HSM — final thoughts

This is a cross-post from my Hello Sunday Morning blog.

Well, I’ve reached the end of my Hello Sunday Morning stint at the start of this week.

I have a confession to make: I ‘slipped’ in the final month. At a family event, my uncle and aunty brought along a bottle of wine, unexpectedly, to a family dinner. I had found myself in the preceding days hankering for a drink — a glass of wine, or a beer, or something. I’d attended two drinks-centric events at a conference id attended, plus a few nights at a dear friend’s place, and a night with family in Queensland. It was the end of a long week, and with a desire not to have to explain myself (yet again), I simply accepted their offer of a glass of wine with dinner.

So, in essence, I failed to make it through the HSM.

I have to admit, I’m glad to be free of having to think so hard about my alcohol consumption. I’ve probably thought more about alcohol in the past 3 months than I have in the previous 12. What used to be something that commanded very little attention became something that I had to ‘deal with’ every time an event or situation came up in which alcohol was involved. Now, this wasn’t a terrible impost, but still, it was noticeable.

This past 3 months hasn’t been all that easy, and certainly (at least by my friends’ and family’s definition) been a tough time to have given up on the “release” I associate with alcohol consumption. Some of it has been celebratory (my birthday, the sale of our apartment, significant events related to my business, family dinners, time away with my wife, university submissions and results). Some emotionally challenging (a relative passing away, significant business challenges). Some just plain stressful (moving house, business and uni again). Sometimes I just wanted to unwind, with friends and family, but felt limited in my ability to do so when alcohol wasn’t part of the activity.

During my HSM I’ve put on a lot of weight — in dealing with these stresses I’ve turned to ‘comfort food’ as a means of dealing with stress. Which begs the question: have I actually just replaced one vice with another? I asked the same question when I one night I resorted to buying non-alcoholic wine as a ‘placeholder’ so I could enjoy an evening with friends. I really questioned the whole exercise — whats the difference (if youre not getting blind drunk, which i wasnt) — isn’t that just the same thing?

Over on my personal blog a commenter remarked that my comments suggested that my quality of life had diminished as a result of not having alcohol. While that’s perhaps stronger language than I would use, there is a degree of truth to the statement.

At 36 years of age, the social structures and norms and personal patterns I’ve formed do include alcohol as a pretty central part of my celebratory and social practices — more than I realised. It is, perhaps, a sad indictment that I do feel that I need alcohol at some level to fully enjoy and appreciate life. That it is deeply enough embedded in my social practice as to be essential. But there it is…

I’m returning to enjoying alcohol in my social practices, starting with a dinner with my wife this weekend. Our plans for dinner with a nice bottle of wine feels like, in some way, a means to “make up” for the fact that we haven’t had the (perceived) opportunity to fully celebrated or acknowledge some of the really significant events of the past 3 months.

I will be doing so, however, with a much more acute awareness of the role alcohol plays in my social world. Has my HSM changed my practices and relationship to alcohol? I certainly feel it has already, and suspect it will continue to do so into the future. Of course, HSM isn’t asking us to do more than self-examine our relationship with alcohol (at least that’s my understanding of the initiative). And that is surely the case for me, and I’m uncomfortable with what I’ve learned.

As an aside, I’m not sure how (HSM founder) Chris Raine came up with 3 months as the length of time for an HSM, but I found it pretty interesting that the first two months were pretty easy, but that the third month was very tough to maintain (and in fact was the period in which I slipped). There’s definitely something to that…