Daily Archives: 10/01/2015

I’m a lifelong boozehound – but I’ve been sober for 11 weeks

This was a news article that ran in the run up to Christmas but I’m sharing it because what she writes is so true.   And she talks about UDI’s (the term medics used for Unidentified Drinking Injuries) which I’ve heard called UBI’s (unidentified beer injuries) or UPI’s (unidentified party injuries).  These are my edited highlights:

During December, Britons imbibe 41 per cent more alcohol than the monthly average, consuming in excess of 600 million units. Over Christmas (a period that appears to get longer every year), 54 per cent of men and 41 per cent of women are expected to drink more than their recommended guidelines. New Year’s Day sees the highest number of emergency admissions for acute intoxication, the Saturday before Christmas the next highest, with drunken accidents costing the NHS £3 billion per year.

At a time when we are having our first debate on drugs in a generation, I am asking myself why drink is the great national addiction we ignore, and the personal addiction that I somehow celebrate.

Britain lives for its booze: ’twas ever thus. We relish the idea of ourselves as lovable hedonists, always ready with a joke and a jar. Nevertheless, the past half-century has seen a change in alcohol’s status, propelling it from luxury to staple. Oiled is the new normal: be one at home, at large, at leisure, or interacting professionally (term used necessarily loosely). We feel we need alcohol to relax, to socialise, to parent, to have sex.

Women have been at the forefront of this transition: a shift from an occasional port and lemon in the snug to Mumsnet’s “wine o’clock”. Drink is now a feminist issue. Those with degrees are almost twice as likely to imbibe daily, and admit to a drinking problem, a correlation stronger in women. At its most extreme, the number of alcohol-related deaths among female high-flyers has soared by 23 per cent over the past decade.

I stopped drinking in a quest for sleep. I set myself three months in a bid to quash the insomnia that has dogged my existence. I also ditched caffeine. It worked. After 15 days of headaches and wakefulness, I sleep normally – beautifully — for the first time in my life.

Here is a list of the other good stuff that has happened: my health has never been better; I am significantly less stressed; mortifyingly, I have lost a stone, despite making no changes to diet or exercise. I have listened to people, organised my life, and found things I had thought lost. I look younger, my hair is shiny, my skin glows, even my teeth are cleaner (less sugar and not brushing them p—–). I have not been “flooded with energy”, as everyone and their dog promises, but I fear I am not the “flooded with energy” type.

As for the downsides, there are none. Given how appalling the idea of sobriety is, the reality is embarrassingly easy. I have not missed drink socially. Quashing professional stress is a work in progress (I have gone from being a headbanger to a Headspacer — advocate of the bestselling meditation app). I have never liked doing things when people tell me to, so party season renunciation works. Moreover, going booze-free is now a movement, especially among the young, with pensioners and the over-40s society’s functional drunks.

I am faced, then, not with a Christmas of kamikaze revelry, but a number of big questions, not least: when my three-months is up on December 13th, what am I going to do? The “alcohol-free” website, Soberistas, a secular Alcoholics Anonymous, divides drinkers into those who can quaff moderately and those who can’t. I am and have always been in the latter category, despising moderation in all things.

Sober, I have seen through the behaviour of fellow large livers: the “wit” that fails to mask glass-watching anxiety; the “generosity” the purpose of which is to keep one’s own glass filled; the dazzling “fun girl” who, three drinks down, almost lost an eye to a martini glass, while setting fire to her skirt.

That was me, in Soberista terms. In AA terms, that is me. From the age of 14 to 43 my life has been brilliantly, Britishly dominated by anticipation of, and reaction to alcohol. And now I am confronted with a decision: what is it going to be?

This isn’t the only article that Hannah has written about herself, the Brits and booze either:

The Problem With Pinot: What Wine Does To Your Face, April 2013 http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/health/diet-fitness/article3728385.ece

I have recently lost weight. I was not especially fat before, and am not especially slender now. Still, it has rendered me prone to the sort of banal, “what’s your secret”-type interrogations that dog female celebrities. More mortifyingly still, there is one: for the first sustained period of my adult life, I have been abstaining from alcohol. My name is Hannah and I am a lardy, barely functional alcoholic.

Boozy Britain – why do we drink so much? December 2012 http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/dec/14/boozy-britain-why-do-we-drink

This suggests she’s been thinking about this issue and what to do about it for a while, which is how I was too.  We can spend a good few years trying to get it under control before she, and I, decided that it was easier just to stop.  The question remains has Hannah remained true to the straight-edged cause after her period of sober insight?