Was I ever really the life and soul?

Is excess better than moderation? PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Is excess better than moderation? PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
I have memories of Mum ferrying Dad glasses of water and Panadol up the dark hallway, while Dad lay in bed with the curtains pulled with that terrible affliction that he got sometimes after cards nights with the neighbours or when family came to stay.

The previous evening’s hilarity involving cards and playing the spoons long forgotten, replaced by hushed tones of "just pop the telly on kids, Dad’s got a migraine, he’s going to stay in bed today".

We thought it was awesome, as we’d get to watch telly and play Sega’s Alex the Kid all day without Dad growling at us to get outside and play, away from that "idiot box".

Dad wasn’t really a drinker so these events were few and far between, but on those rare occasions his hangovers seemed so dreadful I recall wondering why he’d ever do it again.

All through my 20s I was blissfully untouched by Dad’s alcohol allergy. Working in hospo and then banking in Sydney I could go out entertaining clients on a Thursday, slog through an eight-hour day at work Friday and then do it all again both nights of the weekend. While managing to fit in running, swimming, the gym and competing in the odd corporate triathlon event.

In my 30s the occasional hangover did start to slow me down. But I still managed to get in a bunch of multisport events, a few half marathons and a new-found passion for mountainbiking.

Some people may recall I even had a brief stint as a boxer — great skills and fitness training, but the saying "everyone’s got a plan until they get hit in the face" is very true.

Boxing was not for me. Boozing however, was an art-form I’d perfected.

But since hitting my 40s, good grief, the hangovers are awful.

This past Sunday I had to face the fact I’ve turned into my dad.

Alcohol is associated with "treating yourself". We say things like "we deserve a blow-out", our social media feeds are full of memes about "Mummy’s wine time" and major events are almost always sponsored by an alcohol brand with crowds of happy healthy people waving their alcohol in the air.

Honestly, I think we’ve been had.

On Saturday by 3pm I’d done the invoicing, tidied up the kitchen, gone for a family surf for two hours and made a serious dent in weeding the garden.

Saturday night was an epic evening at the new music venue Errick’s with homegrown Dunedin bands and 300 Dunedinites carving up the dance floor. I felt like Super Woman. So, I celebrated by downing a few too many alcoholic lemonades.

In comparison, on Sunday by 3pm I’d barely managed to brush my fuzzy teeth.

I contemplated this as I lay in bed after a nap, with the curtains closed next to my glass of water and Nurofen. Alex had left me to nap and put a movie on for Fin while I tried to sleep off my hangover.

So, did I really deserve that? In all honesty I reckon I would have had an epic night sober, the music and the company was awesome.

Like many in my network, alcohol has become a social lubricant and compulsory component to all corporate and social events. It’s certainly helped me get past social anxiety over the years.

I did a three-month stint off the booze entirely a few years ago.

Socially, I became a pariah.

Some people have a deep distrust of sober people — I know, I used to be one of them, encouraging the teetotaler to "come on just have one".

Never was this more apparent one night when a friend actually told me to get back in touch once I was drinking and "fun again".

When I’m sober I may not be the life of the party, but was "I" ever — or was that just the booze?

If I’m feeling socially anxious, maybe I’m just tired or not in the right company.

Thankfully I’ve noticed a step change in alcohol-free drinking.

Earlier in the year we hosted an event at work, the alcohol-free cider and beer was the first to go.

There are a huge range of delicious alcohol-free beers, ciders, spirits and wines. If you pour them into a wine or beer glass, no-one even knows the difference.

While I may be less fun on a night out. I have way more fun with my hobbies — my hangover on Sunday robbed me of my morning cold swim, Junior Surf Life Saving (although Fin begged not to go anyway because it was raining), planting my tomatoes and an afternoon of writing this edition of "Ripples".

So next time you see someone having an alcohol-free drink, it’s not because they’re boring, ask them what they’re up to the next day.

Or, if you’re the one battling the hangovers every weekend, I highly recommend finding yourself some hobbies worth getting up for.

 - Sarah Ramsay is chief executive of United Machinists.