By Roman Travers, RadioLIVE broadcaster.
OPINION: Can you imagine getting through Christmas without drinking?
How many of your mates and family talk about Christmas as a time to let your hair down, to eat what you want to and to have a few drinks… quite a few drinks?
It’s that time of year when you tend to hide everything that resembles your nine to five work and build on all those summertime festive habits.
I hide my laptop and work phone in the deep recesses of my wardrobe; in a dark corner along with ties, work shirts and suits which I’ve become very good at not wearing for work these days.
For me, the few drinks were always more like quite a few drinks. I would fall into that trap of stocking up on a range of craft beers and nice wines for the big day. The trouble was that being the perfect consumer, I would get as many of these into the fridge as possible – often at the sacrifice of good and proper food.
In the weeks before Christmas I would begin this slow but determined build to Christmas Day; drinking every evening as though I needed to rehearse for the big event; building and challenging my resistance to daily drinking and ensuring that my therapeutic alcohol levels never dropped to ‘dangerously low’.
My eldest brother Michael once told me that we were a family that knew how to drink. I was never quite sure whether that was a good thing or not.
Thankfully, I have reached an age where I’m now thinking that I’ve probably imbibed enough to last a few life times. I’m going to enjoy a dry Christmas.
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‘Oh my God. You must be the most boring person in the country,’ I hear you say. This may well be true with or without the use of alcohol but it is a decision that I’ll stick with regardless of the constant questioning and relatively jovial banter I’ll get from those who struggle to see someone going booze free regardless of the time of year.
As I write this, I am on day 71 without a drink. Why am I counting the days and why did I begin this quest back in October? I have just had enough.
A very good friend of mine has also had enough. He came to me back in October and in graphic detail, described his dependency on alcohol and the demonstrably destructive effect it was having on his life. He had got to the point where he was relying on alcohol to get him through most days of the week.
The stress of a job with relentless demands and financial pressures of living in a city where so many of us wander about from payday to payday in a constant fug, wondering how the hell we can afford to remain here, are just a few excuses used to maintain a drinking habit.
I sincerely admire my good friend’s courage to confront his addiction and to want to discuss this with me. Not only did this make me feel honoured and privileged as a mate, it also encouraged me to have a good look at myself and my drinking habits.
Although I wasn’t quite drinking every day, I wasn’t far from it. This had become my habit and I wasn’t happy with it.
When I was married back in 1993, we ran on the oil of a smelly rag. I had just begun in my first radio job and our collective income was under $20,000 a year. In a good week, we might be able to buy a bottle of wine on a Saturday night. We were happy.
Isn’t it interesting that as our ability to earn more increases, so does our ability to drink more and to drink more frequently?
Juxtaposed to those halcyon days of the 1990s – in 2017 finding a reason not to drink every day had become less and less important.
As this mate of mine described his life of chaos and the effect his drinking was having on just about every aspect of his life, including his inability to ever have a decent night’s sleep, I had already decided that enough was enough and that I would support him in his sobriety.
Alcohol is a very heavy chemical that not only takes a great deal of time to be eliminated from the body, but it also takes its toll on the liver, brain and other relatively important bits and bobs of the body. It also completely stuffs up your ability to achieve the REM sleep that we need every night.
If you think that having a few drinks knocks you out and gets you to sleep – you’re dreaming.
Apart from being a hell of a lot happier, this mate of mine is now sleeping like a baby in a dry nappy every night.
He is so excited at the beneficial changes to his attitude to work and life in general that he describes to me frequently and with gusto. These extend to his lifelong partner who is also very happy with these positive changes.
For me, the benefits are also many: I am sleeping really well and I no longer look for any reason or excuse to have a drink.
A soda and lime is about as exciting as it gets, but having just bought a place in this overpriced super city; watching each and every dollar has become more and more important.
I could use all sorts of reasons why not drinking is the best for me, but apart from working fulltime on RadioLIVE from Christmas Day through the festive season and not having to worry when I’m asking myself whether or not I am safe to dive; I just feel better.
Another mate (yes, I have two) asked me whether or not I will drink again. I was possibly too quick to leap in with a yes – but yes. If I’m lucky enough to find the next Mrs Travers and we go somewhere amazing, or there is something incredible worth celebrating, then yes. A nice glass of something amazing might be in order.
If you can put up with the initial flak from those around you who just can’t wrap their heads around the fact that you aren’t drinking this Christmas, the benefits outweigh anything else.
It takes 21 days to form a new habit. Think about it. In just three weeks of not drinking, that becomes your new habit.
What have you got to lose? What are your reasons for not having a dry Christmas this year?
Roman Travers is a broadcaster for RadioLIVE.