“Happiness is having a rare steak, a bottle of whisky, and a dog to eat the rare steak.”
These words by famous TV show Late Night host, Johnny Carson often ring true to me. I do enjoy my whisky. In fact, I daresay that I frequently take Penicillin’s inventor, Alexander Fleming’s advice: “A good gulp of hot whiskey at bedtime—it’s not very scientific, but it helps.”
I come from a long line of drinkers – my great grandfather was a brewer and my father – my stepfather is German (need I say more). I drunk alcohol since I was about 11 years old and there are people in my family who have abused it. To make it even more interesting, I was born in the hospitality industry with restaurants and hotels dotting my childhood, and in them all kinds of alcohol.
When I was a kid, my mum did what I think was the wisest thing to do in our peculiar circumstances – she said, “never drink in hiding.” and she admonished me to ask for a glass of wine whenever I felt like it – well, the thing is, as a result, alcohol never had the allure of forbidden fruit as it might have.
I was never the kind of person who went on benders, but there was a brief moment – a few weeks – when I was in my twenties that I hang out with an older family friend called Jimmy. A jollier man, you never met, than Jimmy. I would link up with him after he closed shop in the Nairobi CBD, and we would adjourn to a bar, where the weekend would literally fly by. We had a whale of a time together – we would start out with a “quiet drink” at the Irish Pub on anniversary towers on Friday evening and Sunday would find us in Entebbe, trying to make our way back to Nairobi, having stopped by bars in Nakuru, Eldoret, Busia and eventually Kampala.
At one time, Jimmy and I had a super idea. There’s a club of people called Hash House Harriers – a international club of non-competitive runners (and drinkers). They loved to find an excursion where they would go run and then simply have a blast afterwards. Jimmy and I decided that it would be good business to organise these excursions and so we did. We had a lot of Hashers register with us and we organised a 2 day trip to Malindi, our home town. They would get there, they would run and then make merry on the beach. It was all organised.
The night before the trip was to start, Jimmy and I went on our usual bender – a quiet drink at Irish Pub ended up with us getting home at 4am. We agreed to simply nap for an hour and then go and pick up the Hashers from the central meeting point at 6am. Jimmy and I woke up at 1:30pm – to many missed calls and an understandably annoyed group of Hashers who self organised an excursion elsewhere. We had to refund their deposits and still lose what we had paid for the bus, the hotel and catering bookings and so on.
I realised then that I do not have the capacity to maintain a heavy drinking lifestyle and that it was bad for me. I didn’t hang out with Jimmy much after that and when he died (a plane crash abroad, not alcohol), I continue to miss him greatly.
Here’s what I have learnt about alcohol:
Lesson 7(a) Alcohol will never run out – so don’t drink like it is: Its important to have a healthy respect for booze. It has the capacity to damage more than just your faculties and your reputation. It will kill you ultimately. I’m not saying don’t drink. I’m saying pace yourself. Alcohol dehydrates your brain in very important parts that affect your cognitive and motor skills. Before you sleep, rehydrate.
Lesson 7(b) Stop yourself before you loose control: The worst things happen to us when we loose control of ourselves. Accidents happen then, date rape happens then, Losses (property, teeth, lives) happen then. As you drink, listen to your body. There’s everything admirable about a person who says, “i’m tipsy, I’m good. No more for me.” Alcohol is supposed to get you tipsy – not drunk. Its all about moderation – when you are moderate, you can enjoy it. It is only stupid people who regale stories of “how they drunk last night”.
Lesson 7(c) Buy your own booze: There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Before going out drinking, set your budget (including for throwing a round or two). Limit the amount of free alcohol you take. You see, there are many people who will be awesomely generous with booze, but never give you a thousand shillings to boost your empty pockets. For as long as they are buying, they have a hold over you – refer to 7(b) above, do not loose control over yourself. Certainly do not allow yourself to be influenced by alcohol buyers. When you buy your own, responsibly, it means that you have factored in all other expenses in your life.
Lesson 7(d) Always, always take stock of opportunity cost: Before embarking on a spree, take a moment and think. What would the drinking interfere with? Will it make you less fresh at work and therefore get in the way of you performing so well that you are promoted? Will it make you unable to deliver on a deal? Could it make you late and dent your reputation? What really are you missing out on if you don’t go on the drinking spree? Can you live without it? Think and be deliberate.
Lesson 7(e) NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE: You have been out and its been a good night. You passed tipsy a beer ago. Leave your car at the club and discuss it with security so they know. Take a cab home. If you have been drinking with your friend, get out of the car and take a cab.
UPDATE: I just read this blogpost by Andy Boyle and I really think you should read it, as you think about drinking – 9 things he learnt after not drinking for two years.