Becoming teetotal at 21

It was the week before my 21st birthday. I’d woken up with yet another hang over, (in Scotland the legal drinking age is 18, though I’ll tell you now at this point, I’d been drinking regularly for about 5 years), and the wages from the gig the night before had mysteriously disappeared.

This had been the routine almost every Saturday night. But the drinking also crept into Sunday as there was a local session that took place in a pub near where I lived. Wednesday nights had a similar session. Plus a few of us used to get together on a Monday for a few after work. And I’d regularly fit in a couple before rehearsals on Tuesday.

Before I knew it, I was drinking almost ever night of the week. My liver wasn’t thanking me, my health wasn’t thanking me and my bank balance wasn’t even talking to me. I started to get used to not waking up until 1 or 2 in the afternoon on a Sunday, dragging my sorry ass out of bed and making my way down to the pub for another jam session and undoubtedly another few drinks. I’d sometimes arrive and proclaim that I wouldn’t be drinking today but lo and behold after 4 or 5 songs, the Guinness would be flowing as it had done every Sunday for an age.

As to why I started drinking so much, I think it was a combination of things. I’d recently been through a break-up in a relationship that I presumed was water-tight, but it wasn’t meant to be (to clarify, it was actually the best thing that ever happened to me in because  it meant I wound up falling in love with my good lady). I had also been playing in rock’n’roll bands since I was 14, so had been regularly going to after-show parties, late night sessions and gigs, consuming stupid amounts of booze in the process.

I had become desensitised to the seriousness of regularly consuming alcohol. I didn’t see it as a problem; I didn’t consider myself an alcoholic in the traditional sense. But looking back, that’s exactly what I was. After turning up drunk one night to a recording session, so drunk in fact that I was unable to play, I decided enough was enough. I saw what effect it was having on me as a person and the effects it could have on people that I had been close to. I saw myself in 20 years time and hated what I saw.

So the week before my 21st Birthday, I called my mother and explained that I was going to stop drinking. Completely. There would be no cutting back or taking it easy for a while. I would stop drinking alcohol all together. She was perplexed, confused and slightly annoyed (only because she had bought me a very nice and quite rare bottle of whiskey as a 21st gift). My sister didn’t understand either. In fact, a lot of people had their doubts.

I’d weighed the pros and cons and could literally see no benefit to drinking alcohol.

Now in the coming months, I’ll admit, I did fall off the wagon a few times and had a few drinks here and there and got drunk a couple of times to. But before I knew it, I wasn’t drinking anymore. There were no hangovers, more money and a happier liver. I don’t know the exact date, but I think it was around July, so I now mark 01/07/2015 as the date I became teetotal.

Do I miss it? Sometimes (though it’s more the social aspect rather than the drinking part). Am I a happier, healthier, more fulfilled human being? Absolutely.

“I envy people who drink – at least they know what to blame everything on.”

Oscar Levant




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