An Adventure in Abstinence
After soaking in a bath of booze during the Covid-19 lockdown I’m now in week-two of drying myself out. I gave up alcohol on Saturday 15th August. This was in an attempt to stop stumbling into bed half-cut every night and to lose some of the weight I’d gained over lockdown. One of the biggest benefits of sobriety, that I’d seen in week-one, was the improvement in my sleep quality. Although this was mostly because I could actually make it up the stairs to the bedroom without falling over. As for my weight, I started out at 104kg and I finished my first week at 101.5kg. So that appeared to be working too.
If you read my account of week-one then you’ll have realised that my writing can be almost as tasteless as alcohol-free beer, especially when it comes to dwelling on my flatulence. I still don’t know exactly what has caused this increased volume of wind. Non-stop farting doesn’t appear to be a recognised symptom of alcohol withdrawal.
I returned to work last week, so this unwanted wind now has the potential to put my job at risk. I’m the oldest one in the office, by some way, so once they notice ‘grandad’ is losing control of his sphincter the writing will be on the wall. I’ll also be contravening our new Covid-19 precautions by sharing my bubble. One of the plusses of working from home was that I could feel free to occasionally crack one out, and the only punishment was a disdainful look from my wife or the cats.
Therefore I’ve been scuttling off to the toilets at work, whenever the build-up of gas has become too uncomfortable to bear. Whilst the office toilets are relatively well sound-proofed, I am beginning to worry about their structural integrity. When I finally let rip it appears to shake the foundations, and I think it was me that cracked one of the mirrors.
As much as this excess gas has been a troublesome side-effect of alcohol cessation there also appears to have been an unexpected benefit, which is also in the trouser area. The following information will be of more interest to male readers, but it is a natural bodily function so I’m not going to hold back on describing it. I’m talking about rigidity. You may have heard of the term ‘Brewer’s Droop’. If you google it you’ll also find that it was the name of an early seventies rock band that briefly featured Mark Knopfler, later of Dire Straits.
As interesting as that rock history fact is, if you google further you’ll find out that it is not the alcohol in beer that can lead to erectile dysfunction but the hops it is made from. This is because they contain high levels of oestrogen. This is why beer is said to be good for women in menopause but it is also why prolonged exposure to hops can lead to the softening of a man’s ardour. Hence why brewers can also find themselves in dire straits.
After a week of being hop-free, I have not only noticed a difference in tumescence but also in frequency. I have actually started to have spontaneous erections, something I had previously consigned to my teenage history. They are not as frequent as they were back then, when the vibrations from sitting on a bus would get it standing to attention, but they have been taking me by surprise. Although, as much as I am pleased to welcome this additional benefit of abstinence, it would be nice if I could stop farting long enough to do something with it.
On Sunday (Day 8) I went for a run, as I did last Sunday (Day 2). Last week it was run-walk-run-walk, but this time it was run-run-run-run. When I was running regularly I used to have a theory that the alcohol in my blood from the night before actually helped by deadening the pain. I was already having doubts about my alcohol-driven training programme as I’d never heard of Mo Farah having seven pints of lager before running a marathon. This new ability to run further without alcohol could be due to the weight loss I’ve experienced or that my previous theory was complete bollocks.
Monday (Day 9) presented a new challenge to my abstinence as we took advantage of the UK government’s ‘Eat Out to Get Fat’ initiative. This is where the taxpayer subsidises your restaurant nosebag on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August to help the hospitality sector recover. As I am a taxpayer myself it would have been churlish to ignore my own generosity, so my wife and I went along to the local curry house. Normally on a Monday evening it would only be us, the waiters and the tumbleweed. This particular Monday evening it was packed with those that had obviously been taking full advantage of the scheme all throughout August. Either that or the local Slimming World club were having a night out.
It is one of those more authentic unlicensed Asian restaurants where you can take your own booze in with you. This either makes it a cheap night out or you feel obliged to drink twice as much as you normally would. I could only look on enviously at the empty cans and bottles that were piling up on other tables. I think it was the first curry I’ve ever eaten that hasn’t been washed down with lager. I’d like to say that the curry tasted totally different without alcohol, it didn’t. It was the first time, so far, that I’ve really, really wanted a drink.
Over the last 18 months or so I’ve been interspersing my running with visits to the gym. My fifty-eight year old knees are starting to disintegrate so I give them a rest from constant running by walking uphill on a gym treadmill instead. My gym had reopened in July but I’d been giving it a wide berth. Being in an enclosed space with all those heavy breathers and copious sweaters still seemed a bit risky. However, I returned on Tuesday and Wednesday (Days 10 & 11) as they have devised an app that both tells me how busy the gym is and it also opens the door without me having to finger the sticky keypad. Sadly their app isn’t quite clever enough to then do 30 minutes of uphill walking for me.
The last time I was in the gym was around six months ago, so my knees have been getting punished as I’ve only had running available to me during lockdown. Running is a solitary activity and there is little in the way of human interaction. This is apart from the occasional fight with dog-owners after their four-legged shit machines have chased me through the park. Gyms have other people in them. As I only wear thin shorts, and the treadmill vibrates, I’m somewhat concerned that the naughtiness that has returned to my previously well-behaved penis is going to embarrass me sooner or later. Unfortunately the gym’s new app also has a feature for members to report inappropriate behaviour, presumably including that of other member’s members.
Two early morning visits to the gym were enough to have me yawning by lunchtime so I gave it a miss for the rest of the week. Going back to work has been tiring enough, although it has mostly kept my mind off drinking. The only exception to this has been the brief desire for a drink that I get in the middle of the afternoon. I don’t actually want a drink there and then but, as the end of the day is looming, I have a heavenly vision of going home to a nice cold beer. This spiteful mirage only lasts a few seconds before I swiftly and sadly remember that I’ve given up. When I actually arrive home I have a cold pint of squash, which quells any further desire, and I haven’t really been missing alcohol in the evenings. This would suggest that I’m more enamoured with the idea of drinking, rather than actually doing it.
The only other momentary yearning for a drink was on Friday evening (Day 13), a time of the week that I’ve always associated with consuming even larger amounts of alcohol. I’d stopped off at a petrol station shop to stock up on squash. I have been getting through gallons of the stuff, so much so that the sleep quality I’ve rediscovered is now being disturbed by lengthy nocturnal toilet visits.
I wasn’t sure where they kept the squash so I wandered aimlessly around the aisles. Without knowing it I suddenly found myself surrounded by glass-fronted fridges of beer and shelves of tempting, if not grossly overpriced, red wines. I’d unknowingly drifted into the heart of the enemy’s territory. I mentally and physically tip-toed out of the area just in case I awakened any strong desire that I was going to act on.
So, here I am at the end of week-two and I’m rather chuffed that I’ve made it this far. Not having a drink is now feeling more normal than drinking. Admittedly I haven’t had a real test yet, apart from the visit to the Indian restaurant. The options for boozy nights out or travel breaks are still somewhat limited, so it is probably a good time to be drying out. I’m sleeping better, my mind feels sharper, I think I’m slightly fitter and my penis really seems to be enjoying the experience. Now it is Day 14 and time for the weigh-in…
I’m still on 101.5kg! The same as I was at the beginning of the week. How can this be? I’ve been doing 5000 steps a day just by going to work, I’m sort of exercising and I’ve had zero booze all week, including denying myself copious cheap drinks with a sit-down curry. I wanted this week to end on a complete set of positives, but now I’m wondering if it is worth all this tortuous self-denial and constant farting. Oh, and now I’m also pissing like a racehorse all night.
There is a cold beer in the fridge that has been calling out to me for the last fortnight. Bugger, its voice is now getting louder.