Zero Alcohol

After 45 years of daily drinking (alcohol that is), I’ve suddenly stopped cold. Why? I don’t know, but first some history. When I started university in the early 70s, I was a residential student at Monash University and the orientation day involve the consumption of copious quantities of alcohol, all for free. Naturally I made full use of this and paid the penalty many hours later. It wasn’t the first time that I’d had alcohol, but it certainly was the first time that I’d had it in such a large quantity, at a continuous pace and in such a short period of time. I suspect that those days may well be over at universities, given the nature of today’s environment where all such things tend to be frowned upon and litigation just waiting around the corner. Were such orientation days appropriate? At the time I thought nothing of it and even today don’t have any issues with such activities, though I suspect many would frown upon such thoughts.

Bacchus Honoured - Murray River Renmark

Bacchus Honoured – Murray River Renmark

From those days onward, beer etc was always on the menu, in greater quantities than food it sometimes seemed, and I can remember many an afternoon or night at the Notting Hill pub seeing how many empty pots we could build into a tower before it became somewhat hazardous. I think such was the habit of all engineering students, no matter where they were studying. The sudden transition from high school to uni and the subsequent freedom to party didn’t help my studies greatly and had a material affect on my first year exam scores. I didn’t do too badly, but there were some engineering subjects, civil and electronics, that I could never get my head around, sober or not, and the requirement was to pass every discipline in the first year. I could have done a catch-up, but I realised that I had no desire to force myself into more of something that I simply didn’t like and didn’t want to do, so I took a break from uni and went overseas for a year or so.

Stockyard Bar and Bistro - Rawson Victoria

Stockyard Bar and Bistro – Rawson Victoria

While overseas, in a country renowned for enjoying alcohol, I started a completely different adventure in drinking. I not only enjoyed the beer of a different country, but became interested in rum and other spirits, home made and otherwise, which were the de rigueur of life in Finland. And did I get to know the various knock your brains out spirits. The most potent were the vodkas that relatives and friends of the family brought back from visits to Russia, where the stuff was available for probably less than a packet of cigarettes. I had the great misfortune of sitting around with my uncle and friends on a hot summer’s afternoon, gulping down all too much of this Russian vodka and literally crawling into the house, up a set of stairs, into bed where I spent the rest of the day, night and most of the next morning trying to recover. Never again did I touch that rocket fuel that passed for vodka, or any other similar spirit on offer. The pain was simply not worth it and so I just kept to beer and the occasional rum and coke.

Bottle Shop - Yarragon Victoria

Bottle Shop – Yarragon Victoria

On returning to Australia, I resumed my studies and followed a different discipline, this time photography, having developed a insatiable interest in photography while in Finland. But as I still had a great interest in engineering/science, I decided to study photographic technology at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), as it was called back in those days, and commuting to RMIT each day meant that my drinking endeavours were relegated to less frequent occasions, notably weekends. It was at this time that I developed a complete distaste for beer and simply gave up on it entirely, for a few years at least. I have no idea why this happened, but I simply couldn’t stomach the taste of beer, so rum and coke was pretty much the only thing I imbibed for some years. Then, for reasons unknown, I once again found a taste for beer and the cycle continued.

Grand Ridge Brewery - Mirboo North Victoria

Grand Ridge Brewery – Mirboo North Victoria

After graduation, I worked around in various places and drank in a more moderate fashion, at least as far as my previous drinking habits were concerned. That all changed when I joined the Air Force and went to RAAF East Sale, where drinking wasn’t just a pastime, it was a part of your career. Every day after work it was off to the mess for beers and bar snacks aplenty. I was very fortunate to be living in, as there was no way that I would have been able to drive anywhere after a night of mess activity. These were the days when we also went bush many a weekend and we’d have at least a slab of beer for each day we were away, and port to share around the campfire. How on earth that didn’t do me in, or the others, is anyone’s guess. What all the beer and bar snacks did do is turn me into an ever growing fat slob, so I decided to move out into an off-base unit and practice some slightly better living habits. It was certainly an improvement, though parties at the flat and elsewhere were an ongoing thing, but not a continuous competition to see how much one could drink each night.

Back in the day

Back in the day

Back in the day

Back in the day

McMichaels Hut - Lost Plain Victoria

McMichaels Hut – Lost Plain Victoria

Once out of the Air Force, I thought I’d be reducing the drinking levels, but I guess I’d gotten into a routine and just followed the pattern set. I’d now also discovered red wine and that set me off onto a different path of exploration, trying out different wines and seeing which ones I enjoyed the most. Red wine also became my cooking companion, with an open bottle always in the kitchen (or bush hut) while I was making a meal. I think I made some of the best meals after a half a bottle or more of red, but I could never replicate the meal, wine or not. My original forays into red wine were finding the cheapest that were palatable, but each one soon started to taste like vinegar, so more expensive ones were sought. By this stage I’d gone away from spirits altogether, as once again I’d lost the taste for that aspect of alcohol. Again I had no idea why, especially as I was really enjoying scotch (on the rocks), such as Glenmorangie, that my wife was able to get at a great price from where she worked.

Simple cooking - Howitt High Plains Victoria

Simple cooking – Howitt High Plains Victoria

In subsequent years my alcohol intake did decline, but never to such an extent that any doctor would consider acceptable; in their view it would have been considered rampant alcoholism. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, but I never had an urge to drink during working hours and even at working lunches I didn’t drink or maybe had one glass at most. The other aspect was that it didn’t appear to affect my fitness levels at any point, as I was always able to do hard physical work and easily pass my previous military fitness tests (for what they were). I also didn’t suffer any medical issues that could be attributed to alcohol. In fact I didn’t have any real medical problem other than the usual cold or flu that everyone got from people who wouldn’t stay at home when sick. But as I got older, I did drink less and made a bit more of an effort to monitor the intake.

Honouring Bacchus - Murray River Renmark

Honouring Bacchus – Murray River Renmark

Which brings me to the present time where I once again lost the taste for beer. This had been a progressive thing where a brand that appealed to me for a while suddenly started tasting really bad and so I’d find something else. Each time the appeal of a beer would diminish more rapidly until it came to a point where no beer was appealing. So I stopped drinking beer completely and have ostensibly been beer free for at least a year and a half. Red wine was still on the books and I explored this even more than before, but then going on eight months ago now, the same happened with red wine and it too became unpalatable, so I stopped drinking red wine. Now I thought all of this would produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but I haven’t had any such issues. There’s a bottle of red still sitting on a kitchen shelf and I have no urge to pour a glass. I’ve had some cider, which I don’t seem to mind, but I have no urge to go out and buy more. I was given a bottle of gin for Christmas, something I’ve always enjoyed, but I haven’t had any urge to finish off the bottle as I may have in the past.

Commercial Hotel - Woods Point Victoria

Commercial Hotel – Woods Point Victoria

I don’t know why this has happened and I don’t have any urge to drink. I don’t feel any different to when I was drinking, but I’m going to bed later than I used to do and still get up at the same time. My sleep patterns are much the same as before ie I sleep quite well. I have lost some weight and the bank account is certainly showing the difference, but will I start drinking again in earnest? I have no idea and I’m not in any hurry to reverse the status quo. I’ll just wait and see what happens, but overall it’s been a bit of a non-event. Everyone I know looks at me askance when I tell them I’ve stopped drinking, something that sounds simply implausible. Life can be very odd at times.