Me and Drinking Too Much

Tom Winnifrith Saturday 28 April 2018


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I could not sleep this morning as I pondered me and drink. My prompt was the ramblings of a pal who was, I fear, drunk in charge of a keyboard. In days gone by I too was a heavy drinker.

In the years before I met Big Nose, the mother of my daughter Olaf, I was all too easily seduced by the culture of Fleet Street. Lunch with PR Man John Reynolds was a ritual in those days on the Evening Standard. 4 bottles. 5 bottles between two .. one lost count after a while. But it was not just JR, there were temptations everywhere.

Big Nose was a health freak and to get into her good books I sobered up big time and also quit smoking. But after she ran off with her graduate trainee things slipped and for a good number of years I drank far too much once again. It is one of the main reasons why I have type 2 diabetes. It is utterly self inflicted.

But for a good few years now my consumption has been really very modest indeed. I may joke about having ouzo for breakfast but the reality is that I drink very little. There is an occasional blow-out, maybe twice a year. If I am forced to go to a social occasion with my wife's friends I drink a few glasses to dull the pain of public sector workers bleating on about how they are exploited and work far too hard for too little money as opposed to we wicked capitalists. But the Mrs wisely allows me to skip such gatherings these days. And so I might have an occasional glass of wine over supper with the Mrs. that really is it.

I reckon that in the bad old days on Fleet Street i could very easily have been throwing 80 units a week down my throat. These days I suspect I average less than four. I just don't like losing control and even a few glasses of win sees me feeling rotten for at least a day. Heck I am fifty, there are not so many days left on this planet that I can afford to go wasting that many lying in bed "sleeping it off."

And I look back on some of the daft things I did, said or wrote when completely hammered. Well the truth is that I can't remember a lot of it.

The worst part of being a drunk is the blackouts. You wake up in the morning and slowly recollect what you did the night before. Or part of it. You fear what you might have said, done or emailed. Thankfully much of my heaviest drinking was in the pre-email era. Part of you knows what you might have done but you can't quite recollect the full detail and pretend it was not that bad. As the hangover eases you get the odd recollection. But if you dare to make enquiries only then do you discover the full horror.

Part of the problem of being a drunk is that folks just make allowances and so you just get away with it. Heavy drinking is part of our culture. Certainly in my profession it always used to be. I am pretty sure those days are gone now and most journalists like everyone else imbibe only mineral water at lunchtime. Maybe that is for the good.

For me I am not sure what changed me. It is partly physical in that my body really can't handle booze as it once could. And in a similar vein I do take my diabetes relatively seriously. Taking my pills and drinking very little goes a long way to keeping things in check. But it is also in my mind. I enjoy being in control of myself and waking up in the morning with a clear head is a real joy. So it is an active decision not to drink as I once did.

The only downside of being sober is that you get to see those who are still drunk in action and when the initial smugness evaporates you realise "heck: that was me - what an arsehole."

Having said all of that the Mrs has invited two of her lefty Swedish sociologist pals over for lunch today....

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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