've never been particularly disciplined and I just want to prove to myself that I have control over my own life, and am able to enjoy myself socially without the blurry haze that comes with being pissed.
So on 1 January, I embarked on the first of 31 days of no booze.
The first few days were fine. Enjoyable, even. I found the routine of getting back into work strangely comforting after two weeks of waking up with meat sweats and little recollection of what had occurred the previous evening.
The weekend hit. In our trendy, media-oriented PR office, we get the beers out every Friday afternoon, and then people start sloping off to the pub. This has been my routine since I was twelve. So last Friday, as I sipped on my third peppermint tea of the afternoon, I had my first craving for a beer.
I went home instead. And it felt incredible. What didn't feel incredible was getting back, switching on the TV, and realising that in fact, without alcohol, a Friday night is no different to any other night. No Friday feeling, no excitement of where the night will take you, just you. You and Robson's Extreme Fishing Challenge.
I texted people. Best mate, younger brother, football team (all eleven of them), that girl I met on the night bus a few months ago. All without having a booze-up. None of them were up for coming over and watching a documentary about monkey breeding in the soviet-era. And, for me, this is the biggest challenge.
FOMO (acronym): Fear of Missing Out.
I couldn't help but think that my friends, my peers, the people I share my life with, were out having fun and just about to embark on a night out so exciting it'd make Bilbo Baggins look like he popped to the corner shop for a pint of milk.
With this thought, I instantly committed myself to a night out the following evening, and slipped into a sober slumber.
Saturday morning. I have no idea what Saturday morning looks like, having spent the past two years of my life spending Saturday mornings in bed. Until last Saturday. I woke with a flourish at 9am and instantly started planning what I was going to do with my day. By 1pm I'd already gone to the gym, done a spot of shopping and hit Nandos with my housemates. And it felt good.
I'd been invited to a low-key dinner party that evening, and turned up armed with low-carb nibbles, fruit juice and a bottle of wine for the others. It was good fun, people are genuinely better company when they've had a glass of wine or two, and we spent the first part of the evening putting the world to rights.
I slowly noticed people getting more and more drunk, until I suddenly became aware of the fact that my best friend, trusted ally and housemate Eddie was slurring uncontrollably and laughing at everything I said. It was almost like I was funny. The only trouble being, I was talking about the shade of fuchsia we should paint our bathroom.
And this is the trouble with drunken people. When you're drunk, they're amazing. They make you feel good about yourself, they laugh at everything you say, and members of the opposite sex become strangely attracted to you. But, and it pains me to say it, it just doesn't mean anything, particularly when you don't remember half of it the next day.
Despite it being for an extremely worthy cause, the other challenge I experienced was the interest in my sobriety and almost constant haranguing for me to have 'just one glass of wine'. It became incredibly frustrating to keep saying no, not just because I really, really wanted one, but because drunken people have no idea where the line is and when to stop.
I slipped off at 11.30pm, just as they were getting stuck into a popular karaoke game on the Playstation and shouting uncontrollable to Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart, and resolved to find some more productive activities to fill the next few weeks.
Don't forget to check back in next week, where I will be reporting on how my first dry challenge went - dry dating!
You can join Tom and take part in Dryathlon by signing up at Dryathlon.org
For further information about Cancer Research UK, visit www.cancerresearch.org