(No) World Cup Hangover
The “stages of change” have been described by Prochaska & DiClemente (1983) as follows;
6. RELAPSE! (NB: affectionately termed “fall from grace”)
I’d sat with stages one and two for several years. In terms of quantity I was by no means concerned with my intake of alcohol. Ever the “light-weight”, I’ve never been “very good” at drinking and always endured hangovers so severe (i.e. 48hr headaches) that I was rarely, if ever, able to drink more than 2-3 times weekly.
Yet, in terms of thought process, it dawned on me that I was spending an exorbitant amount of time “doing the math” in order to determine precisely when, where and what I could drink to maximise the pleasure and minimise the ensuing and inevitable pain. I even imagined myself a connoisseur of “drinking well” – a master in the art of pairing the right alcohol with right setting.
The only problem being that I’m supposed be “mastering” my current and ongoing MSc, yet was losing several hours in contemplating the science of alcohol rather than that of my chosen subject. And losing days of reading time to blinding (literally, as in “can’t see”) to the aftereffects of what can only be described as systemic poisoning.
Then the penny dropped… alcohol costs me time and makes me sick… not rocket science after all!
In what might be described as an epiphany, it was on the drive out to visit friends for the 2018 football World Cup Final that I moved effortlessly into stages three and four: that of preparation, determination, action and willpower.
The car was loaded with food and booze for the weekend, we’d booked a cottage and weren’t planning to drive for the next two days. It was to be a weekend of fun and frivolity, Monday be damned!
Suddenly, out of nowhere, I broke my own thought pattern and realised I’d been, once again, pre-calculating how and where to best organize my beverages for the next 48hrs! This, I felt, was utter madness and I, hopefully, am not mad. The straw broke the camel’s back, and I determined right there and then to quit … albeit only after the final of course!
There may be some who’d say I was cheating myself and setting up to fail by still allowing the weekend festivities; the classic “I’ll start tomorrow” but tomorrow never comes. But somehow, in some way, this time felt different and my determination was strong.
It happened that I enjoyed the weekend immensely, including the 6-goal thriller between France and Croatia, and all of my pre-arranged alcohol – and would you believe, no hint of a hangover! In honour of the French victory, my final consumption was an exquisite dessert wine; delectable, sweet and syrupy. It felt a bit like signing off my career with hat-trick and man-of-the-match performance, one to savor for the ages.
And so, off I head into stage five, that of maintenance. Time will tell if I have to work through stage six, relapse. Which Prochaska & DiClemente deem to be a risk for up to five years – perhaps I’ll revisit thing for the World Cup of 2022! Perhaps I’ll have a drink sooner, at this stage I honestly can’t say.
But as I turn 100 days old on July 23rd it has somehow been “easy” thus far.
Perhaps when you know, you know; and on that day 102 days’ past, when I determined to “start Monday” I felt very clear that I’d identified a problem and already knew the answer. Perhaps I enjoy the voyeuristic experience of observing others drinking at social occasions, and thankfully realizing I can still have a great time by just being myself. Maybe I enjoy my new found popularity as everybody’s designated driver! Perhaps I enjoy the sensation of waking up feeling fresh and rejuvenated, and ready for the day ahead sans pain killers.
I don’t necessarily feel I am an alcoholic, and resonate with the Tribe Sober message of quitting or “cutting down” alcohol. I haven’t particularly set myself a time frame and don’t yet know how things will unfold. No doubt summer will present additional challenges. But I’d call 100 days a success and can only say that the benefits are great, and the cost miniscule. It’s unchartered territory from here…
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