The Good Drinker – Winning the Week

Posted on February 21, 2023

Since the end of ‘dry January I have been working on a process I learnt from the book, The Good Drinker, by Adrian Chiles. In my opinion, there is little point in dry January, unless I am going to learn from it and reduce my booze intake. Educating yourself on alcohol is more interesting than it sounds.

Reducing Intake

In Chiles’s book, there are examples of people he has met on the drinking journey. These are individuals who like a drink but have realised booze was taking control of their lives. However, they are also at pains to tell you that being someone who has reduced alcohol can be an odd place to be. Those who don’t drink at all, think you have failed, whilst those still drink heavily, see you as a boring evangelist.

People who decide to knock the booze on the head completely, have landmarks to celebrate. That’s not the case if you have decided to become a moderate drinker. You don’t get the opportunity to say “Yeah baby, one year since I started drinking a bit less”. There are no celebrations. Every drinker is different but the book helped me understand what kind of boozer I am. This then allowed me decide that if I wasn’t going to stop, how I could be a better drinker.

Winning the Week

What I found quite liberating about the book was that finally I could being honest with myself about consumption. This made me realise that I had slipped into habits that left me drinking every night of the week. Because I rarely drink to get drunk, my mind tricked me into believing I was doing no damage. I know I had conned myself, because during dry January, I felt rough for the first fortnight. In the later weeks I felt felt physically cleaner. Being less irritable in my job was an added bonus and I found myself eradicating basic mistakes. I was also faster with producing invoices and timesheets, completing them in two thirds of the time. It’s obvious that the first two weeks of January were withdrawal symptoms from 7/7 drinking.

So, how could I reduce my units? My problem would be that if I vowed to not drink early in the week and then had one on a Monday birthday for example, it would ruin everything. I would end up having one on the Tuesday and Wednesday as well. Then I read about someone in the book who set out every Monday to ‘win the week’. What a cracking idea.

This means that if I go 1-0 down on Monday, I can still ‘win the week’. I had something to drink every day between the 1st and 5th February. Then in the first two full weeks (commencing 6th & 13th) I lost 4-3, then won an absolute thriller by the same score after being 4-0 up. In February, after a dry January, I am 12-8 down (12-9 after tonight). However, I only read about ‘winning the week’ halfway through week two. Okay, It’s not perfect but it’s better than being 21-0 down.

Counting the Units

Of course, winning the week is no use if you celebrate on your drinking nights by getting battered. If this is the case, you possibly need the kind of help that I am not qualified to talk about. Fortunately, I only have the desire drink a certain amount on weekdays, generally a couple of glasses of wine. I generally avoid going further than that as I know how rough I will feel. 2 glasses a night doesn’t sound a lot but if I do that and double it at the weekend, there’s 60 units without even thinking about it. Over three times the recommended amount.

By winning the week 4-3, I am booting out 20-30 units just by losing that couple of glasses of wine a night. There is an added bonus. On the days I do have a drink, I know a hangover is incoming as I am not used to it, so I back off. Last Friday, I mixed grape and grain by having 2 pints followed by 2 glasses of wine. So about 10 units. It ruined much of my Saturday. I drove to a party in Reading that night and had two bottles of beer over a three hour period. I noticed that nothing better or worse would have happened if I had doubled that amount. But I would have definitely felt worse in the morning.

Removing the Pointless

When I think about drinking, it dawns on me how much of it is pointless. If I sit and watch TV with 2 glasses of wine, I don’t feel any different than if I had two cups of tea. I’m not drinking to feel happy or sad, I am just doing it because it’s always been that way. It’s dependency of course but a strange kind of dependency. The only effect it has is a mild to moderate erosion of my tolerance the next morning.

For example, if my computer jams up, or I lose my phone signal I can get easily aggravated if I have had a bit of booze the night before. 2-3 glasses of wine = “Fucking phone, come on, fucking work!” No glasses of wine = ”What’s wrong with this, I’d better go outside, ah that’s better”. I know this is a fact because I feel my pointless niggles fade as dry January progresses.

Say No to Evangelism

Anyway, if you are reading this, please read it as me just on a learning curve with alcohol. What you or anyone else does, is none of my business. Lots of people drink periodically with no dependency issues whilst others like me, drift around the grey area of dependency and habit. With help from the book by Chiles, unless you are drinking to get battered, you can reduce consumption without being a tea total. It’s easy to avoid analysing drinking because of the fear of being be told it is all or nothing. There are thousands of books that say quit or forget it. This one says don’t quit, just get rid of the pointless stuff.

After reading, ‘The Good Drinker’ I firmly believe that if you are a moderate social drinker, being healthier doesn’t have to be evangelism. However, it might be worth coming back to me in the summer, as I am very much a work in progress. In my opinion though, being aware of what I consume, is much better than being in denial about it.


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