Last weekend, I have quietly celebrated the 2-year anniversary of not having a single drop of alcohol in my blood stream. I even faked drinking that glass of champagne on stage, during my friend’s wedding when I was the emcee and my sister’s wedding in Hong Kong and in Singapore. Of the many questions I have received over these two years, the best one came from a young lady I met in the True Blood HBO blogger event: How do you function without alcohol?! Since then, I have heard various versions of the same question. It never fails to bring laughter onto the table.
How do I function without alcohol?
Looking back, I often wonder how did I function with alcohol. Of course, those who know me in person would ask: Why this decision? You could say that I have waited two years to publish this story. Every now and then I think of how this should be written. Obviously, it is a very personal matter. And since I have decided to share my experience in the light that may empower others to live an alcohol free life, I have to wait until my approach is proven to work – at least for me – in order for my story to be credible. To set the expectation right, this is a story of constructive sharing, and not a public confession.
At least that is my intend.
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I can’t say that I enjoy drinking alcohol even though I have consumed drinks with an alcohol content ranging from a single digit up to 40%. I have tasted what goes beyond 40% too. Like that stuff the Greek drinks. I can tell which alcohol label tastes better than others of a similar category. My first significant encounter with alcohol was when I was 18, in UK, intoxicated by that one tall can of Carlsberg Special Brew. My first encounter with a religion that bans alcohol was also 18, in the same school. Prior to that, I have never heard that alcohol is not acceptable, religiously speaking.
Is alcohol bad?
Combing through what I have observed in my adult life thus far, it appears to me that we conjure more reasons to consume alcohol than not to – with the exception of those whose their religion has forbidden them to consume alcohol. Drinking wine with your meal is good for health. Drinking Vodka keeps you warm in the winter. To celebrate, we open champagnes. You join a party in a pub wanting to socialize with your friends and what do you end up ordering? Sure it has to be a beer or a glass of wine or some hard liquor. Someone is going to pressurize you to do so. Someone is going to challenge you to drink more. It is as though not able to hold one’s alcohol is an undesirable attribute, one to be laughed at. Com’on! You can do it! Just one more drink!
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I do not detest alcohol, certainly not those who consume it. To drink or not to drink, is a lifestyle choice. Some battle with alcoholism for years only to see their lives slowly destroyed by the rounds of relapses. Some able to drink alcohol as and when they wish to, stop as and when they wish to. As for me, I am old enough to come to the conclusion that I am not so good at moderation. When I observed that my list of reasons for consuming alcohol seemed to have expanded each passing day, that was one of the signs to quit, for good.
The list would look something like this.
- When I was having a good meal, I was used to open a bottle of wine – be it at home or in a restaurant. But what is a good meal? How about an OK meal? Surely an OK glass of wine wouldn’t kill an OK meal? Or vice versa?
- When I was having good companions, a beer or two seemed like a good thing to kick start the mood. Later on, on the days when I was not having any companions, while waiting for someone, I enjoyed reading a book or a magazine with a mug of cold beer in a warm day like every other day in Singapore. Did I drink to kill time? Or was I finding time just to drink?
- When I was having a bad day, alcohol seemed to help. When I was having a happy day, alcohol also seemed to help. Later on, when I am having an OK day, alcohol again seemed to help. Help what? Alcohol seemed to have become a painkiller, an endorphin potion, and an multi-vitamin pill – at the same time.
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But you know what life is like. Anything that makes you feel good, is bad for you. May even kill you. Looking back on alcohol consumption, what I miss most is how it facilitates the process of art creation – be it as writing or song crafting. Being able to tap onto my pool of chaotic, unpredictable, and unrestrained creativity is, for lack of a better word, addictive. So, what triggered the decision of staying away from alcohol and how did I do that?
The answers to the above questions could be a lot less dramatic and inspiring than you expect, which is not necessarily a bad thing if you ponder upon it. Problems of this world often are solved by common, non-extraordinary solutions. I dislike some of the side effects alcohol have in me. We are still who we are, even in a state of intoxication. We are still responsible to the things that we do, that we say, regardless how stupid these things may sound in the morning after.
But that was not the final trigger. Wikipedia was. One day I was researching on why I have alcohol flush when I drink. The result is against everything I have come to know. It could kill me faster than those whose faces don’t turn red when they drink. So I woke up one day and have decided to quit drinking. I must say quiting is not easy but it is a lot easier than I thought. Strange as it may sound, replacing alcohol with hot green tea works for me. Hot green tea seems to have given me a similar level of high. Similar, not the same of course. I suspect that it is less on the drink’s content and more at the symbolic level. At one point, I have stocked up boxes and boxes of green tea bag at home. And that wall of green tea was my last defense towards my bottles of wine and hard liquor that are still siting motionlessly at home tempting me to open and consume. For months, I have been drinking cups and cups of hot green tea every evening. Now, I am still drinking hot green tea every other evening, though not as often. These days, I am into Ginseng tea and tea made with flowers.
I am happy that the days of drinking is behind me. Day 208 of being a teetotaler, I drew a picture. On day 730, I write this entry.
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If you wish to abstain from alcohol, you too need to find a personal reason that does not change by any circumstances. And you have to find a way to replace your habitual drinking routine. I still remember half a year into this voluntary abstinence of alcohol, I joined my friend for a drink in an Irish pub and I ordered a huge mug of diet Coke. Think of the amount of money you could saved by that one decision that you make.