Googling ‘5 days without alcohol’
Red or white Sally?
“Oh, neither thanks. I don’t drink.”
‘I don’t drink’.
I have only said that a few times so far, but the words still feel really odd to me – as if someone else is speaking them.
A wholesome, sensible person who probably also has regular healthy snacks, good posture, and knows how to programme the central heating.
“What?” I hear a voice that is markedly more surprised than mine, even from across the room. “You’re not drinking Sal? But your reputation goes before you!”
“Exactly”, I say, mumbling… “That’s exactly why I don’t drink anymore.”
It’s early days though, so I shouldn’t speak too soon. Four and a half months at the time of writing.
And there aren’t any interesting articles about what happens when you stop drinking for four and a half months.
At first its great, you can sit and obsessively google five days without alcohol, one week, two weeks, one months and so on. You get all sorts of cheering facts about your skin being more hydrated (you should see my big hydrated face) and your sleep improving (sleeping like a baby) and your liver being healthier (of which, I can’t be sure, but I like to imagine).
However, after three months, you are on your own for at least a year, in all probability.
I am not suggesting by any means this is an interesting article, but it’s here all the same in case anyone out there is trying to kick the habit.
Of course, it’s really rather annoying when someone you know stops drinking. Isn’t it? Unless, of course, you are one of those nice healthy types, who drink only their allotted fourteen thimblefuls (sorry units) a week.
And we assume these people do exist, neatly fitting their one small glass of wine per day in amongst their five portions of fruit and veg. On the whole though it is either boring or unsettling, depending on your own attitude to drink.
I spent ages trying to do all the usual boring ‘cutting down’ things. And I am so delighted not to have that endless dull chat that used to go on in my head. ‘No, no, no, I am not going to drink on weekdays’ – unless it’s a special occasion.
What, hang on, a new series of The Apprentice? You bought a new self-opening pedal bin? Your nephew’s next-door neighbour’s dog has passed his driving test? Well make mine a large glass of Shiraz if you please, ideally one that is big enough to get my whole head in.
Of course, once you have tried cutting down a million times and failed, you have to have that really difficult conversation with yourself, the one I have avoided for years. The one that says that actually you must stop. You have no choice. Completely and utterly.
It is a strange sort of decision that at once has an inevitable finality, coupled with the knowledge that you can only take one day at a time – each day filled with a simple challenge. Don’t have the first drink today. Repeat the next day, then the next, then ever on.
Yet within that simple challenge, lies a need to live a completely different life, because in all kinds of ways drink covers things up.
It plasters over the cracks and smooths out the bumps. Yet is, by its very nature, a master of shoddy workmanship. Always leaving a bigger mess in its wake.
To reject it, then, is to actually approach the problems properly. Get the foundations sorted, make sure the insulation is right, or the damp-proof course is in place, so as it never happens again.
It is boring and time-consuming, but ultimately more satisfying. Well, most of the time anyway.
Other times you are left staring at the cracks, feeling overwhelmed and a bit scared, longing for the days of laying into some prosecco whilst watching Don’t Tell The Bride.
Anxious, and just so bloody tired of not artificially switching off anymore.
I also realised that I didn’t know quite how to be nice to myself without alcohol.
Met all your deadlines Sal? Well done! Why not put a bottle of chardonnay in the fridge? Had a busy day of home schooling? You deserve a nice beer.
No Sally, actually you deserve more than that. You deserve proper rest. And if you can’t unwind without a drink in your hand, then you are doing too much in the first place.
So it’s a bit of a new way of life, revolving around lots of herbal tea, hot chocolate and good books. I hope I can stick at it.
Because I am enjoying the good sleep and the hydrated face, and the guilt-free purchasing of expensive sandwiches with the money I save when not buying wine.
And, ever so slowly, I am starting to enjoy being Sally Fraser without chemical alteration. And maybe, just maybe, one day soon, that reputation that goes before me will be for something entirely different.