My excessive drinking during the Euros has convinced me to get sober

My excessive drinking during the Euros has convinced me to get sober

As I made my way to watch the England v Denmark game last week, my resolve not to drink rose and fell like an inflatable tube man in a garage forecourt.

‘Come on man,’ said my internal monologue, ‘think of the money you’ll save. Plus it would be nice to maintain some decorum. You could be dashing and graceful all evening — like Jude Law! And think of the calories you’ll dodge!’

But then — and this second voice had a notably more dulcet tone — ‘What harm would a few cheeky cans do? It’s the Euros, after all. Everyone will be drinking. It’d be weird not to. And anyway, you’re not an alcoholic, are you? You have a few days off a week. And you don’t drink in the daytime, or miss work. You’re golden! Stop beating yourself up and have a lovely can of beer.’

In an attempt to shut up this second voice, I texted my best mate ahead of arriving at his place for the match: ‘I’m not drinking tonight btw’

His reply arrived a moment later: ‘U f**kin jokin?’

Not quite the fraternal support I’d been hoping for.

The first few matches of the Euros had been a blast. I watched every single one, and I got roaring drunk on every occasion. I loved the mayhem of it all; England scoring and the sudden deluge of beer raining down from pints hurled skyward.

After the Croatia game on that roasting hot Sunday, I watched as a south London bar was turned into a slip and slide, through a mixture of sun cream and lager. It all seemed a bit of harmless debauchery — cartoonish, like cowboys slinging one another off balconies in saloons. Nobody got hurt.

As the weeks went by however, increasingly often I was waking up and cringing at the antics of the previous evening, and the impact soon spilled over into the daytime.

Like after England beat Germany, the next morning I found myself sitting bleary-eyed in a job interview, with red and white dye clinging stubbornly to my twice-washed hair. In a stunning turn of events, they didn’t hire me.

On the day of the Denmark game, my resolve not to drink lasted until I stepped off the Tube in the city centre. London reeked of alcohol; gaggles of men in vintage England shirts hurried past clutching white cans, girls daubed with the St George Cross took sly sips from wine bottles. The atmosphere was electric. It seemed suddenly very clear: sobriety would be a grave loss.

I bought a large pack of beer and drank every can. And when I woke up the next morning, and the blurry memories of the evening drifted back — of running around the city, arms spread wide, hooting and hollering like a bellend — I buried my face in my pillow and wailed ‘whyyy’ for a very long time.

I think part of the reason it pains me to watch those videos is because I can’t help but see a sliver of myself in them

The desire to get sober had been growing for some time by the day of the final. Since I turned 28 I’ve fantasised increasingly about cutting down on my drinking — unearthing that elusive six-pack, safeguarding my dignity, and making sage moral decisions. But there was always another boozy occasion just around the corner.

Consequently, as the day of the Italy match arrived and I cracked open my first drink just after midday, I couldn’t be quite sure whether the hiss was the can opening or the sigh of the exasperated angel on my shoulder.

It didn’t matter. It was the final, and I could cut back later. I wanted a blowout.

I wasn’t alone in my endeavour. As the drink flowed throughout the day, my friends shared videos of mayhem across London: a bewildered man clinging to the roof of a bus as it sped away into the night; a man in a bucket hat sniffing ungodly amounts of a white powder in front of a cheering crowd; stewards being crushed by shoving crowds at Wembley; a topless woman dancing while cheering men leant in to cop a feel; a man climbing a streetlamp and falling off onto his head; a beer garden torn to shreds as a fight broke out and wooden chairs were hurled full-force into unsuspecting faces.

And then England lost, and we all walked home in the rain.

I think part of the reason it pains me to watch those videos is because I can’t help but see a sliver of myself in them. Out of control, dignity lost, willpower dissipating with each successive drink.

It’s ugly. And there’s an inescapable, bitter irony in it all: screaming at the fit, principled young footballers on-screen to work harder while double-fisting your 11th and 12th pints of the afternoon.

Sober people don’t do that stuff. Sober people watch the game, cheer when we score and commiserate when we concede, then go home to their partners with clear eyes and clear consciences.

After several failed attempts at cutting back on drinking, watching the UK tear itself apart during the Euros has convinced me it’s time to make a change. I’ve not had a drop since, nor do I plan to for the foreseeable future.

It won’t be an easy task in a country so besotted with booze, but then, when it comes to our nation’s attitude to alcohol, perhaps we’re all overdue a bit of a rewire.

I’ve spent all my adult life as a drinker, and now I’d like to switch teams — and to leave alcohol on the bench.

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