So, we are starting to bed-down in the groove of the new year. A rather mixed-metaphor to kick things off, further adding to the confusion…
I have again chosen to remain alcohol-free throughout the month of January. It is an exercise in self-control and self-denial. It gives me the time to reflect on my relationship with alcohol. The reflection then spreads into other areas of my life, like beer spilled on a polished table.
I enjoy the taste of real ales, and miss these when I visit pubs for lunch during this period of self-imposed abstemiousness. I enjoy the taste of wine with my meals in the evening. These are little joys to look forward to. I enjoy the initial feelings of warmth, lightness and disinhibition that come with the first few sips of an alcoholic drink. At times, I want those later feelings, of being on the edge of self-control (of thoughts, of tongue, of body), that come with increased consumption. Rarely, I am overcome with a desire to drink to excess, to lose control, but this is often followed by regrets and always by a large degree of physical discomfort. I like the idea of being drunk, but in reality I do not enjoy the feeling, and find myself eating rubbish food to soak up the alcohol – a classic case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. In terms more in tune with the subject, it is like trying to put the cork back into the Champagne bottle.
I am not experiencing any cravings for alcohol, but I am aware of something rewarding missing from the changed rhythm of my life. I feel a need to activate my pleasure circuitry in other ways, to get that satisfying ping of dopamine release – be it with chocolate, or biscuits, or a savoury snack . This desire has to be balanced against my other life and health goals, particularly my marathon training (more of which in later posts!).
To that pool of spilt beer…
I feel I have arrived at a stage of life akin to a seaside town out of season. There are chill winds coming off the sea under grey skies. The paint is beginning to peel from the window frames of the souvenir shops along the seafront. The partially illuminated sign advertising the amusement arcade is a taunting misnomer – the first missing “m” could be replaced with a “b”, and would there really be any difference? The fairground rides are still, the garishly painted horses tethered for the winter, and tarpaulins draped over the fire engines and police cars, their sirens silenced.
Yet even in this diminished landscape, little joys can be found – the last fish and chip shop still open, enjoying their offerings while huddled in a shop doorway to escape the wind; the sound of waves breaking; the smell of the sea and everything visceral that Robin Hood’s Bay in February offers the senses. This time, so long ago, and this place, so far away, have always been emblematic of melancholia, and in a sense I have come home for a while. The only fear is that the summer visitors do not return.