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  • Writer's picturePaul Burston

Until today

I had a wobble today. I nearly fell off the wagon. It’s almost 17 months since I stopped drinking alcohol. And as I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before, I really haven’t missed it. I’ve been to bars, book launches, dinner parties and restaurants and I haven’t had the slightest craving. I’ve been in situations where I’d normally turn to alcohol for comfort, and the thought hasn’t crossed my mind.

Until today. Today, for the first time in a long time, I really felt like a drink. The desire was so strong, I could almost taste it. “Happiness is a warm pledge” said my sobriety app this morning. Shows how much it knows.

A bit of context. I’m on holiday, solo, in sunny Sitges. It’s a place I’ve visited many times before - usually with friends or partners, usually with a glass full of vodka in one hand and a bottle full of tonic in the other. You have to hand it to the Spanish. When it comes to booze, you certainly get your money’s worth. And boy, didn’t I? There were some memorable nights and some I’d sooner forget. But the mornings were the worst.

So yes, my memories of Sitges are mostly rather boozy. Added to which, I’m here alone and most gay socialising revolves around the local bars and clubs. Even on the gay beach, men keep trying to sell me beer. Alcohol is all around. I suppose it was only a matter of time before the thought entered my head. “Maybe just the one...”

I told myself the feeling would pass. But I also know why people lapse. As Bowie sang on a cover track from Ziggy Stardust, “it ain’t easy”. As he also sang (on Heroes) “and I’ll drink all the time.” And therein lies the rub. Had I caved in to temptation today, it wouldn’t have been one drink or even two. Knowing me, I’d have carried on drinking until I was drunk - and then I’d have drunk some more.

I’m not saying it would’ve been the end of the world or even the end of my sobriety. I’m not judging those who’ve quit drinking and have sometimes fallen off the wagon. It took me a long time to admit that I even had a drinking problem, and several attempts before I finally quit smoking. I know all about lapses. I know that, for me, there’s no such thing as “the occasional cigarette” - just as there’s no such thing as “just the one drink.” I’m in no position to judge anyone.

But having experienced my first proper wobble, I have to say I’m proud I didn’t give into temptation. I also have to say a big thank you to my friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter. Your kind words helped enormously. To all those who said “you’ve got this” - I have, but it’s easier knowing you have my back, especially on days like today. Thank you.

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