A month before I went sugar free, I gave up alcohol. It was my 2017 New Year’s resolution. Would I have given up sugar and alcohol at the same time? I don’t know is the honest answer – that seems a BIG hill to climb. Anyhoo – I digress. This blog is all about why I gave up alcohol – and how that’s working out.
I always make New Year’s resolutions – and I start thinking about what I want to change, improve & focus on by mid December. 2016 had seen a resolution to make “healthy choices” however small – and that had helped me stabilise my weight, think differently about “diets” and avoid the “saint or sinner” mentality I had developed over years of yoyo dieting. December brought it’s usual slew of social events & Christmas parties…..both for me, hubby & the teenage kids and Scotland’s recent drink/drive alcohol blood level changes have made conversations about who was going to be driving the morning after much more frequent. The kids social events (either evening or morning) often require lifts – and occasionally it sounded like I was prioritising my social drinking over their plans – “I can’t get you a lift up to your friends Saturday morning, as I’ll be drinking Friday night” started to sound more and more wrong somehow – like their world was revolving round my drinking. Now don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t drinking THAT much – I have always had rules about not drinking on a “school” night – and often didn’t drink in the house, but a night out would definitely have me over the new safe driving limit the next morning. I had also been becoming increasingly uncomfortable with prevalence of alcohol on social media after seeing an article about an Instagram series of photographs by a young woman all containing pictures of herself with alcohol…it talked about the normalising of alcohol on social media…..a subtle subliminal message that drink was a constant presence in adult life. It had made me very aware of what I posted on social media about – and how many of my friends posted about alcohol, whether it was to share jokes, promotions, check in’s to pubs – or celebrations of everything from it being Friday, Gin o’clock or just surviving a bad day. Posts about having a good day – brings comments of “have a glass of Prosecco!”, a really good day? “Have a bottle!”, a bad day “have a glass of wine!”, a really bad day “Open the gin!” Being tagged in posts that celebrate friends that drink – or ones that offer gin tours means that even if YOU don’t post it, your friends can still see that someone thinks it’s relevant to you…..and my social media friends include my kids and some of their friends. Kids who are at an age where drink is already a peer pressure issue – and really – thanks to Facebook, they would be forgiven for thinking that all middle aged women do is drink. A throw away remark from one of the kids about not being able to enjoy a party without a drink struck home – that and a photo/joke post shared by another child showing a Mum passed out “tired” clutching a bottle of wine. Perhaps I needed to do more to counteract the social media subtle brain washing – I needed them to see at first hand, close to home, that you COULD enjoy yourself sober – and that you didn’t HAVE to drink if you went out – or stayed in. I had done “Dry January” a couple of times, but what I had found was a month wasn’t long enough to make a point. Dry January seems to be a burden to be endured, challengers dragging themselves through the month, with an air of desperation as the days tick past. I needed to do more….an abstinence long enough to make it habitual – to reinforce the message – not by ticking off the days desperately, but by repeated conversations and leading by example. I had found my resolution.
One of the first tests was a family wedding – a week into the New Year. I was worried the bride would mind, the hen do in December had included a cocktail making class after all, but I decided to keep it quiet and just do my thing without making a big deal of it. My daughter’s comment at the end “Well Mum, no one would have known you weren’t drinking” I took as a complement. Though it may have been primarily directed at my exuberant dance style, it had got the point across ….you didn’t need to drink to have a good time.
What I have found, is that other people are more uncomfortable with my sobriety than I am. A few less invitations to things I might have been included previously. People who try and encourage me to drink – as if my not drinking is a sign of disapproval of their drinking – or jokes about spiking my drinks or assumptions that I must be driving. While it might occasionally seem easier to pretend I am not drinking because I have the car – I have instead used any questions as an opportunity to talk about the “normalisation” of heavy drinking – and the effect that must have on our young people. The drink culture that has Ladies Day at Aintree look more like a scene from a bad Zombie film – staggering and slurring somehow made worse by the posh frocks, elegant heels and fascinators. Not quite so elegant sprawled on the floor, or struggling to stand having hit the deck after one too many bottles of fizz.
So 4 months in and I can honestly say I’m not missing it. I don’t miss the hangovers – or the feeling I’d maybe been a weeeeee bit too loud or just a touch argumentative…. and it certainly made going Sugar Free easier. Will I drink again? Probably. But it will, I think, be rare – and not an automatic consequence of a night out.