Booze is not my friend and if it is, it’s one of those friends that swear they’d die for you and then bitch about you behind your back and do that really passive-agressive thing where they kindly make you feel shit about yourself (a bit like yucking your yum…and if you have no idea what that’s all about I wrote a blog about it here.)
Currently, I’m not drinking. It’s nothing to do with dry January. I gave up on the 7th January. Actually I didn’t really give up, I just didn’t drink on that day and then the next day and the next day and every day since then. It probably (read: definitely) had something to do with the fact that, on the 7th of January, I read Clare Pooley’s book The Sober Diaries in a day because I couldn’t put the damn thing down.
I know what you’re thinking. ‘It’s only January 18th now…’ and you’d be right. It’s almost been two weeks since I had a drink and I’m sure that, for most of you, who don’t have a relationship with booze that resembles Stockholm-syndrome, two weeks is nothing. For me though, it’s kind of a big deal. I didn’t give up booze for two weeks when I was pregnant with either of my children and I never give up booze when I’m on antibiotics. In the past there’s been very little to make me want to not drink.
The last time I gave up drinking, it was a knee-jerk reaction to an incident that served to scare the shit out of me. I’d been drunk; I’d done something stupid. I’d put myself and my kids in danger. That’s not an easy sentence to write but it’s true and I immediately gave up the booze. I even went to some AA meetings but, for some reason, it just didn’t sit right with me. It wasn’t because I was in denial about a problem that I had – I knew there was a problem – I just didn’t feel like that was the solution I needed.
I searched for alternative groups to AA and couldn’t find anything that was near enough to make it practical for me to get to or that seemed to be what I was looking for. So, I carried on not drinking for three months. After that, I made a pact with myself. In an ideal world, I didn’t want to be tee-total. It was boring and tedious and felt like a life-sentence. So, I would drink alcohol and if anything like that ever happened again, then and only then would I knock it on the head.
So far, nothing like that has happened again. I’ve never blacked out since, I’ve not ended up in any embarrassing situations. Sure, I’ve had some cracking hangovers, but all as a result of socially acceptable good fun. This time around, it wasn’t the binge drinking that was a problem. It was the daily drinking. It was the sneaky glasses of wine that I craved all day. It was the constant countdown to 5pm. It was the two glasses of wine a night that was basically most of a bottle and then, well, why not finish it off.
I can sink a bottle of red wine with little to no effects. I’ll be tipsy but I won’t have much of a hangover – a little fuzziness perhaps and a mouth that tastes like Ghandi’s under crackers – but nothing really to suggest that drinking a bottle of wine isn’t a manageable thing to do. That kind of scared me. And then I read Clare Pooley’s book.
She was exactly the kind of drinker I was. One that, more or less, was socially acceptable. Known for liking her booze, for being a party animal, for always being up for a drink. She wasn’t your typical neck a bottle of vodka before breakfast booze-hound that couldn’t function unless they had something to take the edge off. She was a mum, a professional and a lover of Sauvignon Blanc.
This was me. I saw myself in what she was writing. That was why I didn’t feel comfortable in AA. How could I sit there and discuss my ‘bottle of wine’ on most nights habit while there were people who’d nearly died from their addiction? But what Clare was writing was exactly what I had been feeling. The ‘wine witch’ as she refers to it was talking to me too. She was telling me that a glass of wine at 4pm instead of 5pm was perfectly acceptable. If it was lunchtime and I was working in town on my own, she would tell me that a glass of wine (a large one) with lunch was totally fine and I was grateful to hear it.
I knew in my heart of hearts I was drinking too much even if there didn’t seem to be any discernible negative effects (other than that my waist was rapidly disappearing). I knew that I was having way too many negotiations with myself, in my own head, the sole purpose of which was to justify the next glass of wine.
So I decided to not drink on Sunday 7th January when I read Clare’s book. And then again on the 8th and the 9th and the 10th and so on. I’m here writing this with a alcohol-free beer to keep me company and right now, I honestly don’t miss it. I’m sure I will. I haven’t done a party, a night out, and lunch with the girls yet. I have no idea what that will feel like, whether I’ll choose to have a drink or not but I do know that today, right now, I’m not having a drink and it feels pretty good.