Next month is STOPTOBER. Yes, a nationwide campaign to encourage us all to rethink our relationship with drink. Alcohol and I have an interesting friendship which I’m going to be –hopefully comedically - honest about in this essay. It’s longer than my usual articles but if, like me, you’re uncomfortable with your approach to drink I hope it helps.
I’m a gloriously happy drunk. I’m truly the smiliest, silliest, most friendly person you’ll ever meet at a party. An evening for me will go like this:
Drinks 1-2: Just a blur of fizzy toasts
Drinks 3-4: I become briefly argumentative for about 20 minutes. My friends call me “Susie the Truculent” and fill up my glass.
Drinks 4+: I’ll be an absolute sweetie who will either conk out at 10.30pm or a heroic partymeister who will have to be dragged off the dance floor at 4am. Nobody knows which of these to expect, least of all me.
This isn’t some misremembered activity. People comment regularly on what a happy little lush I am and it certainly explains why I rarely get “cut off” from booze by friends and family. It bothers me, though, because I’ll happily drink buckets of booze and suffer horribly the next day. I have never been able to judge what a sensible amount is and the phrase “when drink’s in, wits out” couldn’t be more apt.
Now obviously this doesn’t match with my healthy image or the message I send out to clients so for around 7 years I’ve tried various ways to enjoy a drink sensibly. I feel now, at the age of 43, I may be making enough progress to share some of my attempts with you. Please note, I have spectacularly failed to manage booze throughout these 7 years but each occasion has provided its own insights. I now drink around 75% less than I did then and I enjoy each tipple far more, not least because I have some control over an evening.
I’d never admit to such failings if I didn’t think I could help someone else so here are all the methods I’ve used to curtail my drinking, along with the results of each effort. It’s a bit of an overshare so please admire me for my honesty even if you’re aghast at my behaviour! If you’re planning on adopting some of these bear in mind that I tend to drink at weekends only so have never had to think about reducing mid week alcohol intake.
I’ll list them in order of least to most effective rather than chronologically (which just goes to show the depth and breadth of my experience in this matter!).
Each of these attempts may have lasted around 3-6 months so you can appreciate how slow my learning curve was. My desire has always been to enjoy a drink safely, not to stop drinking altogether. All these methods were punctuated with hangovers which could not be assuaged with any amount of bacon, paracetamol or cooling eye masks.
Before I tell you about the next attempt, I want to repeat that this is not about stopping drinking, it’s about enjoying drinking safely. However, the real turning point came when I took a month off booze.
Stopping drinking led to a voyage of self discovery which would be extremely boring to relate and really just consisted of running each weekend through all the reasons above and vowing only to drink when I was imbibing for positive reasons like celebration, social engagement and good, plain fun. It’s still under constant review but as a result a bunch more good practices have been spawned.
Now I water lots of drinks down, take regular fortnights or longer off, only drink when there’s groups of people with me, never feel pressured into drinking or chastise myself for getting it wrong. In short, I drink less and enjoy it more.
If I’d known how much information I would have gained by just stopping drinking for a month 7 years ago I would have saved myself a lot of failure and hangovers. And this takes us neatly back to Stoptober. The only way I could understand my relationship with booze was by avoiding it. At last I had perspective and could make the right decisions at mostly the right times. If you’re not sure about your alcohol intake, why not consider going without for a short time? If Stoptober/October’s too soon, consider Dryanuary/January. It might change your life.
Many of my clients have been with me for 7 years and much longer so I know readers now will be thinking back to when we first met and realising the schism between my health message and my own actions over the last decade. When I tell you to make changes for your health’s sake, at least you know I understand the challenges and I’m speaking from experience.
Enjoy Good Health.