One of our Muttoneers decided it was time for a dose of abstinence after a summer of over-indulgence on the booze front. Here she records her Month off Booze.
Well I survived! One day down, only 30 more to go… No booze today. No booze for four days actually as I started early. If I complete this, it will be the first time since I could legally drink that I have gone a month without any at all!
So why did I sign up to a month without alcohol? I’ve been aware for a while that my drinking was creeping up. I LOVE wine, particularly white, rose and anything sparkling. And it’s definitely a habit to have a drink at the end of the day. But it rarely stopped at one drink. And two became three and sometimes more. Far too regularly really. I drink when I’m happy and have something to celebrate. I drink when I’m sad and need cheering up. One friend confessed that she drinks to ‘take the edge off’ at the end of the day. Yup that works for me too.
But there are all sorts of reasons why I shouldn’t drink, or certainly not as much as I do – a predisposition to bone density loss after early menopause, bad balance, sometimes high blood pressure, and the proven adverse affect of alcohol on one’s hormones. Not to mention all those empty calories I guzzle. And I rarely go three days without drinking which is the time off it takes to maintain a healthy liver. Not to mention that I run and do ashtanga yoga, neither of which are much fun the morning after drinking the night before.
A friend asked if I was raising money? Nah. Why should others pay to support what is really only me exercising a little self control? (Which I really need to work on.) No, I’m actually paying for the privilege of not drinking during October! I’ve signed up with Club Soda to do their Month off Booze (MOB) and so far I’m impressed with what they provide for the money.
Club Soda is on a mission to help people reduce what they drink or quit completely. It was set up by Laura Willoughby and you can read about her journey to a teetotal life here. The Club Soda team sends daily emails of encouragement and their website is a mine of useful information to help keep one off the booze. They started prepping us a week ago and have already had an online booze free social (I wimped out of that one) and a last night webinar of support and tips. (I joined that one, but certainly wasn’t about to introduce myself!)
Club Soda reckons that we get drunk together, so why should we have to get sober alone? So it’s a very social enterprise with a virtual MOB room where one can compare notes and grumbles and get pretty rapid support. What will I do at the end of the month? Hopefully still enjoy my wine, but more in moderation, and without needing a drink at the end of the day. We’ll see.
I haven’t yet put together my ‘quit kit’ but I’ve printed out my ‘daily ritual’ sheet and I’ve hidden some bottles of wine out of sight. I tried hard this morning to visualise my booze free day and any potential pitfalls I might encounter so I could mentally plan for them ahead of time! So far so good. But the weekend is coming… Wish me luck!
I’m still here! Nearly a week without booze and one weekend down. But evenings are noticeably less fun without the golden nectar. And horror of horrors – I’ve put on weight! How did that happen?
I think I’m going to blame the Becks Blue alcohol free beer that I’d already developed a taste for and which now allows me to at least pretend I’m having a drink. But it’s definitely more weight inducing than a slimline gin and tonic. (I guess the reward chocolate might play a part too.)
Club Soda members didn’t rate Becks Blue that highly in their taste test but I’m quite partial to it. At least it tastes vaguely like alcohol which is more than can be said for alcohol free wines. Those just taste like weird, sweet (and very expensive) grape juice. There must be a huge market out there for alcohol free drinks that actually taste like alcohol rather than fruit juice. If I wanted fruit juice, I would drink more of it anyway – and rot my teeth while I’m at it!
But try buying alcohol free beer in a restaurant or bar. They just look at you blankly or with a patronising smile, if not actually saying ‘look love, this is a pub innit?’ So tonight my beverage of choice while I watch the England Australia match will be lime and soda. I ASK YOU, what madness drove me to sign up to a MONTH OFF BOOZE in the same month as the RUGBY WORLD CUP? Good lord, what possessed me to do that? Scrum down. Cheers!
Hey I’ve done a week! (I started early, remember. Keep up!) I cannot remember the last time I did that. So I’m feeling quite virtuous. A couple of missed dinners have knocked off those extra couple of pounds too, so I’m not desperate to get back on the gin and slimline tonic diet just yet. I even managed to not drown my sorrows after the disastrous performance from the England rugby team. Just as well we are still a United Kingdom and there are two other nations I can get behind. Go Scotwales!
Club Soda’s daily emails are welcome additions to the day. Yesterday they talked about procrastination and how doing the MOB requires one to postpone immediate gratification (giving into the desire to have a drink) in pursuit of longer-term goals (feeling smug a the end of the MOB). I’d never thought of procrastination as an emotional need, but I guess it’s all about doing the stuff you want right now – getting a short-term smaller reward – rather than what you have to do to achieve a bigger more long term goal. Apparently this is called hyperbolic discounting.
Club Soda says procrastination protects us from possible failure – if we don’t try we can’t fail – right? When doing the MOB, we need to think long term goal of finishing it, rather than knee jerk, what the heck, I’ll have a drink. And that applies to how we approach all of life really. Do we usually look for the short term reward instead of aiming for longer term achievement? If current day smartphone usage is anything to go by, many of us are looking for a quick instant hit pretty much all day long, rather than concentrating on something bigger and better than needs a sustained period of focus to really make a difference. I know I do. How does anyone ever study for an exam any more?
Pretty powerful stuff I reckon. When I signed up to the MOB I didn’t expect it to make me question how I run my whole life! Here’s one quote I may tattoo to my forehead: “Do not trick yourself into believing you have had a productive day when all you have done are things from the bottom of your to-do list.”
So far I’ve succeeded in my MOB because I’ve avoided friends and functions where there is alcohol. One kind friend came on a walk with me rather than us having our usual drink. This week I’m going to a gala fundraising dinner with free champagne. I LOVE fizzy stuff. But I will have to decline. Boo hoo. Message to self: think long term and lovely smugness.
So what’s my secret weapon for surviving this week? My car. I’m going to drive myself to the black tie dinner! I just hope I can find somewhere to park in central London that won’t involve staggering too far in my high heels. But at least there’ll be no staggering home….
Gosh, that came around quick. Two weeks down already. Pretty good huh! I drank cranberry juice and fizzy elderflower instead of champers and white wine at my everso posh fundraising dinner. But unfortunately I couldn’t stay long enough to enjoy any drunken debauchery from my fellow guests, which might have been very entertaining given the everso posh people in attendance. I did end up donating rather more than I’d planned, for some chairs for a school in Africa, but maybe I’d have given even more if I’d had my generosity lubricated with alcohol. Always look on the bright side.
But I’m still mainly avoiding booze-based social occasions so I can avoid temptation. And I’ve started fantasising about that first mouthful of chilled white wine at the end of the month. That is going to taste SO good. But avoidance as a strategy seems to be working so far. And it’s only for a month, which in the grand life scheme of things, isn’t too long. My chocolate intake is definitely up though and I hope I’m not going to become a stress eater now that I can’t take that edge off with a swift one.
This month is making me look again at the British attitude towards alcohol. I’ve long thought that as a nation we set too much store by alcohol and I don’t like the way young people now imbibe it to excess as a matter of course. But then again, historically it’s as much a part of our culture as, say, fish and chips. In fact maybe even more so. There are few places in the British Isles, however small, that don’t have a place of worship and a local pub. The local has always been an intrinsic part of life, originally only for men but not any more. Pub names and the signs that hang outside them are a rich part of our cultural heritage.
Going for a drink (after work, to relax, to celebrate, to commemorate) is what we do. It always has been. We crack open the champagne to wet the baby’s head and get drunk on whisky at a wake. But as our incomes have increased, so too has the amount of money we can afford to spend on alcohol. One pint no longer lasts a night spent propping up the bar for a convivial chat with other regulars. And many of us now drink heavily at home.
It’s all become a bit too easy. Our young people now buy cheap booze from the supermarket and get pissed before they even head out on their official ‘night out’. And by the end of the night, they are so inebriated as to not remember anything about it. That doesn’t seem very sustainable. Habitual drinking habits are being established earlier and earlier. And the NHS is paying the price. This new survey confirms that Brits are the heaviest alcohol drinkers worldwide.
Do I feel better without the booze? I’m sleeping better but I often still feel sluggish when I wake in the morning. And without alcohol tinted eyes, I’m more concious of those dark circles under them at the end of the day. Either that or the dark circles really are getting worse! I thought I’d be able to run further too but my early morning energy isn’t quite what I’d hoped for.
But I do seem to be getting more done. And my smugness quota is creeping up!
One very good thing is that I now know for sure that I’m not an alcoholic! I can’t see me going dry for good though. Bottoms up!
The end is in sight! And because I started early, I have done more than 4 weeks without booze. And 30 days, so that’s a month right? Except October has 31 days. So really I should do 31 days, so that’s the day after tomorrow to have a drink, right? But then October doesn’t finish until Saturday. So I either wait until gone midnight on Saturday or Sunday lunchtime to have a drink.
Can you see the way my mind’s been going?!
I’m bored with the Month off Booze now. The novelty has worn off. IT WOULD BE SO NICE TO JUST HAVE A DRINK. So what am I going to do? Slog it out all the way to Sunday to prove a point? Or enjoy the bubbly which will be part of my Friday night entertainment before October ends. Is it churlish to say no to that already paid for bubbly when I will have done 32 days alcohol free by then? Does any of it really matter?!
In the comments below someone asked why I was sure I’m not an alcoholic. That got me pondering. I know people have varying definitions of alcoholism. So I turned to Google and then of course to Wikipedia which says:
In a medical context alcoholism is said to exist when two or more of the following is present: a person drinks large amounts over a long time period, has difficulty cutting down, acquiring and drinking alcohol takes up a great deal of time, alcohol is strongly desired, usage results in not fulfilling responsibilities, usage results in social problems, usage results in health problems, usage results in risky situations, withdrawal occurs when stopping, and alcohol tolerance has occurred with use.
At the beginning of the MOB when filling in my questionnaire on Club Soda, I actually scored quite low – 11/40. So I wondered whether I needed to be worrying as much as I was. But as I get older, I’ve learnt to trust my gut and my gut was definitely telling me to cut back. It wasn’t that I wasn’t in control of my drinking so much as I lacked discipline. I wanted to drink so I did. It might have felt like need but not drinking for a month has shown me that it wasn’t need. It was want mixed with a huge dose of habit.
If I look over the Wikipedia definition, alcohol is strongly desired but none of the other criteria are in place. My tolerance may have crept up but I expect my first drink now to go straight to my head so if it was an issue, it’s no longer one. So I stand by my claim that I know for sure I’m not an alcoholic.
But am I now a chocoholic? That’s another question entirely!