I'm currently having a month off alcohol. No, wait, wait - this is not one of those smug announcements that's meant to make me look superior to you because I've managed the gargantuan feat of stumbling my way through 31 entire days without pouring a bucket of vodka, lime and soda down my throat at regular intervals. And I'm certainly not looking for sponsorship (Dry July coming second only to Frocktober in the list of underwhelming achievements for which we are asked to shell out actual money, in my opinion).
The truth is, I have forced myself to have an alcohol-free August because I needed it. I'd spent June at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival - which is of course a booze-fest first, and a gathering of international artists second. This is fair enough, but when I came back to Sydney in need of a rest period, I actually walked slap bang into a July that was strangely crammed with birthdays, leaving parties, opening nights, and the like. As a result, I partied more in July 2010 than I have in possibly any other month of my life. Not always in a fun, crazy way - but often in an excessive, increasingly unattractive, and eventually belligerent way, that displayed all the signs of someone who didn't know how to say no, and was starting to lose touch with whether drinking and partying was actually enjoyable, or just Something They Do. Other warning signs included one morning where for the first time in my 29 years, I woke up and remembered nothing at all after a certain point the night before (including getting home); and a list of lost items from my nights out that included my beloved leather jacket, my favourite scarf, some $400 glasses that I'd purchased only a month earlier, and - most mortifyingly of all - my friend Dean's laptop (yes, that was all in July).
In addition to this, I had worn myself down to the point where getting out of bed each day (not just the days after a binge) had become a trial, and where much of my life was spent in an exhausted daze. So a dry August was more of a necessity than an indulgence; and because I am by nature an all-or-nothing kind of person, I decided to rule out tea and coffee at the same time. There would be no uppers, and no downers - just decent food, and lots of good nights' sleep.
So far I'm two weeks in, and I have to say the effect is clearly noticeable. I have very swiftly become a morning person - something I never thought would happen - and get out of bed every day with a spring in my step. By contrast, I have very little desire to do anything in the evenings except stay in and watch a DVD, read a book, or something else equally relaxing. I have also become much more motivated than before, and have got around to doing lots of little things I have been putting off for ages - booking a dentist's appointment, finding an accountant to file my tax return, etc.
All of this leads to the question: what am I going to do when September comes around? I do miss the social side of drinking (I can't see myself going to the pub, or a party, or an opening night, without having a few drinks), and I really miss having a coffee too (I live in Potts Point, for goodness sake). But I'm also really relishing my new energy levels. I suspect the only real way to have both will be the dreaded Exercise. Now that I'm pushing 30, I can no longer expect to regularly pound my body with toxins for recreational purposes, and then roll out of bed 6 hours later with bright eyes and a bushy tail, ready to seize the day. I'm still not anywhere near being able to face joining Fitness First, but if you do happen to see me running up and down the Woolloomooloo steps, or glimpse me lifting a dumbell through the windows of my apartment - be aware that it's not a 'new me', but merely a trade-off for the opportunity to enjoy my next Saturday night outing.