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To Beer Or Not To Beer

10 Feb

So, I did it. For the entire month of January, I am proud (and shocked) to say that not a single drop of alcohol passed my lips. As many of you will know, I wasn’t sure if I was going to last; I cannot remember a time over the last four years or so when I haven’t craved a cool, refreshing beer within a day of my last drink.

But I did end up completing the challenge and I have come out the other side feeling miles better for it. For one, it has proved to me that I can survive social situations with strangers without using alcohol to make myself feel confident. It also made me realise just how much I rely on a good drink (or several) to make myself feel more self-assured.

There’s nothing wrong with having a few cheeky ones to bolster your confidence when you’re out and about at night.  After all, I am pretty sure many relationships would have never started had it not been for the gentle shove of one too many beers. But, like with anything, when you start to rely a little too much on something, it can spell disaster. I have realised that I am at the point where if I don’t have a drink, I feel incredibly insecure. Drinking to me is an easy way to get the conversation flowing. It is also a great way of blocking out all my insecurities; I am so self-conscious of everything I say and do in social situations, so drinking helps me gets rid of these weird barriers I have, which I attribute to shyness.

But being shy, I now realise, is a part of who I am. I can vividly remember when I was a child how I would run and hide when members of our extended family would come to visit. My cousin Marina, on the other hand, would be in the middle of the room putting on a magic show for everyone. As I grew older, it didn’t get much easier, especially as certain life events made me feel less secure, and even more unsure of who I am.

As the years have passed by, instead of addressing some of my insecurities, I have been masking them with alcohol. After one too many Long Islands I can easily forget myself. And while this is all well and good when I still have some sort of control over my actions, I always take it a little too far and end up, as I said in a previous post, in a heap on the floor, crying. Or, even worse, shouting abuse at people for no apparent reason.

I now look back on these types of scenarios in shame – if you have ever seen me in one of my drunkard stupors, you will know exactly what I am talking about. I also pity myself slightly, as I realise that my excessive drinking is just a bad symptom of self-loathing. How can I carry on doing that to myself? Drinking is supposed to be something fun, but it stops being fun when most your nights out end in tears.

Being shy, I now figure, is not such a bad thing. So what if I’m the quietest person at the dinner table? Surely that’s better than being the drunkard tit who is rude to everyone? And who cares if there are awkward silences in a conversation? Downing drinks to fill those silences really isn’t the way forward.

Instead of filling the gaps I have in my life with alcohol, I have decided to start filling them with things that make me feel happy, and, in turn, more confident. The best conversationalists, I have found, are the people who are passionate about what they’re doing with their lives, so I am now seeking out the activities I am passionate about, such as my writing and photography.

There’s nothing better than doing something you’re proud of and then being able to share it with people. This blog, for example, has given a massive boost to my confidence. I get such lovely feedback from my readers, which in turn makes me happy. I started a career in writing because I realised I can spread joy through it, and making people happy has always been something that’s made me happy.  So I should be typing away like there’s no tomorrow! The blog is also a great thing to talk about with strangers at a dinner party. People always love the idea behind it and want to know more, which again, is a great confidence booster.

I would say that so far, this challenge has been the most enlightening. I have learnt more about myself in the space of one month than what I have in more than five years of living in Dubai.  I have always known I am not the most confident of people, but it has taken me all this time to realise that one of the things that was hindering me from growing confidence was the excessive drinking.

It’s now time to take back control of my life and start focusing on things that will actually help me to grow. So, in the future you’re more likely to find me in a coffee shop, writing and shaping my future, rather than in the pub, drinking and stunting it. And you know what? I am damn sure this will turn out to be one of the most important decisions I have ever made.

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Day 24 – An update (yes, I am still sober)

25 Jan

Quitting alcohol has had a strange effect on me. It’s like I’ve been living in an extremely misty world for the last ten years or so, and all of a sudden, it’s lifted, the sun is out, the beer goggles are off and for the first time in ages I can see clearly.

I’ve had a number of important self-realisations over the past 24 days, the main one being, I do not like drunk Andrea.  She’s not a nice person, as you may have read here. For so long, I had convinced myself that I needed alcohol to survive social gatherings; I thought I needed it to make me funnier, more spontaneous, more interesting. The reality is, I am finding, I can manage quite fine without it.

Last Friday, for example, I was at my friend Nico’s birthday dinner at the Shangri La hotel. This would ordinarily have been a very boozy affair, during which I would have subconsciously felt the need to prove how great I am at drinking by downing every rum and coke in sight, and ordering the strongest thing on the menu just to reaffirm how ‘hard’ I am. By 9pm, I’d reach the tipsy stage, but that would never be enough. Before I’d know it, I’d be an uncontrollable mess of gigantic proportions, saying complete ridiculous things to the waiters and thinking I was funny, when in fact I probably just looked like a complete fool. The rest of the night would invariably be a complete blank, and I’d wake up wondering what the hell had happened during the last ten hours or so of my life.

This time, however, it was different. Sat on a table of six gay guys, I managed to have one of the best nights out in ages, while not touching a single drop of anything other than water. I was the loudest person in the restaurant, as I could not restrain myself from laughing at the hilariousness of my friends. I didn’t need alcohol to have fun. In fact, I managed just perfectly without it. And it was nice to see that, yes, I can be funny when I’m not drunk;  and at least I know this time people were laughing with me, and not at me.

I have less than a week to go before I will be able to drink again, and to be honest, I’m not even counting down the days. I think in the future I will be approaching alcohol with a different attitude, and will be drinking with caution as opposed to chugging for England. I’ve also found that since I quit alcohol, I feel so much more focused on what I want in the future, which is, to make a living out of writing without having to spend the whole day stuck in a dull office job. To get there, I need to spend a lot less time drinking, and a lot more time writing!

It looks like the sun is here to stay.

Day 14 – Shocking Realisation; Sober Andrea Can Surive Social Gatherings

15 Jan

Thursday night presented me with my first big test since I started the no-alcohol challenge; I had to spend time with people I didn’t know without being able to drink a drop of alcohol.

The event was my best friend’s leaving do at Mango Tree in Souq Al Bahar, and this was the first time since I started the challenge that not only would I be surrounded by strangers – I would also be in close proximity to a very well-stocked bar.

Usually in this type of scenario, I drink. A lot. See, most of you won’t know this, but somewhere in my subconscious there’s an extremely annoying voice that I cannot get rid of; this voice likes to taunt me and tell me that I’m not a very interesting person. I guess I developed it sometime back in my teens when I was very self-conscious and shy, and now I cannot get rid of it. So over the years I have used alcohol as a way of shutting my subconscious up, and to give myself the confidence to speak in a group of people I don’t know, which is something that really doesn’t come naturally to me.

I was the first to arrive at the restaurant and the maitre d’ showed me to the bar, where I was faced with a wall of alcohol and a menu full of scrumptious-sounding Thai cocktails. If I were to say I wasn’t tempted at this point to ask for my usual (i.e. always the strongest thing on the menu) I would be a liar. However, I resisted my every inner instinct, and turned to a page that is alien to me – the mocktail page.

“One Mango Cooler, please,” I said to the bartender, while feeling a tad appalled with myself.

During the dinner, I was sat at a corner of the table away from the only two people I knew. I usually find it very difficult to speak to people that I do not know, which is where the alcohol comes in – it gives me the confidence to be chatty and outgoing. However, I had to deal with the situation sober. I was surprised at how easy I found it in the end. The people I was with were lovely, which definitely helped. I also enjoyed the novelty of being completely in control of everything I was doing and saying – that doesn’t happen very often these days, I’m afraid to say.

I am now two weeks into the challenge and, much to my own surprise, I am starting to enjoy it. For one, I do not miss the hangovers and I have SO much more free time over the weekend. I also do not miss the horrible lows I get the day after a big night out and the awful flashbacks of what a tit I had been while high on too many Long Islands.

I have also realised that these lows do not help me in the long-term. As someone who already has low self esteem, acting like a complete moron while drunk and then feeling bad about it the next day is really not helpful. I am enjoying feeling positive, sober and in control. For the first time in years, I have a clear vision of where I see myself in the future and what I need to do to get there, which is something I haven’t had since I was at  university many, many moons ago.

Sober Andrea will rule the world. You will see.

Day Five And My Bar Is Teasing Me

6 Jan

No-Alcohol January – Day Five

6 Jan

Before I decided to give up alcohol for a month, I anticipated that weekends would present more of a challenge.  Fridays and Saturdays are sponsored by Bacardi, after all.

After being shackled to our desks for the best part of the working week, we all eagerly await for 5pm to strike on a Thursday so that we can finally drop the corporate bullshit for 48 hours; and what better way to celebrate our new-found freedom than with a glass of red. Yesterday, I celebrated mine with a glass of water, when all I wanted was a Long Island Ice Tea (hold the Diet Coke). A delicious, refreshing, instant-rush-inducing Long Island Ice Tea.

And today, my brain hasn’t stopped making associations between inanimate objects and alcohol. I see a lime, I think of Caipirinhas. I see a can of Diet Coke, I think of Cuba Libras. I see a bottle opener, I think of ice-cold Leffe beer. I’m slowly being driven to madness by my alcohol-deprived body.

On the plus side, however, waking up with no hangover allowed me to have a very productive day. Following brunch (the normal kind, not the Dubai alcohol-binge kind) with a dear friend, I went food shopping, made to-do lists for the week, read my book, cooked an awesome meal and called my family. After a night out on the town, the only thing I usually manage to do is gorge myself on fast food and move from my bed to the sofa.

At 6pm, another friend decided to try and entice me out to the pub. I have to admit, I was tempted. I could clearly visualise the shiny surface of the bar, the golden beer taps, and most importantly, I could taste the satisfying first sip of  a double rum and Diet Coke.

However, I am pleased to say that for now I am still very much on the wagon and hopefully will remain here until February the 1st. All I have to think of is just how satisfying that first sip will be after a whole month’s abstinence.

Bad Sign?

3 Jan

A friend just pointed out to me that my recent activity on Facebook doesn’t bode particularly well for the quitting alcohol for a month challenge:

 

New Year, New Challenge

3 Jan

First of all, I need to apologise; it’s been a while since I last posted. The truth is, following my blind date blog entry a month or so back, I was so overwhelmed by the phenomenal response I received that I felt whatever I wrote from that point forward just wouldn’t top it. You’re only as good as your last blog entry, after all, so I thought I’d enjoy my new-found blogger fame while it lasted.

A month on, however, and I’m just the loser who started a challenge and gave up. So, I decided it was time to make my return to the blogosphere and get cracking.

It’s January. Yes, that God-awful month when we all feel a few pounds heavier and a lot of dirhams lighter. It doesn’t really help that my ‘diet’ while on holiday in Cyprus read something a little like this:

Breakfast

Koummandaria (Cypriot port)

Lunch

Brandy Sours (Cyprus’ signature cocktail) and mulled wine

Dinner

Cuba Libras, Champagne and Baileys

Food also figured in there somewhere, I suppose

I have come back to Dubai with more than just excess baggage; the waistline has also expanded significantly. I feel it’s therefore an excellent time to start my ‘give up alcohol for a month’ challenge in a bid to find my waist again.

The relationship I share with alcohol is, to say the least, turbulent. See, the problem is, I can be one of two drunks. Drunk Andrea Type A is the kind of drunk everyone wants to be around. She’s funny, charming, daring and a damn good dancer. She’s also the type of drunk that can randomly end up on a plane heading to another country following one too many sherbets, should the opportunity arise. There’s no dare too big for Type A.

Then there’s Drunk Andrea Type B, aka the monster. Now, this is a person I would not even recognise should she ever come and say hello to sober me. She’s weepy, loud, obnoxious, ultra-hormonal and a complete nightmare to try and reason with. She’s the type of drunk whom one minute you see yelling at the bouncer, while the next she’s in a heap in the ladies’ toilets, pouring her heart out to random strangers and sitting in a puddle of spilt Long Island Ice Tea.

So, it’s also about time I give the world a rest from the possibility of encountering Drunk Andrea Type B. It’s the least I can do for humankind.

I have to say that despite what picture my Facebook account paints, I do not drink as much as I used to (yes, I’m sure you’re now all worried at just how much I USED to drink, if this is the case). However, when one of my dear friends suggested I try this challenge, I decided it would be a good exercise in self-discipline, as sadly, I lack in this quality.

I will be blogging about my trials and tribulations as I attempt to go for a whole month without a drink. I have to say that at the age of almost 29, I think the longest I’ve ever managed has been two weeks, and even that was always a struggle.

Just the thought of this is making me crave a Long Island.

Wish me luck.