I’m writing this after having my first glass of wine in 101 days. I have embarked on a ‘sober curious’ journey which I am intending on pursuing for the next year. What prompted this, I can hear you ask, given my deep, deep, DEEP love of a good glass of red wine or prosecco? Well, exactly that. My love of red wine and prosecco started getting out of hand especially during lock-down. There was some particularly cringe-worthy behaviour on Mother’s Day – large parts of which I do not remember (I have since discovered that this is called a brown-out – not a black-out. A black-out is when you remember NOTHING.)
Sadly, I did remember bits of my behaviour, including snatching the cigarette out of a young friend’s mouth, whilst shouting, “We did not push you out of our vaginas for seventeen agonizing hours for you to die of lung cancer,” then illogically smoking said cigarette myself to demonstrate my skill with smoke rings. Also, my children were not present (praise be), so I had not pushed anyone present out of anywhere, perhaps I meant it in the ‘it takes a village to push a child out of your nether regions’ sense. Not sure. Logic was not my strong point on that particular evening.
What did shock me about that day was that I did not wake up with the hangover I deserved.
Yes, I had the racing heart, the insomnia, the shame attack at three in the morning – but I did not have my head down the loo puking my guts out which has always been a feature of a binge-drinking sesh for me. Why did this alarm me? Because it showed that I was developing a tolerance for alcohol and coming from a long line of alcoholics, that scared the bejaysus out of me. I have to admit I had also been slightly uneasy about our response as a nation to the booze ban. I was VERY distressed about running out of wine/prosecco, I mean distressed like I had lost a close friend. That worried me, along with the long queues at the bottle store once the lockdown was lifted. Most of our incomes had taken a steep dive, yet we still had money to waste on booze. Hmmm…
Of course, I immediately did a whole bunch of research and read many, many, many memoirs about going dry (called Quit-Lit, it’s an actual thing.) But although I found them riveting, most of them did not resonate with me because the people in them had been through extreme forms of addiction. They were consuming bottles of wine a day along with a gram or two of coke, they were drinking in the morning, hiding half-jacks of voddie in the loo cistern, waking up in jail cells, these were professionals and they made me feel like an amateur. I felt myself defensively saying, “well, I was drinking two glasses of wine a day, and then a whole lot more on the weekends. It’s a lot!”
I found myself exaggerating how much I drank – in my head – to try and fit in.
Then, I came across Ruby Warrington’s book Sober Curious and at last I had found something I could relate to. She asks the question “Would your life be better without alcohol?” And I guess that is what my journey is about. To see if my life would indeed be better without the booze. Because I might not be getting completely wasted every day but there is no doubt in my mind that the amount that I was drinking was Not Okay and that I needed to drastically cut back.
What was clear about my use of booze was that I was using it to numb how horrible I was feeling about the pandemic, the dire state of tourism not to mention the fact that I had friends and colleagues dying from Covid. So, when I stopped drinking, I had an unpleasant couple of weeks facing up to the general shittiness of everything without the anaesthetising effects of a glass or two of vino. But once I got over my mood swings and irritability, I did enjoy the pink cloud effect of being off the booze, and I felt strangely upbeat about everything – not tremendously strange considering that I wasn’t imbibing a known depressant every evening. I also spent a lot of time watching Netflix and reading, because going to the pub, unless we were meeting people really didn’t appeal. I started making more coffee dates with friends, I started enjoying cake.
I have already braved two get-togethers without booze, both rugby functions WHERE WE WON (so I deserve a prize for not glugging down the champers) the one I left early, the other one I stayed until the end and I danced and had a pretty good time, so it’s definitely possible to have a good time without the vino.
It’s been an interesting experiment, I have done this 100 days without booze before but now I look forward to trying it out for a whole year and OBVIOUSLY I am writing about it. I chose my son’s 21st birthday to have a glass of wine and I have picked out a couple of other occasions when I might give myself permission to have a glass of ichampopo, one would be my daughter’s 18th birthday, the other would be the date our book comes out next year, but otherwise, it’s sparkling water for me or de-alcoholized sparkling wine (I highly recommend the Lautus Sparkling Wine – tastes like prosecco or the Allure – more like methode champenoise – both are available from Woolies).
Book recommendations: Some of the Quit-Lit that I have enjoyed has included:
- Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington
- The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley
- The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray
- Blackout: Remembering the things I drank to forget by Sarah Hepola
- Alcohol Explained by William Porter
- Girl Walks Out of a Bar by Lisa Smith
- This Naked Mind by Annie Grace
And on the fiction side of things, my all-time favourite book to encourage one to get off the sauce is of course Rachel’s Holiday by the utterly divine Marian Keyes. And the really fabulous news is that there is a sequel coming out in February 2022 called Again, Rachel. I am counting the days until I get my hot little hands on a copy.
Ps…As you know I am now a #fullyvaxxedkween and I’m thankful to say that my side-effects this time around were not as bad as for the first jab. I only had the fluey, mild-dose-of-covid feeling for twenty-four hours and then I started to feel better. I am so grateful to be double-jabbed and to know that my risk of death and serious illness from Covid is now very slim. GO AND GET JABBED!!