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Life is great without the alcohol. Now for the hard part - giving up sweets

November is the cruellest month, not April. It gets darker and colder. Everyone is saving for Christmas, and if you're self- employed you have just given everything to the Revenue.

It's a month when many give up alcohol, a kind of winter Lenten sacrifice.

I never did it, of course, and used to laugh into my wine glass at the idea. Not any more.

Today is my 120th day without alcohol. I decided to stop in July because I had hit 40 and being a drama king, determined to have a mid-life crisis, I needed a big change.

The benefits are staggering. Long, deep sleeps. No hangovers. Time slows down, so you can get things done. Things that were daunting before are dealt with quickly and easily. Slights, real or imagined, bounce off you, making you determined, not depressed.

You eat better, except when it comes to sugar, a demon I need to give up now. Still, there's no more 2am kebabs, no more cheese and crisps binges, no more headaches. I lost weight and am getting a lot done (but not in a Fianna Fail way).

Frank Sinatra felt sorry for people who don't drink, because "when they wake up in the morning, that is the best they are going to feel all day". True, but its also not the worst…

There are scary side effects, too. Gravity becomes a tangible reality. You are conscious of your own body weight and the effect staying still has on it. It's painful - you simply have to stretch and exercise.

Drink creates a sense of weightlessness, of false energy and invincibility. Oddly, without drink you are far more susceptible to injury, being more energetic in a real way, but without the anaesthetic quality of alcohol that not only hides pain, it makes you bounce around the place to no ill effect.

Unfortunately, my addictive nature led to an obsession with sugar, not only as a substitute for alcohol but also as a ridiculous reward for being good. Now I'm constantly looking out for natural recipes for sweet treats without sugar. At this rate, by Christmas I'll be a vegan.

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Some say you shouldn't count the days, but I actually enjoy it. Every milestone like 90 days (the AA recommendation) or 120 days gives a great sense of accomplishment. It's a kind of game that helps me stay on track.

I haven't joined AA, I've just made a conscious decision not to drink. That's not a tough-guy stance, it's a personal effort that I don't really want to talk about, bar here, in a national forum.

Strangely you meet a lot of fellow travellers - it's like a secret society who recognise each other by certain dessert orders.

The most difficult thing of all is how to deal with social occasions. They are still fun, initially, but there is a certain time you just have to remove yourself, generally after everyone repeats themselves for the second time or starts shouting in your ear (between midnight and 1am).

I drink non-alcoholic beer, not just because I like it (and it is still excellent with Indian, Japanese or Mexican food) - it disguises the fact you're not drinking.

Even better is Nanny State from Brew Dog (which has an ABV of 0.5pc so a bit of a cheat), which you can safely enjoy in craft beer places.

Despite the romantic cliche of the drunken Irish artist, you can be much more consistently creative without alcohol (and maybe live a bit longer). It may indeed be a lubricant for genius, for a while, but its real power is in allowing mediocrity to fester.

People go to gigs and think the music was amazing, but how amazing was the gig, or was it the drink that just made things sound better? Was that comedian really funny, or was it just because you placed yourself in a situation where you are supposed to laugh, and the drink helped you to do so?

How many of the decisions that brought this country to ruination were because of drunk or hung-over decision-making? How many agreements affecting the 'little' people are made over an EU wine and cheese-mountain lunch?

The more I've had to write about the last 10 years, from satire to opinion, the more I wonder what a drink-free Ireland could be like. Can you imagine? The productivity. The clarity. The creativity.

Could there be a revolution before 2016 over, of all things, water? With or without drink, it would be good to see everyone thinking more clearly...


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