Go Sober October

Go Sober October Blog

Online diary of a month reducing alcohol intake, not total abstinence. Aim long term moderation. Dosh saved to Macmillan.

What have I learnt from this month of unit counting and trying to moderate wine consumption? That it is boring and hard to stick to. It’s far preferable to drink what you want. However, if that is way over the max reco units p/w and you know is having adverse impact on your health – mental or physical – then you need to address it. You don’t eat to excess if you prefer to stay slim and fit. It’s the same challenge.

The main problem I think, is alcohol (or any other drug) is a release from everyday stresses. It needs to be replaced – gradually – with more positive things to focus on. A slow process, if you are determined. If someone as old, analytical and informed as me finds it difficult, I see the next generation being lined up for many problems. I don’t have answers, just predict that it will be an expensive issue for the UK.

Day 31 – 31st October
Drink – 1 small glass (100ml) Cava, 2 small glasses (@110ml) Provence rosé, 1 small glass (60ml) red Burgundy (total 380ml, 4.8 units)

End of GoSoberOctober. Was going to have a massive rant about unit info / hypocritical corporate and wine industry self-interest / supersizing / lack of personal responsibility… but… All I will say is, alcohol abuse in UK is a serious issue. I hope it can be tackled properly.

Drinking memory 14 – 2014 now and future. Fell in love (again) with Spain. This time, north east. Finally found a spot to settle outside the UK. Having spent most of my life in permanent transit, here I feel at peace. Also, Cava is very underrated. I knew it was and it is so. Hasta.

Day 30 – 30th October
Drink – lunchtime: shared bottle Provence rosé / evening: 2 small glasses red Burgundy

Day trip to Calais en famille. Great lunch and fun wine shopping. The day – 5 drinks and 8 units again. But feels totally civilised and no inebriation. So either I (and many others I know) have a large capacity for alcohol (likely) or the max reco units p/day are too severe.

Total units last week (week 4 GoSoberOctober) – 6 drinks, 7.5 units. Modest, if all on Sat+Sun. Yesterday and today have been back to my previous intake, quite high. So, the plan ongoing? Mostly dry days, unit vigilance, occasional relax and don’t worry about it…

Day 29 – 29th October
Drink – 3 small glasses Champagne / sparkling wine, 2 small glasses red Burgundy. Feel like it was too much, the morning after

A fun night with relos in Kent. Consumption over an evening of Lebanese food and chat didn’t feel excessive. However, totting up next morning was 750ml and 8 units. Also, a headache and odd feeling of guilt that now feels unfamiliar and unwelcome. A timely reminder not to slip backwards…

Drinking memory 13 – lovely Languedoc + Roussillon, France. Two separate regions but fell in love with them both a few years ago – wine writing trips and then family holidays. Much of the wine is not great but the landscapes, vines and light are beautiful. Love Pezenas and Collioure areas.

Day 28 – 28th October
Drink – mango juice + water. Feel like a glass of Chianti Classico

When they say ‘you haven’t lost a daughter, you’ve gained a son in law’, you think yeah yeah. But, rather than feeling like I’ve lost part of myself by moderating the way-hay spirit, I now think I’ve gained something else. Not sure what yet. Being a grown up?

Drinking memory 12 – Tuscany, Bolgheri. A family holiday when I realised I could share my wine obsession with Hubs. He so got the ambience of enoteche and Italian hospitality. I now think wine should be about food, family and relaxing, not escape or one-upmanship.

Day 27 – 27th October
Drink – coconut water + water. Feel like a copa of Palo Cortado

Normally, half term or any other holiday would be carte blanche to up the wine intake. A test then this week. The benefits of not drinking as much are becoming so apparent that I don’t want to go back to excess. Miss that feeling of unbridled inebriation, obv, but not worth it.

Drinking memory 11 – Jerez. Fell madly in love with the region about 10 years ago. Have been so many times and is my spiritual home. For me, wine in isolation is not exciting. It’s the people, the place, the history etc. Will always love that Sherry bodega must, heat and dust.

Day 26 – 26th October
Drink – lunchtime: 45ml rosé, 330ml bottle 13 Guns beer. Feel like a fishbowl Champagne cocktail (yes did once make one)

First weekend day managed to stick to 2-3 units. Today 2.3, Sat+Sun total 7.5. Small but significant progress. The beer units were on the back label of the bottle. I noticed the cider Hubs was drinking was 7%, 500ml bottle ie 3.5 units. Cue sizing / unit / info rant sometime this week…

Drinking memory 10 – going from ‘consumer’ to ‘wine trade’ and back again. Was going to leave out but was 7 years, so is significant. Argentina, first break, 2008, amazing visit with 4 lovely peeps. The whole country was incredible. The reds of Achaval Ferrer are still favourites.

Day 25 – 25th October
Drink – 2 small glasses Daumas Gassac rosé, 2 small glasses Fourcas Dupré Bordeaux. Feel like a debauched weekend in one of my fave cities, lovely Bordeaux

Bordeaux was my wine epiphany aged 15. Despite a recent flirtatious appreciation for Burgundy, still feel a frisson for that distinctive Bordeaux scent, even the cheapish stuff. I guess part of this month is welding the old and the new ie the past and the future.

Wine memory 9 – wedding day. Remember it clearly – the happy roar of a big family party fuelled by Champagne – Henri Harlin, £9.99 from Majestic. The dog bolted. Bro + I ran around the common looking for her. Got blisters. Spent total £2k inc the honeymoon in Rome.

Day 24 – 24th October
Drink – San Pellegrino grapefruit drink. Feel like barfing it back out after seeing the calories in these soft drinks – same as a glass of wine for zero pleasure

On the home straight. Haven’t managed one drink a night this week, find it much easier to have none. Target this weekend is to cut the number of units each day to 3-4. No point sticking to 14 units p/w if they are scarfed in one weekend. The habit is merely reduced not altered.

Drinking memory 8 – Hubs. Met in an insane whirlwind of boozing chaos at dinner parties, pubs etc etc etc. Perhaps I’m trying to recapture those days as Mr now-more Moderate than-me zonks out on the sofa and I’m still doing the cooking brandy Conga round the sitting room…

Day 23 – 23rd October
Drink – tap water. Feel like a cold pint in a warm, fuggy pub with an open fire and a leather Chesterfield

Summary of week 3 alcohol intake: 3 nights out of 7 with wine, 10 drinks, total units 14.5. Jolly good on the units p/w but 46% of those were on Sat and 81% on Sat+Sun. Doesn’t take a forensic accountant looking for black holes to pinpoint the weekend as the ‘issue’.

Drinking memory 7 – (depressing but bear with, will lighten up tmoz): living with and loving an alcoholic for many years is horrible. Thought I’d match it drink for drink one week. Instant sense of shame. Realised was feeling that again recently. Hence this endeavour.

Day 22 – 22nd October
Drink – passion fruit juice + water. Feel like going to a party full of clinky flutes of Bollinger

‘All things in moderation, except moderation’. The catchphrase and wedding speech opening of a much loved family friend whose funeral was today (cancer). He was Pa’s bestie from Uni and lived with us when my siblings and I were very young. He used to sing this song to us.

Day 21 – 21st October
Drink – lychee juice + tonic water. Feel like a slug of rum in it and a beach bar sunset view

Mena sans in corpore sano. School motto – didn’t pay much attention then. Healthy mind, healthy body. If you’d said 6 months ago, I’d be enjoying boxing, yoga and mindfulness and drinking flower tea infusions, I’d have said ‘See you in Rio Baby, pass the cocktail shaker’.

Drinking memory 6 – The Tequila Slammer years. Late teens / early twenties. Best forgotten. All I can say on the positive is, travel broadens the mind. If I have one mission as a non-helicopter parent, it’s to steer mini-me through choppy waters as smoothly as possible.

Day 20 – 20th October
Drink – apple juice + water. Feel like sipping an Amontillado at fave Bodega Cigarrera in Sanlucar

Am out of yesterday’s slough of despond re accepting permanent moderate wine consumption. If you want to let your hair down and go mad, you can. On rare occasions. Just need to lose overdoing it on a regular basis as a response to stress or to block out emotions.

Drinking memory 5 – London’s jazz pubs aged 18. Too brassic to drink much –  a pint spun out over the evening, with fun mates. Happy times. Always loved jazz. Have recently developed a liking for the taste of beer – craft, artisan type. Lots of interesting styles out there.

Day 19 – 19th October
Drink – lunchtime: small glass white Burgundy / evening: 200ml mini bottle pink Cava, small glass red Burgundy. Feel like a break from counting. Crunch numbers for work, getting bored of doing it in the evening too…

Fed up with endless unit recording. Probably just a midway slump. Without the release of mad weekends, you have to reconcile yourself to the ‘this is it’ feeling. Quite difficult. Even negative habits can have a positive side, eg anticipation. That needs to be replaced.

Drinking memory 4 – working in a local wine bar, aged 17. Instead of taking the drinks offered, we put the cash into the tronc. Would I have thought of this if an older barmaid hadn’t tipped me off? Drink or dosh? An easy choice in skint teens. Hold that thought.

Day 18 – 18th October
Drink – lunchtime: half Adnams, small glass Godello / Evening: 2 small glasses white Burgundy, 1 small glass red Burgundy. Feel like a Sideways style road trip through the Cote d’Or

Burgundy mad this October. Perhaps I’m getting in touch with my sensual rather than cerebral side?! 5 drinks, 6.7 units. The NHS red pen would be quivering but, coupled with Butley oysters and chicken and chestnut risotto, doesn’t feel comparable to a town centre vodka luge.

Drinking memory 3 – (in contrast to the civilised evening tonight) first wine experience outside the home, aged 16, a wine bar on King’s Road. A couple of glasses of white wine, tripped down the stairs to the basement loo. Didn’t like being drunk, so why do it again, repeatedly?

Day 17 – 17th October
Drink – small glass of Spanish Godello, small glass of red Burgundy from fave wine shop in the world Slaughden. Divine. Tastes like nectar of the gods after 4 nights off the vino. Feel like a single malt in front of the woodburner

Past the half way point of Go Sober October. Literally and metaphorically. Can feel the old habits slipping away yet not quite fully accepting of the new. Permanent moderation still feels like someone else’s life. However, am starting to enjoy it. Vastly improved sleeping too.

First time back in a wine shop. One of my fave things, chatting away and looking at the bottles. Tonight’s drinking memory 2 – Bordeaux rosé Chateau Thieuley, aged 15, nicked from Ma’s cellar. Had a few more that week. Knew I’d get it in the neck, but it was the wine epiphany.

Day 16 – 16th October
Drink – apple juice + water. Feel like a bottle of really expensive red Grand Cru Burgundy

Thought I’d dredge up teens / twenties memories associated with drinking to see if there is any enlightenment in terms of why we (I) drink too much in one go, when logic says not to. Having conquered other dysfunctional ‘addictions’, why cling to the booze one?

First memory of alcohol – aged 11, a glass of Mateus Rosé. Thought it was a bit sweet even then. Remember liking the feeling of holding the glass, though. Recall that it went with roast chicken! Might find a pic and post it, complete with 70s hair and lacquered T&G kitchen decor.

Day 15 – 15th October
Drink – tonic water. Feel like adding Grey Goose, ice and a slice

More yoga tonight – Ashtanga – hard core. Excellent diversionary activity to get over the 5-7pm ‘desperate for a bevvy’ danger zone. Have always preferred a few early, quick ones. Pa and sis are the same. We’re great for starting a party. Then first to bail out and go to bed.

Week 2 tally up: 4 nights of 7 having a drink, 10 drinks, total 14.8 units. So, on the positive, bang on (forget the 0.8) max recommended units p/w. On the negative, 50% of the units (7.3) were on Saturday. Making me a chavvy weekend binge drinker, then? Will think about this.

Day 14 – 14th October
Drink – flower tea from Barcelona. Feel like hitting a pica pica bar

Hubs reckons if you still drink like a teenager, you are stuck in that mode. I think he’s right. Most alcoholics I know started at that age and never stopped. Some of my clearest memories involve teens and twenties, drinking and having fun. Or what you think is fun, then.

So, how to move out of teenage drinking mode? The reality is not fun at all, but that many who ended up as hard core boozers couldn’t accept adult responsibilities. Maybe we are all just trying to go back to a more carefree time when we drink too much.

Day 13 – 13th October
Drink – mango juice and tonic water.

No hardship having a dry Monday. Been doing 2 or 3 AFDs p/w for a while. It takes me 72 hours without wine to start sleeping better. Since starting Sober October (an attempt at moderate alcohol consumption, not a month of abstinence), my insomnia has improved a lot.

If you don’t sleep properly, I don’t think your brain can process negative emotions or solve issues correctly. If you knock yourself out with booze it exacerbates the problem. Sleeping for at least 5 hours at a stretch, I feel like a different person – calm and less frazzled.

Day 12 – 12th October
Drink – lunchtime: small glass Pouilly Fuissé / evening: 2 red wine spritzers

Spending Sundays writing is another favourite imbibing time. Previously, I’ve had total writers’ block for fiction unless well oiled. But if you tell yourself to change old habits, you can. Having squandered many units yesterday, had to be inventive with the evening drink today.

I had a mad collie once, who would lick the walls she was so bored in her house bound dotage. So I played tricks to keep her amused – jumping out from behind doorways, taking her for drives. You can trick yourself too. Hence spinning 100ml of red wine into 2 long drinks.

Day 11 – 11th October
Drink – lunchtime: half bottle St Peter’s IPA / evening: rest of the IPA, 2 small glasses Pouilly Fuissé, 1 small glass Spanish Garnacha

4 drinks: 500ml IPA, 350ml wine, total of 7.3 units – total fail in this week’s daily 2-3 aim, but doesn’t feel like a lot TBH. The IPA was 2.7 units, not something I drink often but I’ve got quite into the taste of beer lately and love St Peter’s, a local brewery up the road in Bungay, Suffolk.

You can’t remove the things you love in life, so you need to mitigate any adverse impact. Eg, for me, bumbling around the kitchen at the weekend, cooking and tippling is my favourite thing and how I switch off from work and life’s pressures. So, keep doing it, but with a bit less tipple.

Day 10 – 10th October
Drink – 187ml mini bottle of Campo Viejo Rioja. Feel like a brandy de Jerez

The key, for me, is to make drinking small amounts feel like a treat not a punishment. Hence the mini bottles. I’ve always loved small formats. I’ve heard all the reasons against them, commercially, from supermarket wine buyers, but they certainly assist the wannabe moderate drinker.

Had a massage (see excellent site Wahanda) this afternoon. Have become a fiend for it. It’s a great way to wind down at the end of the week. I hardly spend a bean on clothes or shoes and never go to hairdressers, so it’s my treat. Treat yourself – another new concept to me.

Day 9 – 9th October
Drink – 200ml mini bottle of Codorniu Cava. Feel like 2 more

To paraphrase Jackie Collins ‘one is never enough’. Well, it will have to be for tonight. It’s pretty weird just having one drink. Feels like starting to have sex then stopping for no reason. Oh yes, the reason is long term health – physical and mental.

Read an article today on CBS News. Had no idea it was a recognised thing, this concept of self moderating to treat addiction. Are all addictions the same? Drugs, alcohol, sex with strangers, eating disorders… I think they are. Tackle that need for the high that leads to the low.

Day 8 – 8th October
Drink – endless herb and flower teas. Don’t feel like wine for first time in living memory. Bored with tea…

So, the tally from the first Go Sober October week: 2 nights out of 7 having wine, 7 drinks, total of 10 units. Well under the recommended max units p/w yet would be classed as binge drinking as all in 2 nights, not spread out.

The mission this week is the recommended max units each night. That is, 2-3 for a woman. Not something I’ve ever done before. All a bit dull and obsessive, I know. But if you want to change for good, it takes effort. Also 20 days apparently, to make or break a habit.

Day 7 – 7th October
Drink – elderflower ‘Champagne Cocktail’. Feel like a Pina Colada

The problem with no wine is an increase in chocolate consumption. I recall, when giving up smoking twenty years ago, getting through a manic quantity of Maltesers. No point swapping cirrhosis for diabetes, so will knock that on the head. Apples.

I was mulling over why UK teenagers go through the insane, dangerous, binge drinking rite of passage. Being a parent, you see it all again. What’s wrong with playing chess and listening to jazz instead of vomming up foul cocktails? Oh yeah, that’s what the olds do.

Day 6 – 6th October
Drink – mango juice + coconut water. Feel like some mellow Armagnac in front of the fire

Talked about no / low alcohol drinks this weekend with the visiting relos. Part of why it is hard not to drink alcohol is that there are so few tasty alternatives that aren’t sugary. All agreed home made Virgin Mary was the only tolerable one. It’s a potential business goldmine IMHO.

Went to yoga + mindfulness tonight in the village hall. A new concept to me, the idea of emptying out not loading stress onto stress. Why so many of us try to relax by tipping booze down our throats, I guess. The pink aura of unconditional love replaces the rosy haze of Cotes de Provence tonight.

Day 5 – 5th October
Drink – lunchtime: half Adnams Spindrift + small glass Chilean Sauvignon / evening: 2 small glasses Portuguese red

A total of 5 units again – the magic number that feels like a moderate amount to me, but not the NHS apparently (see below). This is the least I’ve drunk over the weekend for years. Have to admit, feel much better for it.

Day 4 – 4th October
Drink – 3 smallish glasses of ‘natural’ wine Les Clos Perdus Grenache Gris – delicious

A lovely evening with family and relatives. 3 restrained (for me) glasses (150+100+175=425ml) during a long evening of food and chat is still over half a bottle, but feels like a civilised amount. No desire to overdo it – for once.

Changing ingrained habits like not preloading on cold fizz whilst cooking and drinking a heavier, less quaffy style of wine helps. Certain wines are a bit like cold lager – very easy to drink too much, too quickly. Avoid if trying to cut back.

Day 3 – 3rd October
Drink – tap water. Feel like a large glass of white Burgundy

Was just about to put a night of what I consider moderation into practice, ie a couple of glasses (half a bottle) of Cava when I read this on Drinks Business. It’s a bit disconcerting to see that in the eyes of the NHS I would classify as a mild alcoholic – 5 units a night.

I’ve probably drunk 20+ units a week, most weeks, for years. I had a normal liver test recently – maybe consuming lots of water as well helps. So instead of 3 125ml copas of Cava at 4.3 units of alcohol (375ml x 11.5% / 10 = 4.3) opted for water instead. More on units to come.

Day 2 – 2nd October
Drink – nettle tea. Feel like a bottle of icy cold Chablis

Fed up already. The thought of permanent moderation fills me with a yawning ennui that I can hardly bear to contemplate. Abstinence is the easy bit. No Thursday night wahay tonight. Will go for a miserable cycle along the towpath and pick some more nettles instead.

Day 1 – 1st October
Drink – Virgin Mary. Feel like a pint of Krug and a Madeira chaser

What’s the point of this? The aim is a break from pinballing between Withnail-like excess and self-flagellatory abstinence. The ultimate goal is long term moderation. However, if I can’t achieve this, I will go on the wagon for good. I know many who have. Also some who didn’t who are now dead.

Why? Vanity and sanity. I’m fed up with looking in the mirror and seeing ‘white wine zombie mum’ staring back. I know that’s what teenage daughter sees and I don’t feel I’m setting a good example. Plus, exhausting insomnia which does gradually improve with sobriety. Good enough reasons I think.

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