A revolution in new year’s resolutions …

Part I – History

When I was a school-kid, I loved it when I finished my exercise book and needed a new one.

Me: “Eyup Sir! ‘Av finished me book Sir!
Sir: “Then get a new one Ramsbottom! Cupboard!
Me: “Aw nice one, thanks Sir!
Sir: “And put that bloody bird down!

And I would giddily run over to the bleak looking store cupboard and select my new, clean, shiny, blank, untarnished exercise book.  It was exciting, an almost spiritual experience. That first page felt so soft and spongy, with all those other cleanly ironed pages behind, cushioning it. Tactile-tastic. Writing your name on the front in best handwriting “BILLY CASPER, 3BG” before opening it up to that fresh, virgin, welcoming first page.  Time for your first words, “12th January, 1973, in the top right hand corner.

I probably wrote the date in a special colour. And then next came the title, best handwriting, “How I Spent My Christmas“, perfectly centred, underlined, (oddly capitalised?). My shiny new exercise book was so soft, so easy to write on. This book was going to be different.  A game changer.  This was going to be neat all the way through. Best handwriting ever. And it would change my life, or so I thought. This must be where the saying, “Turning a new leaf comes from?” I jauntily mused in a light humoured and good natured fashion.

And then you turned the page, side 2 of page 1, the hard, cold, bare, unpleasant and most difficult page of them all. Oh you could rest your old exercise book underneath to provide some cushioned support, but it wasn’t the same, not like those pristine pages cushioning page 1 side 1. And the old exercise book didn’t quite fit all the way to the spine and so what cushioning you had disappeared two-thirds along the line, causing your words to fall off a precipice into the abyss of mediocrity, unpleasantness and typical untidiness.

And that was it. The love affair was over. Ink now rubbed from the page to your hand and back to the page again. Blotchy, scratchy, untidy, side 2 of page 1 had ruined the entire exercise book from hereonin.

Me: “Aw Sir!!  Can ar gerranother Sir? Av mucked it up Sir!
Sir: “Do you think I’m made of money Casper? Do you!? Why don’t you sell that bloody bird and then you can buy another book, eh?  How about that!?
Me: “Fcuk you Sir
Sir: “What did you say Casper?
Me: “Err, ar dint seh nowt Sir!

A memory from childhood, but a recurring theme throughout life, in various differing guises. And in a similar vein, that’s why New Year feels significant now, much more so than Christmas ever will for me. January 1st represents a brand new start, a full reboot, a metaphorical clean first page in a new exercise book, side 1 page 1.

I relish the chance to start again, looking forward to New Years Day when I can put all these foibles, errors, mistakes in life, all behind me, to start afresh again. Having said that, I am still appallingly bad at keeping new years resolutions, and in truth I have stopped talking about them as it got quite embarrassing, often failing, sometimes epically, occasionally spectacularly.

For years I have been going to write a book. I could see friends’ eyes glaze over when I trotted this one out, drunk, on 31st December around midnight.  Usually that was a sign that my wife needed to sort me out, not just for my sake, but for everyone else’s, as it was a strong indication that I had crossed the rubicon and was about to tell everyone all my plans for the new year, again:

Gone midnight and then some, NYE, every year:
Me: “Sod it, I’m gonna jack in my job next week and write a book.  This is it.  A new start.  I’ve seen the light and I’ve had enough.  I’m sick of it, sick of leading a hollow life, a slave to the corporate machine.  I want to break free, I know … I’m gonna write a novel!

Friends: “Donna?  Can you come here a minute? Quickly!
Wife: “Oh, there you are.  Shall we take you to bed?  It’s getting late and you’re tired
Me: “Wait I haven’t finished, things are changing, I’m serious this time.  I mean it.  I’m lost in a lullaby, caught by the side of the road, melted in memories, sliding in solitude, I want to read by the moon
Wife: “I know you do.  And you’re all of those things, really you are, but you’re tired, why don’t you get some rest?
Me: “I love you .. and her … and him .. he’s my best mate
Wife: “That’s a microwave, come along, say good night to all your friends?
Friends: “Night Andy!  Sleep tight! Happy New Year!
Me: “I LOVE YOU ALL!

My resolutions are usually thus:

– write a book
– change my job
– lose weight
– do voluntary work
– be less materialistic
– be a nicer person
– stop drinking

I have to admit it is getting a little boring, even to me, so I can only imagine what it’s like for everyone else, and sadly this year was no different. I couldn’t sleep as I made my plans for 2013, the list was forming in my head, this was it, I was adamant that this time it was going to be different after all, this was the year it would all change!

My list was revised and rewritten, it was much more pragmatic:

– forget ever writing a book you delusional idiot
– change my job
– lose weight
– do voluntary work
– be less materialistic
– be a nicer person
– stop drinking

So not a huge change then.

That my birthday happens to be 2nd January is somewhat problematic, as I often get drunk on my birthday, eating my take-away (birthday treat Chicken Dhansak) as I open my presents, which means stop drinking, lose weight and be less materialistic can be crossed off the list straight away, not even 48 hrs into the new year.

By the time January is completed, I’m usually left with “change my job” and “stop drinking”, and the whole resolution thing kind of fizzles away for another 11 months.

Part II – Present

The “stop drinking” resolution is a real pain.  I keep records and track my progress using a metric of “Alcohol Free Days” hitherto known as AFDs. In the 80s I used to note them in my paper diary, more recently I have developed sophisticated spreadsheets to track progress. I set targets – AFDs/year. In 1987 I achieved 32 AFDs, so just over 2.5 AFDs a month.  One year, 1991, I hit 100, over 8 AFDs a month.  They were my lowest and highest since records began, and they make pretty shoddy reading as I never once hit my target of 120 (10/month).

Over the last few years I changed tactics slightly and started to monitor Consecutive AFDs (CAFDs) on the premise that these were a) easier to track and b) healthier for you.  Someone once told me your liver starts to go into repair mode after four CAFDs, and that spurred me on.  I don’t want to know if that’s true or not, but it sounds good and it’s motivational.

Conveniently, four CAFDs also fits nicely into the working week.  Mon to Thurs means a mild liver detox and makes work a little more bearable ‘sans hangover’.  There was a slight problem though, as I usually got so excited at such a monumental achievement, that I got so drunk on the Friday, I undid all the good I had done over the previous four days. This ‘rebound effect’ is a bummer.  It’s like I have a new years resolution deathwish.

My wife is completely different.  For a start, she is only a light/moderate drinker, but if she ever feels she is drinking too much, she just cuts down. Instead of having two glasses of wine she has one, and I can only sit and stare in admiration at this alien concept of moderation. I can see it’s so healthy, and I am respectfully envious of people that can do that, but I know that if I open that bottle of wine, I finish it.  One glass is all it takes to sound the klaxons – PARTY TIME! LET’S ROCK! and before you know it, it’s 2am and I’m sat in the dark, in my underpants, eating Wotsits and playing Championship Manager on my iPhone.

Next day
Me: “I’m fed up, I’m never drinking again
Wife: “Oh really? Again? We’ve been here before though, haven’t we?
Me: “Yeah but, no but … no!  I mean it this time!  This time it’s for real! I’m never drinking again!
Wife: “Ok, by the way I found your underpants down the back of the sofa … inside an empty pack of cheesy Wotsits?
Me: {Awkward} {Embarrassed face}

2007 was a major milestone for me, I achieved 22 CAFDs which straddled Jan/Feb.  From 20th January to 10th February I was alcohol-less, and in so doing, I had achieved the longest CAFD run since records began.  One mistake I made was starting mid-January, so I lost the incentive as there was no symmetry to it.  I also remember we were invited to a neighbour’s for dinner on the Saturday, and I got all panicky and ended up drinking so much that I loathed myself for ending my record breaking CAFD run in such disappointing, crash and burn circumstances.  You can probably guess what happened next, suffice to say a fair few Wotsits were consumed.

So, onto today, January 24th 2013, which is significant for me as I have now gone 23 days without a drop of alcohol (CAFD = 23*).  And it’s symmetrical.  I haven’t had a drink since 2012.  I like that and it appeals to my Aspergers need for neat lines and numerical orderliness.  It even included my birthday, and it’s the longest I have ever gone without alcohol since I was a boy. Fact. On. A. Stick.

A shameful record for most adult humans, particularly a 48yr old human, but nevertheless a milestone for me personally. I do worry about the inevitable day when it all ends, so if you see me out shopping in the next few days, and I have a bumper pack of orangey coloured, cheesy flavoured snacks in my trolley, I suggest you duck down the next aisle and give me a wide berth.

Me: coming shortly (date: TBC)

* and counting …

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