When I was younger I drank a lot of booze. I drank it at weekends to enjoy life. I drank it during the week to cure the feeling inside me. I drank it with friends to bond and have merriment. I drank so I could chat up women. I drank to get closer to people. I drank so as to confide in people and people to confide in me. I drank to celebrate and I drank when things went bad. I drank and drank and drank.
A lot of people didn’t think I had a problem. Other people were sure that I did. Others thought I had a problem, but that this was an innate part of my personality.
It was what made me “me”.
Others didn’t really care whether I drank or not. Those close to me were not altogether surprised when I committed to giving up the drink. It was in Australia that this happened. The signs were on me as the saying goes.
One friend ended up in hospital after some of my shenanigans with a slashed wrist. Another I abused verbally before standing up and kicking him in the nuts. I woke up later that drinking session around 6am behind a dumpster in a lane way with no phone, no wallet and no idea what had happened. The only other close friend I had knew I was struggling as he too had his share of problems with the dark side of alcohol.
These things happened in the space of a few weeks and following a few breakdowns I had had in Ireland, I knew it was time to go. Time to go sober.
And that was that.
My friends all got used to it and when I returned home to Ireland for a Christmas almost two years ago, everyone was supporting and generally didn’t give a monkeys that I didn’t drink.
That was still that.
Now, if old me had met new me, he would have ripped into him. Given him a good slagging. He would have let him know that he was a pussy and ridiculed him in a good natured way.
That would have been ok…fair game…when someone as out there and opinionated as myself sticks his flag to a mast, he is well able to give and receive criticism (well, maybe not receive it….)
It was on that trip home though, that I really got my kinsfolk talking about me.
We took a trip down to the west of Ireland to visit my cousins, aunts and uncles. We were in the house of my cousin Richie. I was introducing my wife and we were in the sitting room slouched around of an afternoon, eating sandwiches and suppin’ tae, playing with the kids and watching TV, when the subject of dinner came up. At this point me wife informed all and sundry that we were vegetarians, much to the delight of my little second cousin who was struggling to eat animals herself.
Now, my cousin Richie is a big strap of a lad who played intercounty GAA for Galway. He spent many years as a butcher and running his own security company. When he gets given the green card by the missus for a night out, he puts the “pour” in porter. He is a man’s man. Up to this moment he had laughed away all the talk of this that and the other.
Sure he had seen and heard of enough people with drinking problems that if his cousin had to give it up sure then that was the way it was.
He had been dozing quietly in his armchair. When he heard these words about vegetarianism though, his body shot up. His big country head turned down and stared at me. His eyebrows flew up off the top of his head in shock.
He shook his head very slowly from side to side, trying to figure out if the words could be true.
I can still see his look of shock – his face crumpled in a puzzled twist of “what the feic happened to this lad….two years ago we were out suppin pints, eating big meaty steaks and him tellin’ me all about his conquests as a single man. Now look at him…sober, vegetarian and not even that chance of him tellin’ me anythin’ about him and his missus”.
That is the look that says it all.
Now if old me had met new me, and they had gone for a meal, then old me would have ridiculed new me to the high heavens.
He would have said things like “why would you eat a living vegetable and not a living animal”.
Old me would have applied a lot of loose philosophical arguments to imply that the rationale behind eating one living thing over another is inherently flawed.
But new me would just turn to him and say…eat what you like but just know where it comes from. And don’t eat anything that you wouldn’t have the guts to kill yourself. And shut the fuck up.
New me. What a man I have become. Sober and vegetarian and I would hazard a guess that once I get settled in a place where I can source the right food, then a vegan I will be.
I mean, what it boils down to is this simple question:
Can you be a bad ass, real man’s man while not eating meat and not drinking alcohol?
The stages of man.
It is all about changing for the better.
If you do the same thing over and over again and expect different results, then you are insane in the words of Albert Einstein.
Change it up.
Keep the chin up and take risks.
Back yourself and don’t worry about what other people think.