Prim recently lent me this book to read ‘Out of Time‘ – a book about midlife, or as Carl Jung called it the ‘midlife transition‘ between youth and old age. As I approach both my 4th soberversary and my 49th birthday it feels hugely prescient. Thank you Prim! 🙂
And as you would hope there was a passage about stopping drinking as part of that experience. Over to Miranda:
An old friend of mine gave up drinking when he was 45 (I was 6 weeks before my 45th birthday). He says: ‘I decided I was going to divide my adult life into two halves. Twenty five years’ boozing. And twenty five years without booze.’
He gave up after a many-week bender that took him to New York, then Manchester – partying ‘with a bunch of doctors and judges, everyone off their tits’ – then out to the countryside and a New Year’s Eve on the Jim Beam and the JD and the charlie: ‘I was totally out of it for a month.’ He woke up on New Year’s Day and couldn’t get out of bed until 6pm. His kids were worried about him, he was three stone overweight and he was in agony. I thought: ‘This is going to finish me off, if I carry on like this. Don’t get me wrong, as a swan song, that month was brilliant. But I had to stop.’
So he did. No drink, no drugs. His social life had to change, obviously, but he gave himself some rules. Now, if he’s going out with friends, there has to be a purpose to the evening – ‘a third-party stimulus’ – like a meal, or a comedy night, or a film. If he’s going to a party, he will stay only two hours: ‘9.30 till 11.30. And then I leave. It’s fine. Nobody cares.’
He says: ‘There’s nothing so good as a night out on the piss. And I’ll always have the Pub Years. But I’d like to live the life I’m living until I’m 70, to be active and thoughtful, to work and engage with things. You get less sharp as you get older and I don’t want to do anything to make that worse.’
We talk about the difference between drinking in your twenties and early thirties and drinking when you’re older. His forty-something boozing resulted in him getting into some proper scrapes. The drinking kept him behaving as though he were younger, as though he was the same age as when he’d first started properly drinking. It helped him ignore the fact that his life had changed, that it involved other people: wife, kids, workmates. It made him continue to take risks, to believe himself hilarious and invicible. To suppress his psychological baggage by never confronting it. To drag his angst around, through being drunk or hungover all the time.
‘And then’, he says, ‘I stopped drinking and discovered I was far less complex than I thought. My main problem was I was a pisshead.
‘Also, why pretend you’re young? You’re less interesting when you’re young. At uni, what are you going to talk about after you’ve banged on about your parents and your course? You have to drink to hide your inadequacies. But at our age, if you can’t find something interesting to talk about with someone for two hours, with all the shit you’ve done and all the stuff you know, then that is pathetic, really. Middle-aged people have a lot to say, and it can be really fascinating. You don’t need to drink to get you through that.’
So so true for me all of that, like the biggest loudest ‘amen brother’. And Miranda writes a brilliant description of what we have chosen to leave behind too:
Madness is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Your reaction to drink and drugs changes as you age. Especially the aftermath. The hangovers arrive like a hostile alien invasion. They swarm you, you cannot fight. You are pinned down, poisoned, from head to heart to soul.
And why would I miss that exactly? 😉
And now the only tune I can follow this with …..