Body & Fitness

Backchat: No way, Rosé

Why giving up alcohol doesn’t mean having to give up your personality.
At social occasions, if you can’t dance on tables you can always load the dishwasher. If you have to be boring, at least be useful.

There was the time after a very long lunch when we hijacked a taxi with someone in it. Then there was the time I asked a famous writer, on stage, if really, he was just a bit of a shit. On another occasion I got up on stage and did backing vocals with a band, uninvited. Dancing on the bar at Cowboys. There was the time my hair caught alight in the candles at Auckland bar SPQR. And the time I did a live cross to Newstalk ZB in the toilets at trendy eatery Prego. Oh, and don’t forget the time I drank my contact lenses in a glass of water after staying the night in a strange bed.

There was the time I hitched a lift in someone’s helicopter to a private party where Jason Kerrison was playing. There were 12-hour oyster lunches that stretched into dinner, sex in toilets, a party with an elephant in the garden, Moët on a yacht, falling in the drink; good times. So many hot messes. The common denominator: booze and more booze. Which poses the question: is it possible to stop drinking and not become a dullard?

I wasn’t convinced. Heroic drinker Ernest Hemingway said he drank to make other people more interesting. Whereas I think I drank to make myself more interesting. After a few, I could have a temporary holiday from being shamefully anxious jittery Deborah and become crazy larger than life Deborah! She wears too much makeup! She falls over in ridiculous shoes! She’s obnoxious! She swears a lot! She puts on ‘Tik Tok’ very loud and does age-inappropriate dancing. “Brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack, coz when I leave for the night I ain’t coming back.”

After a few wines I thought I was just the shizzle. Until I didn’t. One day it didn’t seem fun anymore. So now I have stopped drinking. I can’t believe I just wrote those words. It seems like saying I’ve stopped breathing or talking or having sex. I used to think you may as well be dead as be sober. I would never again have amusing sloshed discussions about economics and kinky sex. Would I forever be destined to talk about the weather and house prices and school zones? Oh, kill me now. When you’re sober you have to deal with reality. I’ve never liked reality very much. Groups of people, especially normal, well-adjusted people doing normal, well-adjusted things, terrify me. But on the other hand, carrying on drinking and being bloated and sad and waking up with a metaphysical hangover, burdened with shame and remorse, seems even worse.

Edgar Allan Poe said he didn’t drink in pursuit of pleasure, but as a desperate attempt to escape torturing memories, loneliness and dread of impending doom. So what’s the point if drinking isn’t even offering emotional anaesthesia any more? Instead of delicious oblivion I just seemed to have a lot of bruises and blurry regret; I wasn’t sure what for. Once I decided to give up drinking, that part was easy.

On one of my first sober social occasions I drank Diet Coke out of a wine glass and when I texted later to apologise for leaving early, no-one had even noticed I was off the sauce.

I must have managed to be as obnoxious sober as drunk. Excellent! I find if I drink a lot of a non-alcoholic beverage that isn’t water, I favour Diet Coke in a wine glass, I almost start to feel a bit squiffy. I’ve always been susceptible to the power of suggestion and lifting a wineglass of dark liquid to your mouth tricks you into thinking you are drinking. Be careful though that the waitress does not try to top up the glass with red wine.

But there are some other ways to not become a sober bore. First, don’t go on about it. People will want to ask you about why you have stopped drinking. Are you an alcoholic? Is it forever? Are you running a marathon? Nattily sidestep these questions if possible and don’t feel obliged to talk about your reasons for giving up. I find “I’m on pills that don’t mix with alcohol” works if desperate.

Also, don’t gloat about how much better you feel now. No-one on their fifth shot of Jägermeister wants to hear you can get into your skinny jeans and get up at 5am for a run. Even if it’s true. And at social occasions, if you can’t dance on tables you can always load the dishwasher. If you have to be boring, at least be useful. The most important thing to remember is you have to be prepared to rearrange your social life rather than carrying on doing exactly the same thing.

So much of my life revolved around having drinks with people, so by stopping drinking I had to rearrange my social life to include activities other than drinking: walking, swimming, Scrabble, cupcakes. So maybe I have become a bit more boring. On the plus side, I have a lot more time when I normally would have been sitting around drinking wine and talking drivel. As Samuel Pepys said, “Since my leaving the drinking of wine, I do find myself much better, and do mind my business better, and do spend less money, and less time lost in idle company.”

I don’t slur my words or tell everyone the same story 10 times. I don’t eat a sausage roll from the gas station on the way home in the taxi at 2am. I don’t even have to take taxis. I don’t vomit. I don’t text my ex 28 times in one night to tell him what a prick he is. (Actually I did do this when stone-cold sober once, just to prove you can do dumb stuff even when you’re not drinking.) “It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard drinking people,” F Scott Fitzgerald wrote – and he should know. You remember what everyone else did. Best of all you remember what a bore they were. Because really, drunk people are pretty boring themselves; they just don’t realise it.

I still fall over in ridiculous shoes while abstemious but maybe I should just throw them out.

Words: Deborah Hill Cone

Photographs by: Nick Scott /

Related stories