So last month I did a challenge! The challenge was simple enough; only drink clear fluids for a month.
Before I go any further, I’ll explain my stipulations.
I was only going to drink clear fluids, not translucent fluids. Whilst it’s possible to see through the amazing amber coloured liquid that is beer, it is not transparent. So beer was out. As I knew I had this challenge coming up, I spent the week leading up to it in a beer soaked haze, a real proper bender. By the end I was getting random kidney twinges, so I was quite looking forward to this somewhat cleansing challenge.
But apart from cutting out beer, I would be cutting out all kinds of delicious beverages. Coffee. Juice. Smoothies. Chocolate milk. Port. Spiced rum. Soft drinks. All of these were now going to be replaced by water.
And vodka, gin, and bacardi.
As it turns out, I had one night on bacardi for the month and no vodka. But I made up for it with gin and tonic.
Before the challenge began, I decided I would be allowed to drink beer on St Patricks day and my cousins wedding, as he had told me how he had a lot of international beers he had ordered in specially for the wedding, and it would be true beer crime to not sample one of each.
But I’m skipping ahead. I’ll take you back to February, when I was doing the Wheel Of Time challenge.
The first day of February saw me almost running 5K’s. It was a warm up/training run for an upcoming race Scott and I were going to be doing on April 1st, called ROC race. It was a Wednesday. After my run I decided to celebrate afterwards, as is usual, by sitting in the glorious sun and enjoying a few beers. Then I went out with a friend and got dinner and beers. Then we got more. And came back to my house and decided to get stuck into the gin. By the time the philosophical chats were finishing up, along with the pouch of tobacco I had, it was closer to 4 AM than 3.
The next day I began singing lessons.
Over the month of February, I’d only found myself not hungover on a Thursday once, and that’s because the lesson got moved to a Friday. Somehow every Thursday in February found me nauseated, sweating, dehydrated and coughing my lungs up from smoking too much.
I realised that I actually need my body to be able to do things. And whilst the many hours sitting around drunk and reading the wheel of time were enjoyable, and at some times necessary, going to a singing lesson and wondering if I was going to vomit the moment I opened my mouth to sing was not a good feeling at all. It is also far from productive.
With these thoughts in my mind, I began to consider clear fluids.
As I knew I had the race on the first of April. A 5KM running race with random obstacles may not sound hard, but this was something Scott and I needed to train for. Therefore, it made sense to hydrate and care for my body in the month leading up to it. I envisioned how the month would be. No more waking up hungover. Drinking water first thing in the morning instead of coffee. Being able to sing better due to being properly hydrated. I didn’t even stop to consider the negatives; things like trying to work a 12 hour night shift without any caffeine. They were future problems, I’d deal with them as they came.
So, with very little preparation apart from drinking the last of the beer in the fridge and having a final coffee just before midnight on the 28th of February, I began the challenge.
The first challenge came shortly after I woke up.
A friend of mine I hadn’t seen in years got in touch and asked if I wanted to catch up for a coffee. Schuster is a comedian these days, and I really wanted to see how life had treated him in the years since I had last seen him. I almost declined the offer, as I didn’t know what to do at the cafe instead. Drink water? Just sit there rudely whilst he had a coffee? My friend Mauro works there, so I would get to see him as well. I recognised the same thoughts forming as with the smoking challenge. Maybe I could have a coffee and start the challenge tomorrow? I don’t have to start on the first day of the month do I? Surely this is an extraneous circumstance?
That’s the thing with challenges though. They aren’t meant to be easy, and theres no right time to start. You just do it.
In the end, I decided fuck it, I’ll go and have breakfast instead of a coffee. And despite really wanting a coffee once I walked into the cafe, the experience was enjoyable without it. I saw Schuster. I saw Mauro. I ate delicious food and I rode my bike home. Not a bad start.
The rest of the day passed without incident. As night time came I began to want a drink, but the feeling passed, and I didn’t have any physical signs of alcohol withdrawal like shaking or sweating. I think it’s more of a psychological addiction and I blame the sun. A nice day with a cool beverage that will lead to pleasant intoxication is my trigger. This time, I didn’t even pick up the gun.
That first day, I stood on the bathroom scales and weighed myself. 75.7 KG. The scales are kind of shitty, they are some electronic ones my housemate has, but I figured that as long as I keep using the same set, I’ll be able to track any progress.
The second day passed by quickly too. I had moments when I wanted a coffee. My housemate had some soft drink and offered me some but I declined. As I was getting ready for bed I had a craving for chocolate milk. I began to realise that drinking clear fluids is not really that difficult of a challenge. To quote what I wrote at the end of that second day “it’s a want not a need, I’m obviously just a spoilt fucking adult”.
The third day I caught up with Ryan and we had a jam with Jack Crook, a skater from back in the Geelong days. The jam was great, amazing actually. We all had a lot of fun and it sounded really good. But fuck was I craving a coffee. A quick trip down the street to stand and deliver. A cup of plunger brewed stuff at home. Fuck, instant coffee, black, no sugar is pretty much just slightly bitter flavoured water right? But it’s not clear, and instead I drank water. When the shadows became longer, I switched to gin and tonic so I had some kind of flavour. But otherwise, I was definitely rehydrating myself a lot.
That night, a bloke by the name of Bob Log iii was playing down the street. Now I’ve been told to go and see Bob Log before by Scott. And I have intended to do it for years. But I was feeling strung out and tired. I was ready to crawl into bed to be honest. But then I thought fuck it. It’s a free gig. It’s literally around the corner at a winery. Go and watch 20 minutes of it.
I wandered down there and it was a subdued winery crowd. That is, they had been drinking a gutfull of piss all day, but they were still playing at being sophisticated in suits, shirts and dresses. Nothing would have made me happier than to have a beer and revel in just not being part of that; with my ripped jeans, dirty hair and a pouch of tobacco in my pocket, a beer would have suited my mood much more than a glass of wine.
But beer is definitely not clear. Whilst wine, in the dim light of the winery, actually did appear to be clear. So I had a glass.
Now perhaps I failed the challenge here. It’s hard to say. I know that for me, in that moment when I realised they had no gin and I had to wait until Bob Log at least came on stage, I looked at the wine and decided I could see through it. It was either water or wine, and I decided that if I’d come this far, then I may as well have something alcoholic. So I went with it, and drank a glass of wine. One glass became a few more and I ended up having an absolute blast watching Bob Log, sticking around until the end of the night before walking home with a big grin on my face.
When I got home I posted something about the gig on Facebook, and my ex commented on it. I ended up falling asleep before I realised that she was drunk, out in Melbourne, and possibly after a booty call. At the time I was a bit pissed off with myself the next day for missing an opportunity; as it had been a while since I’d woken up next to someone.
By the time I was onto the second week, the only thing I was missing was coffee, and that was sporadically. Some days I would wake up and want a cup first thing. Other times it would hit mid morning and I’d want a cup. I ignored the cravings and continued drinking water. I also found I started smoking less too, as I began to sing more. As I was hydrated, my voice began to get stronger, and I could practice for longer periods. As I was told by my teacher that it’s best not to smoke 40 minutes before you sing, I found that I would hold out on that first smoke until after I’d sung. The challenge was starting to have some positives!
I also jumped on the scales after a week and I was sitting at 74.5 KG. I’d lost a bit over a kilo, but those scales were a bit shitty, and weight fluctuates easily so I didn’t think on it for too long.
The 9th of March found me sitting on a beach with a girl after 3 hours sleep. I’d worked a hectic nightshift and was dead on my feet, but when the sun is shining and a cute girl asks you to come to the beach, you ignore that shit and do it. The girls name was Bec, and I’d worked with her for about 3 years.
I’d had a crush on her since I’d met her. The first time I saw her at work, I went home and wrote a terrible, terrible song about how it shouldn’t be legal for girls that hot to be in the same place as me, because it meant I couldn’t think or talk properly. But back then I had a girlfriend, and this was just some work fantasy, something I would never act on. Plus she had a partner. And there had never been a hint that the feeling was reciprocated.
So there I sat at the beach; once again struggling to think, reminiscent of that first day I met her years ago, compounded with a foggy nightshift brain. I tried to talk about things other than work but found myself lapsing into silence frequently, unsure what to say next. I thought that maybe she wanted to be friends, as she had recently split up with her ex, and I didn’t want to come across as creepy. Perhaps thankfully, I had to drive back home for a singing lesson before I could make too much of a fool of myself. I fought sleep and self doubt during the hour drive back, only to get a call as I got home to work another nightshift back in Geelong.
Have I mentioned at all how much I was missing coffee? Red bull? Fucking anything with some god damned caffeine in it! But after I’d gotten through that night, anything else was a breeze.
Ten days passed.
I got wrapt up in my own shit and didn’t write anything down for those 10 days. The clear fluid challenge was in full swing, but it took a back seat in my life, it was just something I did without thinking. One week after that day, on the 16th of March, Bec came up to Melbourne for an appointment. We caught up and got lunch, and I found myself breaking my challenge when the dumpling place didn’t have any gin and tonic. Sure, I could have had water. But Bec was going to have a beer. I didn’t want to have nothing, so I got one too. In retrospect I could have asked for sake maybe. But no, instead I lost the challenge, with a minimum of fanfare and very little fucks given. It was after all, only one beer.
We headed back to my place and had some gin and tonic. Whilst I’d lost the challenge, there was no point in throwing it away completely. One gin became one more. And some more. As I began to feel on the slightly drunker end of tipsy, I frantically messaged my mate Matty. It went something along the lines of “Dude. Help! What do I do? I’ve got the house to myself. I’ve got a girl here who I think is cute as hell. We’re drinking gin and tonics. How do I go from talking to this girl to seeing if she was interested in something more?” His response was swift and to the point, suggesting that we continue to drink more gin and tonic. So we did. Somehow his advice worked. But again, with a months hindsight, I now realise that the crush I’d had on her wasn’t a one way thing, and she was in the same boat of self doubt as me.
So yes, ahhh clear fluid challenge. St Patricks day was the next day, and I’d already lined up a blinder with my 3 uni mates. Meet at the lazy man bar in the morning. Drink until
That last sentence is purposefully left hanging, as we had no real plans beyond that. Why put a full stop on a good thing?
Despite only having 2/3rds of the 3 of us, it was still a good day. Kez and I drank until
Well until Ryan came and picked her up and gave her a lift home, and I caught a train back to Brunswick in a tutu.
More days passed. By the time the third week hit, I wasn’t craving coffee anymore. I was content without caffeine, just drinking water. I was singing better and smoking less, I think. I had one more indiscretion up my sleeve, and that was my cousins wedding.
I made the most of it.
My brother decided a few years back to quit his job cheffing and go travelling. Only thing was, he didn’t actually leave. He ended up living at my parents house, playing playstation, eating cheese and an inordinate amount of snack food, whilst still maintaining a figure that could best be described as “concentration thin”. Read into that how you will, but the end result was that he didn’t go travelling and instead got another job and moved out of mum and dads house, continuing his lifestyle of playstation, cheese and snack food.
This time however, when he quit his job, he decided to book a ticket and actually go overseas. He booked a one way ticket to Peru, leaving the day after my cousins wedding. Something about limited tour group spaces to see Machu Picchu. I personally would have given myself a day to recover from a wedding hangover, but he carried the sobriety flame that night, as he had to fly out of the country around 6AM the next day.
Most of that wedding was spent with my little bro. As I got drunker and drunker, and he grew more and more tolerant, I couldn’t help feeling an inner glow inside of me. Here was the second time in a matter of months that all of our families were together, mum’s side at Christmas and dad’s side for the wedding. I’ll say one thing for Todd, he may have fucked up the flight times (in my eyes) but he definitely timed it right otherwise. With many of my cousins living interstate or over seas, and ageing grandparents on each side, it’s possibly the last time we will all be together, without someone being in a box and the rest of us in suits.
But I’ve digressed from my challenge again.
It was with much chagrin that I woke up on the couch of the father of the groom and discovered there were 5 bottles of gin that hadn’t been consumed the night before. I’d sampled the 10 beers on offer, and instead of switching to gin, I went back and began re-sampling the beer. My clear fluid challenge could have handled a slight glitch and then realigned itself during the same night, but instead I kept drinking beers. I’d also opted to swap my shirt with a random guy and follow him onto a bus heading to Barwon Heads instead of Geelong, which then resulted in me sleeping on the couch instead of a bed or seeing my brother off at the airport.
The next day though, the clear fluids resumed, and some kind of equilibrium continued.
The final thing that happened during the clear fluid month was on the 30th, when I went and watched my friends Mauro and Electric Sam play in their new band, Sect Ape. Now I don’t know how this happened, possibly from the lack of food and the increase in gin and tonic on that particular night, but I found myself drunk after the gig. And during it too I think, but definitely drunk by the end. I approached the band after the show and just straight up told them that I was in their band, they had no choice, and I was going to play samples. I spoke with them for ages afterwards, on a buzz that I’d joined the band.
I woke up feeling pretty fucking hungover and stupid. Not because I didn’t want to join the band, on the contrary; I’d been honest when I’d spoken my mind. I did want to be in the band. But I thought that perhaps my overconfident bravado may have been a touch too much. After all, these guys are good. Like really, really fucking good. I messaged Mauro asking him something about hearing the songs and after a few hours with no reply, I decided to just call him.
To my surprise, he was down for me to join. He hadn’t swatted me away as a drunk friend with some enthusiasm, he was taking it on board.
And so here I sit, less than a month later, having practiced with them once and not being sure what to do, facing the prospect of recording with them tomorrow at Electric Sam’s house for their upcoming EP, with a gig next week. And I have no real idea what I’m doing, where they want the noise or if I can live up to my claims. But fuck it, that’s how most of these challenges seem to start anyway isn’t it? I get a foolish idea, and work out the minor details as I go.
And in the end, I lost a bit of weight too.