Dryathlon? For me it’s cultural heresy

I recently celebrated a friend’s 40th birthday on a barge with five other females: The celebratee was the only one I’d met before and she introduced us to each other, just as we entered our 3-day confined space experience, with a short sentence about our mental health status. A pattern quickly formed that the others were all taking a variety of prescribed drugs to abate their specific symptoms. For me she said: ‘This is Melanie – I don’t think she’s on anything, although I suspect she self-medicates with alcohol’. I took this in the spirit intended of being welcomed into the ‘suppressants r us’ club but it set me reflecting on my relationship with alcohol and to what extent I might be using rather than enjoying.
During my adolescent and adult life, alcohol has been the common factor that punctuates the passing of every significant moment:18th birthday; first official drink in a pub, holidays abroad without parents; licence to get trashed on sangria, weddings; toast the bride and groom, new job; celebratory drink, leave old job; farewell drinks, christenings; wet the baby’s head etc etc
Recognising the role of booze in my own cultural make-up, I have, at times, challenged myself to abstain. Whether that’s the two-months before a half marathon, during the 6-weeks of lent, as a pre-Christmas fast or a post-festivities detox period, I figure it’s a good thing to do every now and then.
Apparently, it has recently become a January ‘thing’ now being named the dryathlon – this is good marketing except when you try and incorporate it into everyday speech; it’s a disappointing ensuing conversation when you inevitably have to explain it’s not a triathlon you’re doing just a fairly feeble exercise in self-restraint.
This public campaign has resulted in me gaining moral support for my efforts from randomers I went to school with via facebook, but what about the people I actually socialise with? Here’s the crux of my problem; in order to maintain temperance, I have avoided all social situations. I find it almost unbearable to be in a public house, a building designed solely for the purpose of selling alcohol, if I’m not consuming the stuff. Add to that the likelihood of being surrounded by people who will be getting progressively fuzzier round the edges and, even acknowledging the fact that my social imagination would definitely benefit from some severe development, it’s simply more enjoyable to stay at home cleaning out my tins cupboard.
My fasting will probably result in better health and greater consideration of the ‘just because it’s Tuesday’ bottles of wine, perhaps the desire to fuzz the edges of being at home watching TV does constitute self-medication, but after powering-through the ennui of an anti-social, solid lines existence, I feel fully vindicated by my own social heritage to look forward to the evening of January 31st when I leave my job – well it would be rude not to!


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