Most of the time when I’m listening to songs, I pay little attention to their lyrics, especially the meaning. I think this probably explains why I can never remember the lyrics, even to my favourite songs. Which is why I will never win the X Factor. The sole reason.
I recently spent a week of bingeing on Michael Jackson’s back catalogue, then for some reason, decided to switch it up, and check out Drake’s latest offering.
Not my usual flavour, Mr Drake, but that man is shifting records (/Spotify downloads) and winning awards like no one’s business. Early on in the track ‘Don’t matter to me’, the prodigious Canadian rapper delivers us a poignant message:
Doing it all just to feel things
Drinking is another vice
Drugs just aren’t suiting you right
You were just fine as a real thing
Such a poet, that man. This snippet resonated with me. I was on the train on the way to work when I heard it. I immediately took my phone out and noted down the lyrics, posted them into a blog post, and, well, several weeks later, here we are…
A mate of mine, let’s call him Simon (he’s not called Simon), suggested a while back, as we sat outside a small local Mexican bar which we often frequent, that perhaps I should live the ‘clean’ life permanently, because, and I quote:
“You’re not that boring when you’re sober, Chris, you’re alright”
High praise indeed. My friend, like Drake rapped, was appreciating that I’m fine as the real thing. Not the drunk thing. I was on a 2 week detox program at the time and hadn’t drunk any alcohol or caffeine in that period. He was right, I was bouncing with energy after those two weeks. The way I eat 98% of the time would be like a detox to most people, but when I cut out those two forms of liquid, and the odd bit of chocolate and dairy, I reverberate with energy.
The problem is I like all four of those, they’re my vices. and everyone needs a vice or two, don’t they? OR DO THEY?
I went to a party about a month ago and got utterly wasted on two bottles of delicious, rich and smooth Hunter Valley Shiraz. I’m not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed drinking that wine, and had an absolute blast with my equally-inebriated mates in the process. I also ate a massive bag of corn chips, an entire tub of french onion dip, smoked a couple of cigarettes, held a headstand for over a minute, and upset a small dog. I could feel guilty about some of that, but I really don’t see the value in beating myself up about it. Those full-on, reckless nights are fairly few and far between, and it felt a bit ‘needed’.
Mentally ‘needed’. Not physically needed. My body was definitely not as happy about the state of play as my mind was. My face was flushed red for most of the night, I woke up with a terrible hangover (thank god for the sauna), was groggy all through Sunday, my digestive system was playing up, and my brain was sluggish at work on Monday (ah, the joys of a hangover in your mid-30’s).
Did I really need it, mentally? Was it worth it? That’s a tough one to answer, but I’ll give it a go.
In an earlier post I mentioned how I’m a lot happier than I used to be. I’ve also changed a fair bit in the three years since I moved Down Under. Changes have included, but are by no means limited to; a growing and insatiable appetite for knowledge on how to be better, to be healthful and thrive. The problem I have right now, is that I know full well, as we all do, that binge drinking is very damaging to our physiology. I seem particularly susceptible, and yet here I am, drinking at least twice a week, and getting in a solid binge at least once a fortnight. Stoopid, stoopid, stoopid.
I’m aware that this makes me conflicted; I’m so focused on improving my health, so careful with what and when I eat, but yet here I am, continuing to willingly poison, and knowingly create setbacks for myself in my search for optimum health. Why is that?
I know exactly why.
When I moved to Australia, back in October 2015, I had been tee-total, on the wagon, clean ‘n’ sober, for about a year. I’d implemented this off the back of a couple of incidents where I had collapsed and got taken to A&E in the back of an ambulance. Both occasions were on the day after a heavy night out. Correlation or causation? The second visit, roughly three months after the first, confirmed to me that it was the latter: I was staying in Southampton, England for work, in a cheap hotel, on my own. I came back to hotel after a hungover day in the office and promptly collapsed as I stepped out of the shower. I passed out for a bit, and woke up in a heap on the bathroom floor with some mad-ass heart palpitations, and a deep feeling of dread that is hard to describe – a genuine fear that my time was up. It’s not a nice sensation that: thinking you’re going to die, it rattles you. I hadn’t been drinking that day, I’d been drinking the day before, this was at least 20 hours since my last drop. My body was clearly not happy with the status quo I had created for it.
It felt like a final warning. I sensed I didn’t have a choice other than to quit the booze. At least for a while.
I spent almost a year in the UK from that point, too scared to touch a single drop. I was travelling most weeks for work, and doing a renovation on my flat in London during the weekends. I also had an impending move to Australia on the horizon, and thus a great incentive to save some cash. I was surrounded by close friends and family who accepted my newfound sobriety. It wasn’t easy to give it up, but it wasn’t too hard either. I attended weddings, birthday parties, even a debaucherous stag weekend in Hamburg. Not a single hangover. Well done me.
Then I moved to the land of kangaroos, Kylie Minogue, flat whites, Vegemite and glorious sunshine.
For approximately the first 6 months I held firm, maintained my strict zero alcohol policy. I got early nights, played tennis, 6am runs on the beach became the norm, I ate LOTS of sushi, enjoyed sunset picnics by the beach, camping trips with the girl I was seeing at the time, learnt to ride a motorcycle, and worked my socks off at a new job. I was cruising. But after 5 months that girl and I broke up. I moved from one side of Sydney Harbour to the other, and started my new life all over again.
And fuck me, I was lonely. I spent so much time on my own during that period that I
finally got used to, scratch that, finally learnt how to enjoy my own company. Something I could never manage before. Fortunately I knew a few people in Bondi and they were great at introducing me to people, taking me to parties, weekends away even. Without those few people I doubt I would have lasted here. The problem I had was that when I attended these events I always felt like an outsider who couldn’t properly partake in the fun.
I beat myself up about it at the time, but this was not a fault of mine, I realise this now. It’s merely a fault with society – that we place so much importance on alcohol for social interaction, from such an early age. It’s literally what a lot of us grow up learning, and then knowing.
I was an outsider. A lot of this group had known each other for years, they weren’t a clique, but I was new, and I didn’t drink. It was a tough starting point and eventually I cracked. After circa 18 months of sobriety I slowly re-introduced alcohol. I told myself I would allow myself a few drinks here and there, to fit it, but in reality it wasn’t long before I was regularly hitting up late night binges. No regrets of course, it was a lot of fun. Like being a student all over again, without the debt and the exams, but with a lot more sun, and cash. It wasn’t ideal, given what my physiology had told me previously, but I was making friends and enjoying myself.
If you’ve read my first post – link here, you’ll know that I’ve had a shitty time of it over the past year or so. A number of factors were at play, but since that low point just over a year ago, I have gradually found an equation has allowed me to rebuild my health, and my life. BUT I’m still not truly thriving. The equation has not fully solved the problem, I’m not 100%. My sleep is still disturbed, my stomach still plays up, I still get bouts of intense fatigue, and I often wake up groggy with no plausible reason for doing so.
So if my diet is sorted, my coffee consumption culled, my stress managed, my body and mind active (THANK YOU, WordPress), and my social life fulfilling, I should, in theory, be on the road to a full recovery, but I feel like I’ve hit a plateau. Regretfully, my accusing finger finds itself, once more, pointing at the bottle.
I like alcohol, I’ve always liked the taste, I don’t like sweet drinks, I like bitter, dry and flavoursome beverages that taste of booze. But more than the taste, I like the social aspect, the community of it, the parties, and the chilled vibes. I, like all humans, desire to belong and to relax. To feel part of something. I am also an extrovert, so I need people to feel energised. I think it is a shame that our society has pushed a known poison as the No.1 means of connecting with each other. If you read my Chocolate Coated Rave two-parter then you’ll know there are more effective and healthier ways to connect (emotionally and physically).
So, what to do? Can’t go getting high on chocolate with strangers every weekend…
Well I’m developing a few hobbies that don’t require alcohol consumption to partake. This blog being one of them. When you think about it, the prospect of what can be achieved when you put your mind, and body, to something other than getting sloshed – is pretty exciting. I experienced that this week, and I’ll write a post on it this weekend if I don’t spend the entire 48 hours in a hungover daze…
I think I’ve subconsciously started to marginalise alcohol again. Not completely, it would be unrealistic, and downright undesirable to do so. But my desire for benders feels like it’s waning. Drinking for the sake of it, drinking because you feel like you need it, or drinking to fit in should not feature in any of our lives.
Red wine, however, should feature. You’d have to prise it from my cold, dead hands.
Footnote: I really enjoyed this quote about Drake, it felt particularly fitting given the content of this blog to date.
Rap music goes hand in hand with toughness, with bravado, with “masculinity”. Drake took this stereotype, and threw it out the window. Because of the way he talks about his feelings, and the sincerity with which he does it, he has been labelled ‘soft’ by a number of his critics. This is all too common a feeling for young men these days, which is all the more reason why artists like Drake are so important.
It’s not weird for a young man to talk about their feelings. It’s not soft. It’s normal. And not only has Drake normalised it. He made it cool. If Drake can say the words, “I needed to hear that shit, I hate when you’re submissive. Passive aggressive when we’re texting I feel the distance”, well then why can’t everyone?
Extra Footnote: I have now decided, once and for all, that my favourite MJ song is ‘The Way You Make Me Feel. I know everyone loves ‘Dirty Diana’, ‘Thriller’ and ‘Beat it’, and don’t get me wrong, they’re GREAT songs, but there’s something about TWYMMF that just makes me need to dance, do MJ style ‘Ooohs’, and grab my crotch, like no other. It’s a winner for me.