Christmas, here in the UK, is a time of tradition and ritual. We reconnect with friends and family. We reflect on the lives of those less fortunate than us. We reaffirm our relationship with alcohol.
The bleak, unhappy days of ‘dry January’ and ‘go sober for October’ are in the past; December gives us free reign to sate our alcoholic appetites.
For one special month it’s acceptable to open wine at work, eat a kebab in the street on a Monday night, and give the answer “fortified with brandy, please” when asked how you like your eggs in the morning.*
For me, though, things are different.
Following an unfortunate incident involving my four year old son, a pointy stick, and an unguarded belly-button, two years ago I found myself negotiating the festive period under the influence of powerful, weapons-grade antibiotics.
“Drink alcohol,” the doctor warned me, “and you WILL vomit.”
I chose sobriety over vomit, and emerged from this period in possession of a resplendent belly-button and an unexpected loss of appetite for alcohol. I’ve barely drunk since, for no other reason than I don’t really fancy it.
That’s not to say I don’t party during the festive period. As Steve Coogan so succinctly described his alcohol-free social life in an episode of The Trip: “I still have fun, just not as much as I used to.”
I make a point of matching my friends drink for drink. For every beer, glass of wine, or Jaeger-bomb they knock back, I down a tap water, a mineral water – sometimes even a posh ginger beer or lemonade!
By 10pm, every night, they’ve long since stopped making sense to me, and I to them.
I console myself with the fact that tomorrow I’ll get my payback.
While they struggle to rid their systems of the poison I’ll be up, and out, and on my bike. This isn’t meant to sound smug – I’m very aware that the night before I was dull. Boring. The opposite of the life and soul of the party.
The death and…what’s the opposite of soul?
I was the dead body of the party.
But today, following my six or seven pints of water last night, I am possibly the most hydrated cyclist in the UK. I couldn’t be more hydrated. Squeeze me, and water seeps out like a full sponge.
I am springy, and sprightly, and raring to go. The only way I could improve on my current condition would’ve been a protein bar and electrolyte chaser before bed.
I traded late-night fun for better daytime cycling, and I’m very happy with my decision.
*I’m talking about egg nog – the most unnecessary of all the festive drinks.