After a bit of soul searching, and phone, keys and dignity searching, I have decided to spend the next 66 days booze free. 66 seems like a very strange number I know, but there is a very valid (and not very well researched by me) scientific reason for this. In 2010 psychologist Phillippa Lally and her colleagues undertook a study to see how many days it takes to form a new habit and found that 66 is the magic number.
This may not seem a terrifically long time and I’m sure there are many who’d look at that number and say ‘that’s just over two months, I can’t remember having a drink in the last 3!’ My response to these people is frankly, go fuck yourselves. Not really, I think it’s fabulous if you’ve managed to live happily in this world without the claws of alcohol scratching at your self esteem, but this post, and all subsequent posts in the next 66 days are most likely not for you. That is unless you want to read all about my terrible drunken misdeeds and feel smug that you’ve never gone for coffee at 2pm and then found yourself being forcibly removed from a strip club at 2am (true story).
66 six days seems like a manageable goal and not a huge commitment. My commitment issues run so deep I won’t even colour my hair with semi-permanent dye. Though I like to think the experience is going to have a more semi-permanent effect than semi-permanent hair colour which, let’s face it should really be called temporary (may have just talked myself into finally covering the greys). The hope is that though the sobriety may not be permanent, the learning that occurs in this time will be.
‘Why though?’ I hear you ask
When I was a child I used to play detective. I loved looking for clues and trying to piece together chains of events through little scraps of evidence, and was sure that I would grow up to be one. Well… I did. I am a part-time, unpaid investigator. I am every fortnight (when the small people are away) assigned the case labelled what the fuck happened last night? This case also comes with mini cases linked to it such as, is Beryl (drinking partner) alive? Did I get a kebab? And, who is this gentleman?
The one that tipped it for me was last week’s investigation. I awoke blessedly alone but with the worst memory loss since I was 17 when the future ex-husband and I drank a bottle of southern comfort in the park and then… I woke up. Apparently we had been to two student bars and i’d fallen off a wall. We had been out for hours and I have no recollection of it. Last week Beryl and I had gone to the pub and that’s where the memories basically end. I woke and thought ‘I’d promised myself a kebab and I didn’t get one!’ I was bereft. I then went to feed the dog in the kitchen and discovered that I had indeed bought a kebab and failed to eat it. There was also a full cup of cold tea and a dustpan and brush full of sugar on the counter top. The dustpan is evidence that someone else was here as there is not a hope in hell I’d have cleaned up any mess. Who though I hope will remain a mystery.
It took me about 2 hours to realise that Beryl was not dead and missing but in fact crashed out on the sofa.
At around midday my eagerly awaited ice skates arrived and I was delighted, and devastated. All I wanted to do was hop on a bus and twirl about the ice (can’t actually twirl, but that’s not the point), but all I was able to do was climb into bed and watch all three pitch perfect movies in a row and pick at the cold kebab. I have to point out here, eating a cold kebab is not exclusive to hangovers, I’d eat you if you were covered in enough chilli sauce and garlic mayo.
That was when I realised just how much drinking gets in the way of my living. Because when i’m hungover i’m not living, i’m barely surviving.
If I’d been sensible I’d have not let a drop of alcohol pass my lips after that and I’d now be 9 days into the 66. But on Saturday, after returning from dropping the kids to their fathers and spending the day helping a friend in her understaffed salon I had one alcoholic peach iced tea. That was all I had, but if I’m going to do this I’m going to do it properly.
Yesterday was day one and it was wonderful. I had the opportunity to go out on the saturday and didn’t. It was like I was living parallel lives. There was the me who had a fantastic day, and the me who was lying in bed hungover and hating life. While I was out walking Elizabeth and noticing the first daffodils on our favourite field and enjoying the church bells, the me who did go out was being woken by Lisa putting all her weight on one of my breasts and screaming in my face (Lisa is the cat, not a mad woman alarm clock) and cursing that the window is so far away (right above the bed) when it needs shutting to block out the ruddy bells. While I was drinking coffee at a dear friends the other me had sipped at a cup of tea and wondered how long it would stay down for. As I was having a nice chat with the uni librarian at around 1pm the hungover me had decided it was safe to smoke then swiftly realised it wasn’t; enter the return of the tea.
I spent an hour and a half visiting a brilliant friend who is sadly in hospital at the moment. We talked and laughed and discussed how handsome we both thought the son is of the lady in the opposite bed, and I felt so grateful to be there with her and not festering in a stinking pit of doom like the alternate me was. We both decided that my day was better because of the parallel me. Because I could have been a mess I was so much happier with my day.
So maybe that’s the way I approach this. Maybe I imagine every day could have been a hangover day. Everyday will be much more ripe with possibility simply because it might not have been.
Doubtless I’ll divulge more of the reasons behind this challenge soon but right now i’m off to the ice rink because I can!!! Because I’m not holding down tea and bad and hazy memories!
I’ll let you know if I fall on my face, figuratively and literally.
The reference for the habit formation study is below if anyone wants to read it and not just make life decisions based on reading the abstract like ahem, certain people.
Lally, P., Van Jaarsveld, C.H., Potts, H.W. and Wardle, J., 2010. How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European journal of social psychology, 40(6), pp.998-1009.