This a guest post by Grace Fletcher-Hackwood.
I’d say my drinking habits are about average for someone from my age and background. In other words: inconsistent.
I don’t really drink at home – I’m much more likely to be found with a cup of tea than a beer or a glass of wine – and my family don’t make a habit of getting the booze out for special occasions, so Christmas, for example, wasn’t a particularly drunken event.
Weekends and special (and not-so-special) occasions with my friends are a different story. Friday nights at O’Sheas in Manchester means a good few pints of Guinness. Saturday nights dancing on Canal Street mean shots, lager and more shots. Even a couple of hours playing pool on a weekday evening usually means taking advantage of a special offer on a carafe of wine.
I’m five foot one, not especially heavy, and I’m usually drinking with men – which means trying to keep up with drinkers who are bigger and more practised than me. And I’d be the first to admit that I don’t always handle it very well. What’s more, as I get older, the hangovers are starting to take up more and more of my time.
I know that, like a lot of women my age, I probably go over my recommended number of units of alcohol on one or two nights a week. And I know, too, that no matter how many nights in you have with a cuppa, you’re not allowed to ‘save up’ your units and carry them over. After a pretty heavy night just before Christmas, I woke up with one clear thought in my fuzzy head: I’m twenty-six now. It’s time to think about the drink.
I’ve tried ‘dry spells’ before, with varied success – I’ve done ‘detox January’ a couple of years running, did a similiar ‘sober October’ this year to recover from a party-heavy September, and once gave up drinking for Lent. I found both up- and downsides: the feeling of waking up and knowing, before I even open my eyes, that I definitely don’t have a hangover, was quite a winner. Being the only person sipping tap-water while everyone else is necking cold bottles of beer or iridescent cocktails brought a novel feeling of virtuousness – at first. But before long I was feeling more resentful than smug. And every time I’ve tried it, I’ve been queuing up at the bar a good few days before the scheduled end date.
I woke up with one clear thought in my fuzzy head: I’m twenty-six now. It’s time to think about the drink.
So this year I’ve got a good idea what to look out for when it comes to triggers and temptations. Do I really need to go to the pub after meetings? I have a Muslim friends in politics (some of whom have been trying to persuade me to cut back the drink for a while), so it must be possible to be a dry politician (well, some people might say all politicians are dry, but I think that means something else…)
Probably the biggest test is going to be around the 20th – my friend Lou’s birthday. Lou is 1. one of my best friends; 2. a vodka connoisseur; 3. pretty knowledgeable about white wine; 4. the person who provided over a hundred vodka jelly shots for my housewarming party back in September; and 5. (this may go without saying) not a fan of this whole Dry January project. I don’t want to turn down any invitations from Lou, and I certainly don’t want to be a spoilsport on her birthday. Can I stay dry and stay sociable too? I hope so. Am I going to have to sit near a pot-plant to dispose of wine without causing offence? Maybe.
I’m not convinced I’ll keep up the alcohol-free lifestyle after January 31st, or even that I’ll get through the month without a moment of weakness – but I’m going to enjoy the opportunity to give my body a break, and to observe the changes I have to make. After all – how hard can it be?
Grace is 26 and lives in Fallowfield, Manchester, with too many cats. You can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/msgracefh