Ray Milland’s Found Weekend

Why have I given up drinking?
I just haven’t got the time. I’m too busy to be drunk and I don’t mind…or do I?

How long does it take to stop pondering about booze when you are teetotal? 

I have no shakes or dire hankerings, no desperate desire to chemically loosen the shackles on my mind, they seem to rattle enough on a diet of peppermint tea and pastries. 

It has been three months, and I believe it is a cultural addiction rather than a solitary dependency. When I was youngish, probably from about 21 years old upwards, I went through a long period when to wake up without a hangover was a spare and confusing morning. The comedy circuit was a drinking culture. It is a job where the beer is always within arms reach – four or five pints of Kronenberg a night in quick succession, then maybe some slower shorts, then the night bus home and the hope that the last ten minutes of road wasn’t too bumpy as that’s just when the bladder was stretched to the point of a jester’s pig balloon. At that time, the drinking is so much part of the humdrum that a night off may at least require a bottle of wine, something to help you forget the television you pointlessly watch until 3am (these were simpler days of fewer channels before late night commercial telly became a casino for the legless gambler). 

Then, there came times where the volume of work was so great that alcohol had to be knocked on the head, writing links for low quality cobbled together clip shows of industrial accidents and fat women slipping on ice requires a clearer head than you might imagine, especially if you are having to do it at 3am, mediocrity can’t write itself. It takes a sharp human mind to find just the right level of banality to appease the commissioners. Inebriation can cause an awkward flare up of imagination. 

By my late 30s, I was cutting down. I think this was partly because I was not on the comedy circuit so much. I was touring on my own and three pints seemed to suffice. 

A bottle of red wine was no longer required on nights off, it had all become run of the mill, a reflex reaction which, when looked at from a safe distance, seemed not to have the giddiness required to justify the heavy head the next day. I needed to get things done, time was moving on (or not as some physicists might tell you, oh delusional existence), booze was getting in the way. If I was around teetotalers, then it was pretty easy to slip into a teetotal lifestyle. 

If I began, then it was hard to keep it to one, in my mind, it was pointless. Just as I can’t buy “only one book”, I was no good at having one pint. What was the point of buying just the one, you might as well not start at all, you need to drink until you are at least at the point of talking passionate, fume-y rubbish or at least drunk enough to no longer mind others’ boozy nonsense. Once you’ve started drinking it seems silly to conclude the evening at a state of sobriety, it’s as of you’ve wasted money by just having two pints. 

With the increasing sense of life rattling on to an eventual conclusion, I started to worry that drinking was getting in the way of my reading. You’ve got to get your priorities right. I would sit on the train post gig, staring at the pages of a book, I was seeing the words, but forgetting them almost instantaneously. By the end of a paragraph I had quite forgotten who Doug was or why photons behave as they do or why Don Estelle was so angry with Windsor Davies. 

Three months ago, after another violent bout of staring at ceilings and cursing, I decided that maybe stopping drinking all together may aid the inner dialogue’s battle with insomnia. 

It seems easier to not sleep when you are sober, the inebriate insomniac gets very cross and there was only so much plaster left on the wall of my bedroom. 

The first few weeks required concentration. It just happened that they clashed with doing events with free bars packed with fine wines and quality beers. The conversations are harder to handle, not because you are talking to the increasingly intoxicated, I was talking to interesting drunks, but because a sizeable chunk of your conscious mind is taken up with “not drinking”. The inaction of “not drinking” becomes a tiring action in itself.

“You look exhausted, what were you up to last night?”

“I was ‘not drinking’ for hours. It was a late one. I didn’t stop ‘not drinking’ until 2am, and that was only because I fell asleep” 

Most days I am at some gig or event where booze lurks, and I have no lust to sink it all, but having spent 23 years as a social drinker, it’s only the habit I have to break. It is made easier by late night trains, by the angry and emotionally loose and loud growling of the ones recounting the events and intake of the evening, but I don’t hear too much of it, I am immersed in a book. 

2014 tour imminent – Chorley, Salford, Edinburgh, Swansea, Bristol, Sheffield and so many more. Details HERE

and here are the puppet versions of Brian Cox and I for http://www.cosmicgenome.com HERE

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10 Responses to Ray Milland’s Found Weekend

  1. Tommy Boi says:

    When are you going back on it? I have been off drink and caffeine for 106 days. It is something do from time to time to show I can. In the eyes of others you either keep of it and people think you were an alky, or you go back on it and that proves to them you are an alky. They have been a social drinker all the time.

  2. sam says:

    The freedom of constraint

  3. A lifetime ago at university art school, my lecturer stood frowning in front of one of my intrepid painting efforts, asking:
    “Do you drink?”
    “May be you should.”

  4. Richard says:

    @LlareggubHall I continue to drink, but have given up hangovers. Moderation is the problem solver.

  5. Bridget says:

    I was always rubbish at drinking.
    Mainly because I am rubbish at moderation.
    I decided to stop trying to be good at it three years ago. In that time I am pleased to say I have not woken up once with fuzzy-headed recollection of further evidence of my rubbishness at either.
    It’s liberating.
    And it went some way to curing my insomnia too.
    It continues to confuse those around me though:
    “You don’t drink?!?”
    *read as – “what’s wrong with you?!?”
    “Oh go on – just have a couple…”
    Strange… You wouldn’t try and persuade a vegetarian to eat a Big Mac, but it seems nobody can truly enjoy their glass of wine if I’m not having one too?

  6. Ian says:

    Quality rather than quantity these days, I have had one hangover in the eight years since leaving the RAF, and I have no desire to go back to the boozy days.

  7. Rachel says:

    I am teetotal. Mostly. I say mostly because I will occasionally have a sip of someone else’s beer or something I like (never wine though), but generally, I don’t touch the stuff. This is because no matter how little I drink or what I drink, I always feel like crap the next day. I just don’t think it suits my physiology. I also suffer from insomnia although not at this present time. It comes and goes. I find it quite easy to avoid alcohol. It makes you age so I’m hoping one of the benefits of teetotalism will be fewer wrinkles later on. 🙂

  8. Just gone vegan myself so that rules out a whole heck of beverages (including Kronenberg…annoying) oh, and meat eaters may not try and make you have what they’re having, but they will get cross with you for, as far as they seem to think, putting the crummy vegetarian option in the menu as if it’s your ‘thing’. Like creatures who only know pubs being bewildered by a creature from a smoothie-bar just ordering an orange juice because it’s the thing they sell that is most familiar to them.
    Anyway, good luck. Weed’s nicer anyway “dirty, dirty booze”.

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