Matt Heath: Post-lockdown, let’s have a week-long, food and drink binge


Who’s keen on a post-lockdown, nationwide, week-long, guilt-free food and booze binge?

Drinkers spend a lot of time thinking about drinking less. We all want to cut back. Even the biggest party people secretly feel bad about their partying.

Recently I felt so terrible about my drinking I stopped. I’ve just rounded 105 days sober. Boy, am I getting thirsty.

There is nothing more Kiwi than waking up hungover and muttering to yourself “I am never drinking again”. The only thing worse than remembering what you got up to is not remembering.

Kiwis pound booze like there’s no tomorrow. A casual drink smoothly transitions into a 12 beer debacle. We take the fun too far and wake up sick with no idea how we got to bed. At least in lockdown you’re already at your house.

Navigating your way home while you’re too drunk to remember doesn’t sound like a great idea.

“It’s a trap” — Admiral Ackbar.

So why do we do it? I blame our brains and their lack of foresight.

If we experienced the headaches and anxiety as soon as we drank, we wouldn’t drink. Our brains would clock booze as poison. Unfortunately, we don’t automatically equate what we are doing now with what it does to us tomorrow.

Neuroscientist Dr Judson Brewer suggests concentrating on what a hangover feels like when you look at your drink. Bring the headache, queasiness and anxiety to mind and you might just trick yourself into seeing alcohol for what it really is.

“First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you” — F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Hangxiety is rough, the pain and the shame steal the joy from the things you love. You’re too agitated to watch Netflix, Disney+, or your kids playing sport.

In non-lockdown times we order the $38 big breakfast, thinking that will help. It doesn’t. Two eggs, hash brown, sausages, bacon, mushrooms and a fried tomato are not your friend. No one is.

You stumble around anxious and unhappy, swearing you’ll make a change. Instead, you have a beer with lunch which turns into a session, and you’re back in the shower the following day screaming, “I am never drinking again”.

“Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems” — Homer J Simpson.

Alcohol is tricky. The only thing guaranteed to make you feel better on a hangover is another drink. It’s the miracle cure. All the things you were worrying about are suddenly funny. You realise you were very cool last night. Drinking is a quick and easy escape from the results of drinking.

Of course, you’re just kicking the can down the road. At some point, you have to stop drinking and face the delayed hangover. When you do it’s far worse than the original. Pain upon pain, shame upon shame.

“Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable” — Gilbert K. Chesterton.

New Zealand has several rhyming months designed to help people cut back. Parched March, Abstain-Pril and Say No-vember to name a few that don’t exist.

I’m considering the opposite approach. Something akin to a parent finding their kid smoking and forcing them to puff the whole pack. A purge week. You go dry 51 weeks a year and then absolutely rip it up in the 52nd.

A model citizen, parent and partner most of the time but once a year you disappear and eat what you want, drink what you want, and say what you want. No rules, no guilt, seven days. It’ll be fun. You’ll also make yourself so disgusted in yourself you really and truly won’t want to drink anymore.

You might be thinking this week-long drinking binge across the nation idea is just my 105 days sober talking. Is this just the mad rantings of a dangerously thirsty man? Let’s find out when we hit level 1. Then let’s never drink again.

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