It’s over, 4 weeks of being completely booze free..
On St Patrick’s Day, I celebrated Ireland’s Sporting successes, of which I include my dry month, with a few pints, well more than a few, of Magners Irish Cider
The last time I took a month off Booze I struggled to make it.. I’m not sure if you realise but there are 31 days in October! Every single October.... even in a leap year, that’s the longest a month gets..
Back In October 2016, I undertook the Sober for October challenge. During this I had two beer days, which was allowed under the rules (for a £15 donation each time). Now as permissible as this was it clearly takes away from being Booze free for a month, so despite being a Sober hero, for which I received a badge of confirmation, I wanted to prove to myself that I was able to give up alcohol whenever I wanted.
This time around it was booze free or bust.. Complete cold turkey. I had been thinking of taking a Booze break for a while and although I didn’t have a specific reasoning in mind, the Sober October challenge was at the back of my mind. I knew that I could do it and in this occasion I was also interested in the many reported health benefits.
Choosing a 28 day period that ended in time for not only the biggest party day in the Irish calendar but the culmination of the annual Six Nations Championship gave me something to aim towards..
But that alone wasn’t going to be enough to get me through, so with a little research I had two vital support mechanisms in place. The Art of being sober, by Catherine Gray & alcohol free beverages.
Catherine, who’s family are from a small village not to far from the Liquorjunky Bar wrote a painfully honest book, recounting not only her out of control drinking but her courageous journey to get sober and stay that way. Her disdain for a trip to the Grand Canyon captures perfectly the experiences that can be lost due to the preoccupation with booze!
As for the Alcohol free beverages, I should clarify that I’m not talking about Cola or juice, but something a little more akin to a ex smokers nicotine patch, only without the alcohol or, obviously the nicotine.
After sampling several Alcohol free beers in the past 4 weeks with varying results. From Budweiser’s offering that makes Shandy Bass taste like award winning craft beer to Big Drop Brewing Companies excellent Pale Ale, I was comforted in my booze free days by the familiar aromas of beer even if the bite of booze was missing.
Many people look quizzically on Alcohol free beverages with a what’s the point, point of view! No alcohol, no thanks, why not just drink schloer or a soft drink?
And while I see why they would think that, for me the placebo effect was strong, like an ex smoker who twiddles a pen just to replicate the feeling of having a cigarette in their hands, I found some comfort in relaxing with a beverage that smelt like and almost tasted like beer, without the downsides of booze.
It’s probably a good time to clarify that I am by no means an alcoholic, a few drinks generally mellows me out and makes me sleepy. I don’t get confrontational if I drink a particular drink and you will never find me in the middle of the dance floor gyrating like a pot bellied giant being electrocuted, after a couple of sherbets. In fact the worst thing I probably did as a result of drink was put Heineken on my weetabix.. (I was accused of taking a leak in an old girlfriends make up drawer once, a scurrilous accusation that I continue to refute)
But like everyone else, well except tee totalers, we could all stand to take a look at our relationship with alcohol. As a nation I believe we should look towards the European style of drinking, no excesses, a glass or two of wine over a leisurely meal. A couple of beers in the evening with company. Pairing alcohol with food to enhance a meal instead of pairing booze with booze to replace a meal. Generally in the UK & Ireland a lot of people drink to get drunk, which is the opposite of our Euro cousins.
Binge drinking is and continues to be a major problem, especially amongst some of our younger people. While on one hand socializing and the nighttime economy sustains employment in the bars, clubs and off licenses, the other hand hammers Policing & Health Care services with the additional strain.
Yet for all our young people getting drunk there seems to be almost as many who show no interest in alcohol. Young adults who socialize without partaking, who see the health issues that alcohol can create, who don’t want to put themselves at risk of being intoxicated or simply have better things to spend what little disposable income they have on.
Combine this outlook on drinking with the ever evolving Alcohol free market & it’s clear that we might just be about to experience a cultural shift. The young in society are subconsciously influencing, albeit slowly, us away from the very British & Irish drinking culture to a more healthy and sustainable social life.
20 years ago the non alcoholic offerings in a bar were generally limited to a bottle of Becks, if you were lucky, or else a tonic water. Now most bars stock a couple of AF Beers and generally list one or two mocktails, which are indistinguishable in appearance from the boozy cocktails you would expect to find in a pub.
But back to me and my 28 day challenge. I came through it, with my support mechanisms, fairly unscathed. I didn’t find myself painfully craving a beer after a shitty stressful day, and what little cravings I did have where taken care of with booze free beers!
I met up with Magners, my drink of choice on St Paddy’s Day. We were reunited over a long day of International Rugby. Starting a little after midday and ending shortly after 11pm.. I have to say I enjoyed the golden boozy liquid which has served me well for over 14 years now. What I didn’t enjoy was the countless trips to the bathroom, the shitty nights sleep that followed or waking up to a ball of clothes that I discarded before falling into bed. While I wasn’t hungover the next day, I stayed in bed until lunchtime reading Catherine’s book and napping. I spent all of Sunday in a lazy daze feeling badly fatigued after a poor nights rest.
Surprisingly I spent all day feeling as if I had lost time, I missed out on an entire morning and part of the afternoon. In addition I was crushed by that feeling of what happened, what did I do last night, which stayed with me all day. I knew that the answer was nothing, as I had been at home drinking in my own bar, yet I still felt strangely uneasy.
So what now? I think it’s time to amend my drinking habits. Ill stop short of giving up completely, but one or two quality craft beers a few times a week might be the limit.
The truth is I can’t be bothered running to the toilet every 15 minutes anymore. I also realized I like to watch the entire match, movie or tv show and remember what happened the next day. Plus I’m not getting any younger & quality of sleep is important to my, old before my time ass, so binge drinking defo loses on that front also..
The real test of mettle will be a sunny summer day, where the BBQ is lit & the paddling pool is out. Thats a rarity in the Northern hemisphere and just screams ice cold beer.. this year it will be quality over quantity
Worried about you own drinking?
The internet has an abundance of free resources which can be found on a simple internet search.
The unexpected joy of being sober is available online at that big massive well known retailer...