About a year ago my doctor suggested that I give up coffee.  Uh-huh, I replied anxiously.  Good patient that I am, I went home and did exactly that.  Two days later the caffeine withdrawal headaches were so bad that I couldn’t see properly.


Illustration by Christoph Niemann @

Christina, quietly shaking her head at my inability to do anything in moderation, patiently suggested that it would probably be all right if maybe I just cut back a little, rather than stopping dindon froid, as the French say.  I followed her advice, and was soon functioning much as before.  The scariest thing about the whole episode was the realization that I had become utterly dependent on all those little shots of espresso to get me through the day in one piece.  Coffee had become a crutch.  Take it away, and I was a mess.

Well, I’m at it again, only this time it’s serious.  This time it’s booze.

I am on day 5 of a grand, and possibly misguided, beer-free experiment.  (I know.  Five days.  Big whoop.)  Now, there’s nothing better at the end of a long day than a bottle of Heineken (see this post for snotty disparagements of local equivalents) or a glass of Sauvingnon Blanc.  (Possibly two.)  Overall it really hasn’t been too much bother, although I would have liked a beer a couple of nights ago, as we were out with friends to see the wonderful Andrew Bird.  Why don’t you have one? everyone said.  Go on, they said.  After all, it’s Andrew Bird.  I nodded, and said no, and felt a bit sorry for myself.  Eventually everyone looked away and pretended I wasn’t there, which was of course the sensible thing to do.  But there was a reason for my apparently pointless martyrdom. Not to get all dramatic about it, but this has become a matter of self-respect.  I’ve tried this before, you see, and have never been able to keep it up for more than a day or so.  I don’t think I’ve ever needed a drink, which in theory should make it easy for me to give it up for a bit; what it actually means in practice is that I wallow in self-loathing each time I discover that I simply lack the necessary willpower to forego something I enjoy.  So I was determined to stick with it this time, Andrew Bird notwithstanding.

Anyway, I made it through the evening.  The gig was great.  But amidst all my self-righteous preening I am discovering an unexpected set-back to this alcohol-free business.  This has been me for the past four nights:


Illustration by Christoph Niemann @

All of a sudden, irony of ironies, I can’t sleep.  Apparently without just a little booze inside me, I suffer from some strange chemical imbalance, and so I’ve spent the last few nights staring at the ceiling, thinking about stuff.  There is a rich history of insomnia in my family, but that’s rarely been my problem.  What am I thinking about as I stare into the darkness?  Well, obviously I’m worrying about whether I’m actually an alcoholic.

I can’t win.

PS:  The illustrations in this post were taken from Christoph Niemann’s excellent and very funny blog.  This is one of my favorites.

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