Neil Summers (left) and Michael Taylor.
At the start of Lent in 2012, I quit drinking, writes Michael Taylor.
Deep down, I was pretty sure it was going to be for good. It had to be for good.
I had quit many times before, started again in moderation, but the truth was I didn’t like it and, frankly, I wasn’t very good at it. A bit like golf, which I also gave up.
The last time I got drunk was after my dear friend Tim Edwards’ funeral in 2011. I was on a particularly low level, realizing it was both a sedative and a release.
I thought back to my youth, the desperate hangovers, the swaying, the inability to keep up with a bender and wanting to sleep in nightclubs, and the horrible things I said to people when I was huffing.
I’ve been sober for 10 years now and I think it’s worth talking about.
I’ve become one of those weird people who doesn’t drink.
In the past, when I had a bevvy socially, or had a bottle of wine, no one ever asked me why I did it.
At first I felt defensive and under pressure to justify it, but over time most people were fantastic about it and I never felt like a poop.
But here are three reasons why I don’t.
1. Horror. I wouldn’t say I was always drunk when I was drunk, but I was always drunk when I was stupid. I added to the mess of drunken Britain. My wife Rachel and her elderly mother love musicals, but the theaters are now full of women who drink heavily, to the point that one show was shut down for safety reasons. Over the years I have been able to add my own stories of carnage to cricket and concerts all day long. It’s a pretty unattractive image of our rather booze-soaked culture.
2. Health. Since quitting, I have lost weight. I do more, I feel good. I throw weights and climb mountains. I don’t think I would if I took in the calories like I did. I also feel better prepared to deal with mental health issues, without that option or alibi.
3. Home. Our children are almost all adults now. They have their own relationship with alcohol, but I want to be there for them if things go wrong and chart an alternative path in life that doesn’t involve getting destroyed all the time. I think I have sometimes been a terrible example. And how can I hope my kids won’t get stuck in the bender rut if our example is the rowdy middle-aged version of it?
I don’t buy the casual survey evidence that shows how young people are turning their backs on a culture of heavy drinking. I think it’s a lot more nuanced, and the evidence I see is a destructive habit in people of all ages.
What prevents me from talking about it more is to pass for a boring pious who will not go for a drink with someone.
Yet it is my fundamental truth and I must say it. The conversations I’ve had with other friends who have given up and people I’ve only recently met have been truly eye-opening. I hope I have been able to add lived experience to these actions people are taking.
You can listen to Michael Taylor and Neil Summers on Music Therapy on Tameside Radio 103.6FM on Sunday evenings from 9-11pm. Click here to subscribe and follow previous broadcasts.
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