Drinking is fun. It's cheeky, it's social, it's a bit rock 'n roll. But it has a serious, darker side too.
The binge drinking culture of Kings Cross has shown it at its worst; king punches, innocent deaths, Clover Moore branded 'Queen of Sydney grog' for daring to allow people to open bars.
All this startling, unsavoury behaviour couldn't be further from fun.
We leave school knowing precisely how to calculate the area of a trapezium, yet we're not taught pragmatic methods of controlling our drinking habits when we're chucked out into a world where there's a pub on every street.
If a new drug was released on the market tomorrow that caused vomiting, violence and vitriol, it'd be illegal; it's really only nostalgia that means we accept this as part of our culture.
But it's an all or nothing world out there. Either you have the epiphany that you drink too much, then duly climb the 12 steps of AA. Or you drink.
So how do we fill that space in between – of learning a more manageable approach to drinking for those of us who don't actually want to give it up?
This past month, many Australians have undergone a 'Dry July' – a popular fundraiser which raises awareness of drinking habits.
Short-term alcohol breaks are recommended by many organisations, such as the fabulously named Hello Sunday Morning. Spokesperson Jamie Moore says: “A break from alcohol - whether that's one week, or three months - can help you understand your relationship with it.”
The campaign is one of several emerging, innovative support avenues that use the online and social media space for people to share their experiences of going short-term sober, offering solidarity, tweets and tips on avoiding the tipples.
Writer and 'self-confessed dipsomaniac' Ben Mitchell has set up his own blog, titled 'Year of Living Sober' and Twitter account @YearOffBooze to do just this. He told me the crucial first step that led to this: “Controlling my alcohol intake meant firstly learning to leave an open bottle of wine unfinished.”
All these abstinence methods are interesting. But all involve giving up. What's missing is how to live with boozing without just cutting it out. There's a real gap which needs to be filled with practical, realistic and achievable advice for people who want to control their boozing into a manageable social habit.
Research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released in December 2010 compared Australian male and female drinking habits. It found that almost twice as many Australian men identify as 'daily drinkers': 10.8 per cent of males drink daily in comparison with 5.5 per cent of women.
The disparity for weekly drinkers also over-represents men: 46.8 per cent of men are weekly drinkers, falling to 35.9 per cent of women. When it comes to giving it up, the cold turkey method also seems to be more successful among Australian women than men, with 8.1 per cent of women identifying as 'ex-drinkers' – juxtaposing with 5.8 per cent of men.
Because giving up booze just isn't a reality for many men, what can be done to minimise its damage?
I went back to the dipsomaniac tweeter for advice. Ben Mitchell said: “Stay out of rounds! Go at your own pace. (If you can't avoid getting in a shout, buy a lime soda when it's your shout, telling suspicious folk it's vodka!)” Sounds do-able, but must we resort to mendacity?
And the cruel truth is, we can create an artificial jellyfish from scratch and discover the 'God particle' – but we haven't yet found a cure for that bleak dilapidating purgatory that is a hangover.
It was for this reason I banned myself from wine two years ago, and now just drink spirits.
At that time wine was ubiquitous – from sharing a bottle of (admittedly) the second cheapest wine over dinner, to office Friday wine. I followed all the cautionary rhymes: White on red, you'll be dead; red on white, you'll be alright. Beer on wine, you'll be fine; wine on beer, you'll be queer. But whichever way I drank it, wine only led to a very specific, insane type of drunk and I-need-to-be-hospitalised-hungover.
The consequences of giving it up were revealing. I lost eight kilos, with hangover binge-eating being reduced and the calorific intake of wine itself eradicated. Hangovers and self-control became immediately more manageable.
I discovered that identifying and removing your devil drink – rather than all drink – really can work.
It's time that supportive organisations progressed beyond the sensible but often impractical 'drink water in between your alcoholic drinks' advice. Us drinkers know that a) this never happens and b) if it does, you pee all night.
There's more than one type of drinker in this world. It's time there was more than one type of approach to booze-control than just 'give it up for a bit.' I'll drink to that.