If you know me, you will probably know I tried to spend 2014 without a drop of alcohol. For the most part I stuck to it. Apart from being encouraged profusely by my parents to drink on my 21st birthday, having communion, and sharing some Sassy Reds with my best friend before we both jetted off to different countries, I made it through the year without a beer or a whisky. I’m pretty proud of that, knowing me.
So, seeing as this blog is intended to provide a space for young Anglican adults to share their stories, and given that the next Grace Collective event is about alcohol, I figured, “Hey, I have a story about that. Let’s write something.”
Before moving back in with my parents, I flatted for a wee while with some mates in Mt Eden. Our flat quickly became a common hang out for our friend group, and that often meant when people wanted a party they came to ours. I drank more in a few months then than I had the full year before. Admittedly that was a lot of fun – full of a bunch of drinking games I’d never tried before, dares, drunk mafia, and late nights– it would probably be fun for almost any student who was 19 and trying to figure out who he or she is. But, like any drug, it did come with side-affects.
One of the side-effects that I still laugh about was the many secrets that I learnt from my friends in the early hours of the morning after a few too many Heinekens. One of the side-effects I don’t laugh as much about was the secrets about me which they learnt.
It was a great time. I had inappropriate things drawn on my face, danced a lot, and learnt to turn empty bottles into cups. And the mates I did it with are some of the most exceptional people. (Shout outs to you fullas if you are reading this – Love you).
But it was also full on, tiring, expensive, and unsustainable. I was by no means an alcoholic (I don’t think). But I was very much a binge drinker at the end of most weeks.
While at the time, YOLO was my mantra; I began to notice how the lack of sleep was affecting my ability to concentrate at work or smash out assignments like I wanted to. I noticed that I was relying on alcohol lubricate my social life, rather than learning to have fun without it. And, more than anything, I noticed the negative affect on my bank balance. Being someone pretty interested in social justice, I became acutely aware of how drinking so much meant that I was less able to give my time, resources, and energy to people who could really use them to get on their feet. I also saw the way New Zealand’s drinking culture was affecting my friends, like it had been me, so I decided to take a year off from dem booze to save dem $$$$, get a new perspective, and better observe NZ’s drinking culture.
It was a pretty buzzy time. Both my friends and me pretty quickly got used to the fact that I wasn’t drinking, and soon I stopped getting pressured to “just have one.” I think people learnt that I wasn’t judging them, I just wanted to “try lemon lime and bitters for a while for personal reasons.” I grew to be pretty chuffed with myself for making such a shift. The only times I missed beers were at the end of a hard days work, where I would often sit down and have a brew with Dad. And while I didn’t do a full year, I am still pleased with my efforts. Here is what I learnt from that time. I learnt that little or not drinking really does improve your ability to save. I learnt that I could have fun, and be fun, just by being myself. I began to realise more and more just how much New Zealanders spend on dranks. I have friends who increased their Living Costs (loan money), just so they could buy more beersies. I have mates who went into overdraft on a night out, or who would spend over a $100 each Friday on the town. I’ve bought water for vomiting girls because their mates had run out of money to get her some, buying cocktails at Code, and I have seen my homeless buddies drink away their sorrows so much that if they touch another drop, they’ll likely have to get liver surgery.
And, I learnt that I don’t even like the taste of alcohol anymore. On New Years I was in Shanghai. I had 4 brews to celebrate the possibilities of 2015. But, I didn’t even really like the taste. I enjoyed them, but I would’ve preferred Ginger Beer or Lemon Lime and Bitters by a long way….or maybe even a latte.
I hope you don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-drinking. I don’t dislike alcohol on principle like some people. I often hit the clubs with my girlfriend or the mates. Also, I don’t think, like some people, that drinking a lot means we misrepresent Jesus, but…I acknowledge that I have done things when I’ve drunk a lot that did misrepresent Jesus, and I don’t want that to be a recurring theme in my life.
I guess at heart of it, having taken time off da booze, I’ve come to see how much it is consumed and abused in New Zealand. And personally I don’t want to participate in that myself. I’m not going to tell you to never drink again, because that’s not what I will do, because alcohol isn’t inherently bad. But I guess, what I would like to do, is encourage you to think about why you drink, what you drink, how much you spend on it, and whether tonight is in fact a good night to be knocking them back, if tomorrow holds some important stuff to get done.
Those questions will help us all drink more responsibly, and I think we can all agree that that is a good thing. For me it means almost all the time I get Lemon Lime and Bitters. But for you it might mean most of the time you just smash back 1 or 2…or still 10. Idk. But let’s at least make sure we think before we drink.
That’s my story and my reflections on it. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope it was thought provoking.
Given that this GC thing is about a collective of people, and given that we all have stories, I’m keen for you to share your stories and experiences or thoughts on alcohol in New Zealand with me. Maybe you just have a funny story about it, or maybe you want to challenge my thoughts. That’s cool with me! I’m just keen to hear your stories as we lead up to this event.
Jeremy is a member of our core GC team and a regular contributor to the blog, MC and speaker at our events. He works as a youth pastor on the Shore as well as dressing up as Batman for children’s birthday parties. What a dude.