I'm not a puritan (I couldn't give up sex and I don't like Cornflakes) but I drink so little I could be a teetotaller.
It has to be a special occasion indeed for alcohol to pass my lips.
Most of the time when I choose to drink it is not from a desire to take oral pleasure from the grape or the hop. There will undoubtedly be an element of peer pressure or the occasion itself will demand I allow my temple to be profaned with the bitter poison. A special occasion. Visiting friends and not wanting to reject their eagerly offered hospitality. A concession to "have just one" for the sake of appearances.
Secretly (though less secretly now) I would be quite happy if alcohol never entered my inner sanctum ever again.
It depresses me.
Alcohol literally depresses me.
It hit me earlier this week when I visited some very dear friends and shared a couple of pints of beer with them. At the time it felt fine. The taste was "ok". I would rather have had water or even a Coke but, you know, the occasion was one of those listed above and I accepted the offer of beer.
The trouble for me occurs the next day.
I felt depressed as all hell. Not hungover. Not ill. Depressed.
And it gave me a flashback to my twenties when I used to go out fairly regularly to pubs with friends and sink a few beers on a Friday night because that was what Friday nights were for.
I secretly loathed it. Not the going out. I could see that socializing was essential. It was the alcohol. The slavish adherence to "getting out of it" because that was what you were meant to do.
I rarely got drunk. Not out of a capacity to absorb huge quantities of alcohol and still walk a straight line but out of an internal mechanism whereby I find it very hard to let go and lose control.
But next day, Christ, next day the feeling of depression would incapacitate me every single time. So much so I would have to write off the entire day. I couldn't write. I couldn't trust myself to make any kind of decision. I'd just have to ride it through until the pall eventually left my system.
It got to the point whereby a simple equation (3 hours at the pub = an entire day written off) meant that I'd start to decline invitations to go out or find excuses to be elsewhere. For a couple of glorious years I'd just take myself off on my bike in the summer and spend my evenings cycling for miles and miles. I loved it. Sure it was solitary but being out and about in the British countryside was a real balm and, best of all, it gave me inspiration for the next day and I felt clean, hopeful and refreshed.
Alcohol could not compete.
For a while I tried to attach a moral payload to my choice not to drink but that was just dishonest. In truth if other people get genuine pleasure from drinking alcohol, good luck to them. For me it takes more than it gives and I'd rather not enter into the contract in the first place.
Does that make me a wuss? Maybe.
Personally, I like to think that it proves my hedonistic credentials. I like my pleasures to be unalloyed. A pleasure that you have to pay for later isn't that great a pleasure in my book. I want to have my cake and eat it.
Just spare me the accompanying glass of wine.