Interim Report on Living With an Alcohol Free Mind – what fresh teetotal demon thoughts lurk?

This is one of my 26 minute blog posts that I write on a train journey home. Errors abound I imagine.

And so this sobriety stretches from Autumn, through Winter and Spring, and now to the thirsty Summer. I will remain teetotal backstage at Glastonbury and onstage at Latitude, and what of those late, late bars at the Edinburgh Fringe. Is this the interim report which prefaces the stumble and fall. I am uncertain whether I am surprised or not.

My regular drinking began at about 20 and lasted until I was 44. I had dabbled in drinking before in my teens, but only for the occasional surprise of waking up to be surprised that I had vomited, usually quite neatly, some time in the night. In my late teens, I was most regularly drunk on five pints of Lowenbrau. I would get home and make the simple meal of boiled rice with a tin of Campbell’s Condensed Mushroom soup on top of it. By accident, not design, this was a neat vomit, I would usually find it in one neat, near circular gathering near my pillow, barely degraded my stomach acid.

My Australian friends were teetotal, so my foraging through the arthouse, Stockpots, and budget Greek restaurants, was coffee and Appletize fuelled. Mississippi Mud Pie, late 80s London was going through a flirtation with big American desserts back then, was good enough without brandy.

Then, the drinking began, I would say “to dull the pain”, but the pain was mainly there because of the drinking.

At 44, while touring with the torch singer, Josie Long, and political anecdotalist, Grace Petrie, the dry year began. My last drink was in Norwich, though I have had a couple of liqueur chocolates, but what’s a minimalist syringe of Cherry Brandy into a chocolate case between post-boozers?

I wondered how much it might change my life but, as with giving up smoking, it has just reduced the amount of time I stand on pavements while people shout near me.

I am not sure it has led to me being clear-headed, but I think it has led to me talking even faster on stage and delivering words with a sharper, snapping sound. Where once I sometimes had a whisky as the audience entered, and a pint in the interval (drunk slowly, I was a professional), now I do sit ups, brush my teeth, and drink tea. If this sobriety has given me more spare time, I am not sure where and when, but it means I can right these messy posts at midnight and I could read a clever book, if I wasn’t distracted by Angry Birds or a Twitter argument. Honestly, I am only playing Angry Birds because my son asks me to get a few more levels when I am on the road.

Sometimes I wonder if it is healthy to be living with a conscious mind whose late night edges cannot be blunted by Glenfiddich or Guinness. I toy with the idea that I should drink a little red wine for my well-being. I can’t remember, did it shut up the inner monologue or just make it slur.

The problem with giving up is that people and publications insist it is a battle. A melodrama is created to sell self-help books and courses. People feel that they must miss these things, crave those cigarettes and that pint because it defines them and they have been informed they you will never really be right again. 50 years after stubbing out your last Marlboro Light, you’ll still drool as you watch Clint Eastwood chew a cheroot. You’ll find nothing that replaces the peaty flavour of a good malt and you’ll discover that, when changed perpetually to your sober brain, you are a bore, it was only the lowering of awareness by alcohol that made you passable (I am not saying it is not a battle for many, and a dangerous one, but it is not helped by the constant refrain of “how difficult it must be”).

My main relief is that I don’t have that feeling of worry after a late set that I may not be able to find somewhere to drink. The hotel has a kettle, I will be fine. I remember my fury after playing a museum venue that had no post show bar, then getting caught in one way traffic that led to a panicked call to the Premier Inn to keep their bar open PLEASE. I felt I could not unwind, to curtail the adrenaline and thoughts without taking them out for a drink. I ended up punching the glove box like some afternoon soap Nicholas Cage. And now, with my insomnia predominantly curtailed, barring the occasional ceiling staring bout, I wonder what all the fuss was about.


Pointless Anger shows with Michael Legge coming up in Leeds, Salford and York, plus a gig with Grace Petrie in Hull, and solo shows in Swansea, Newport, Newcastle, Glasgow and on an on – Details of these and new dates HERE 

All new Edinburgh Fringe show is now on sale HERE

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Interim Report on Living With an Alcohol Free Mind – what fresh teetotal demon thoughts lurk?

  1. lauranotsure says:

    i couldn’t agree more with your thoughts on ‘the struggle’, being a born again te totaller,as i am, is a breeze but for the suspicion it provokes in others. In the half hammered culture we are steeped in a radical refusal to get laquered is met with a whiff of thinly veiled hostility. As though the choice to protect ones health, happiness and earnings is a manfestation of some deeper pathology. Hang on in there, sobriety rocks.
    An aside, I would like to thank you for the visual of a dinoseur trying to rub itself warm in the face of the oncoming iceage. You offered it up in a show in Brighton years ago and it has stayed with me since. It warms my heart and makes me grin everytime I think of it, an enduring picture of joy. Thank you.

  2. Richard says:

    Good post, I’m currently 10 months into quiet sobriety and find the main benefit is that I get more time to read at night (and this is principally to keep my brain focused on one thing so that my mind doesn’t start worrying about everything and anything). Must have saved a fortune but no idea where this money has gone, i’m not blessed with excesses of additional energy but happy to have stopped.

  3. Gimme says:

    I suggest you try giving up ‘all’ carbohydrates for 3 days and refrain from telling anyone how difficult it is/was.

  4. lanceleuven says:

    “Honestly, I am only playing Angry Birds because my son asks me to get a few more levels when I am on the road.”

    Yeah, that’s what they all say…

  5. Mark Bambridge says:

    Haven’t drank for over 10 years, I’m 43 now, yes I agree, the pang for a glass of red wine, or a single malt is palapale at times…but waking up and not having to worry about explaining myself, to my family and friends, or being slightly sheepish, when walking down the road, which is much better.
    I now do and say stupid stuff, but I can quickly explain myself, without passing out, shouting or throwing up.
    I used alcohol as a crutch, it was hard to give up, but the best way is just not to do it, if it fucks your life up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s