It was not my intention for this story to be the next public step of my wellbeing experiment, but I feel like it needs telling, so here we go.
A Creature of Habit
I like a drink. Occasionally I’ll have a drink every day during a week, though I usually go without for two or three days. Regularly, two bottles of red wine are on the weekly shopping list, and regularly they get emptied down my throat during the course of the week. Regularly. I’d guess this is a habit I’ve develop and persisted with for almost thirty years. It feels odd to write this and in so doing, look back over such a long trail of empty bottles.
I’ve never considered myself to be dependant on alcohol in any way, and yet clearly, I drink pretty often. Data published in The Guardian in 2013 indicates that men in my age group are putting away over 30 units of alcohol a week, and around 75% of men exceed the daily recommended amount. It’s always struck me as odd that something so intoxicating has a ‘recommended daily amount’ – we don’t apply such parameters to ecstasy, LSD or cannabis, despite them all apparently being much less harmful than alcohol. I know there’s the small matter of legal v illegal, but still…
I digress. Back to the booze, and in particular, the habit. As part of my wellbeing experiment, I decided to do without alcohol for a while. We met friends for a belated Christmas get together in a country pub on January 3rd, Carole drove and I had a few drinks. After lunch had finished, so had my relationship with alcohol, for a few weeks at least. I decided to see if I could get to the end of January without having another drink. I was nervous about this part of my experiment – how would I, as a regular drinker, cope with no wine or beer?
On The Wagon
It feels a bit odd to write and tell you that I found the next four weeks easy. For some reason I worried that taking away something which had become such a frequent part of my life would be tough. It wasn’t and I am grateful for that. Aside from the ease with which I abstained – what else did I learn?
1 – I’m sleeping better – and there is an unsubstantiated rumour circulating this house that the frequency and volume of snoring has drastically reduced.
2 – I’m waking better – I still feel tired after a late night, but once I’ve woken up I’m sharper, ready to go.
3 – I don’t appear to have lost any weight – I can’t prove this because our scales are broken, but the mirror doesn’t lie and my current chubbiness persists.
4 – Social events often centre around alcohol. I decided I would not seek to avoid going out as part of this experiment, and when I did go out – I observed that almost everyone I was with was having a drink. At one event I went to – an enjoyable one I hasten to add, I was offered a beer on arrival, which I refused. Then wine – politely declined that too. Next came Fanta. Seriously? No thanks. Finally we got to water – yay! It came in the teensiest glass I’ve ever seen and I spent the rest of the time perfecting my pour, drink, pour, drink technique.
Back in the Saddle?
As night follows day, so February 1st follows January 31st – and in 2015, February 1st was SuperBowl Sunday. My team – the Seattle Seahawks were in the game as defending champions, competing against the New England Patriots. We lost the match in the dying seconds, I don’t want to talk about it. Prior to the game – I had convinced myself that beer would be a required accompaniment, and I had ordered in some Nanny State beer, brewed by Brewdog. This beer is marketed as alcohol free although it contains 0.5% alcohol by volume. Over the course of the three hour game, I think I drank four bottles. It tasted OK and it made me want to pee a lot!
The following night Carole and I went to Koko in London to see Prince play live at a secret charity gig. The gig was excellent, and I had a bottle of Heineken. One was enough, particularly at £5.50 ($8.40) a bottle. On Thursday I poured myself a glass of wine and I had two or three sips and threw the rest away – I wasn’t enjoying it. On Saturday night I had a bottle of beer.
What happens next? I’m not sure, but I’ve learned a lot from this period of absence and I’m really enjoying my current approach to drinking. If you’ve tried a similar experiment recently, I’d love to know how you found it/are finding it?