Getting back in the game…

Much has been written about drinking and its debilitating effects on the human body, mind and spirit. All largely true. 
 Taken with the wisdom of such insights, I once stopped drinking completely for five years. Half a decade! Five years of not one drop of booze.The benefits were many: fresh, energized mornings of joy and happiness, promotions at work, more disposable income, the admiration of vivacious women… For the sober man, the very fabric of time expands with loveliness and possibility. 
The thing is, though, it gets a bit boring. You can only be the one straight person at a house party for so many times before you stop going. And watching a ska band like Fuzigish without a beer in your hand feels like a crime against nature.
Also, World Cup 2010 was coming up. SA’s biggest party ever! I wasn’t going to be the only straight person at that thing. Bugger that.
So some time in late ’09, I resolved to start drinking again.
It may sound simple, but relaunching your drinking career after five years off the sauce is easier said than done. Believe me.
For one thing, your alcoholic tolerance has vanished entirely, so you have the drinking capacity of an eleven-year-old choirgirl. For another, booze tastes absolutely terrible!
When your tongue’s no longer accustomed to it, even a light beer will taste like carbonated Rand Show mop water.
 It was a lot like being back in Standard Eight and trying to get into drinking for the first time. Except I was a grown-up.
In those days in early 2010, I would be at a table in a bar, we’d order a round, everyone would finish theirs and I’d have, like, 90 per cent of mine left. “Yoh! You only nursing that one, hey,” would be the jibe.
So the next round I’d try keep up, forcing this stuff down my gullet every minute, dry heaving all the while. I’d skelmly pour a bit of my drink out into the potplant when no one was looking.
Sometimes I’d take my beer to the toilet with me and pour some in the urinal, hoping no one would catch me.
I found myself drinking stuff like Spin, because it was sweet and went down easier. Manly drinks like whisky… that stuff was like paint thinners with fishing hooks in it.
But I persevered. The World Cup was too important for Project Relapse to be abandoned.
In the months leading up to the tournament, I would take myself off to the Brass Helmet, my local, and force-feed myself three Windhoek Lights in one sitting. With two Sparkles in between each one to get rid of the taste.
Pretty soon we’d all started buying our merch – vuvuzelas, Bafana jackets and those scarfs like a long SA flag. By that time I could have three proper beers and a shooter without kotching.
I was still far from competitive match fitness, you understand, but I was no longer an embarrassment.
My tolerance being what it was, though, my hangovers were on another level. One morning, after a night where I made new breakthroughs in my training, I woke up convinced we were having an earthquake.
But the body is a marvellous thing and much like Spain striker Fernando Torres, I was able to complete my comeback in time for World Cup 2010. There I was at the Innisfree Fan Park: feeling it, nicely pissed and freezing my arse off.
Even today, in a lot of ways I’m the Fernando Torres of dopping. After my enforced lay-off, I will never be the same player I was in my prime. But given the right man-management, decent service and the right attitude, on my night I’m still capable of greatness.

Writer for television, print and digital, corporate and editorial. Editor and writer of books. Musical performance, spoken word as Inspector Ras. Guitar/vocals for The Near Misses, (Worst Band In JoburgTM). The last whitey at umsebenzi. Latest book 415 Action-Packed Neighbourhood Marketing Tips with Basil O'Hagan, out now. @hagenengler

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