The Varying Relationships with Booze

Posted on May 13, 2023

Until Thursday, when I went ‘out, out’, I hadn’t had a drink on a work night this year. I counteracted Thursday by having last night off. Aided by a blood pressure and cholesterol warning, I don’t have any intention of going back to regular weekday drinking.

However, I still have a tipple at the weekend. Part of me wonders whether I should jack that in as well, but I’m not so sure? For the moment, I feel like I can be a ‘good drinker’. If I ever let that slip, I will reconsider my options.

Units For a Good Drinker

When I say a tipple, we are talking between 20-30 units (about 3 bottles over 3 nights). So, still a bit too much but probably over half of what I have consumed in the summer months of the past. Stopping for a pint with the dog, or sitting on the patio with a vino or a G&T, soon racks up the units.

Being a ‘good drinker’ is an interesting concept. Before Adrian Chiles entered the self-help market, there was no such thing. There are hundreds if not thousands of books about dealing with alcohol dependency by quitting. None about alcohol control. According to these books, it’s all or nothing and Adrian Chiles is just another sad case in a state of alcohol denialism. Is he though?

What Counts as Dependency?

I am not saying that Chiles’ book is the bible for those looking to control alcohol dependency, but it is an interesting take on it. It tackles one aspect of booze very well and that is the fact that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different kinds of alcohol dependency. For instance, someone who has one glass of wine a night, is arguably, alcohol dependent, especially if it is a habit they refuse to break. 

However, some people will never break that one a night habit, whilst others will drift into making it two or three glasses, then the bottle. That’s the spectrum I sit on. I know that if I open a bottle of wine, I’m not having one glass, I’m having the lot. Yet, bizarrely, if I don’t open it, I’m not bothered. I honestly don’t miss it unless I start it, then I’m all in. I’m the same with fruit pastilles. My partner can have a glass of wine, put the lid back on and leave it for several days. Weirdo.

The Accountant and Abstinence

I find people’s relationship with booze fascinating. My accountant told me recently he had started drinking a glass of wine a night during lockdown and he was troubled it was a habit he couldn’t break. I don’t think I’ll see him under a sleeping bag on Winchester High Street any time soon, but it was interesting that he was paranoid about going over 14 units a week. Possibly, too paranoid?

Is all the abstinence from booze worth it though? Well, when we went to the 02 to see Mickey Flanagan, I drank 5 medium wines and a G&T. I felt mildly pissed with a warm glow. This almost certainly made me laugh more, but also made me more tired and agitated as the evening wore on and trains were cancelled.

As a consequence, yesterday (Friday) felt like a Sunday. It didn’t help that it was a grey, miserable day, but all my happy cells were zapped. I couldn’t be arsed to go to the gym and any work I had to do, took ages, and was littered with basic errors that I had to go back on.

Being Grumpy

Was a good night out worth being grumpy the next day? Now it’s Saturday and I feel cleansed and content, I’d say yes. However, I wouldn’t want to get back into the habit of regularly feeling a down in the dumps, grumpy old git. 

The grumpy bit is really interesting. I was talking to a chap at our cricket club the other day and I mentioned how well he was looking. He told me he hadn’t let booze pass his lips since Christmas. He said he had been miserable all the time and had been spending his grumpy hours looking forward to some booze to dull his grumpiness.

He then tried a biological experiment on himself. He stopped drinking and hey presto, he wasn’t grumpy anymore. As a consequence, he didn’t need a drink to dull his grumpiness as he was happy again. His experience won’t apply to everyone as we are all biologically different. However, in my opinion, it takes a brave man to see what he has become and confront it, and I told him so. Denial is a human weakness and the easiest cop out.

The Science and a Work Do

Because I am a bit of an oddball, I am fascinated by the science behind alcohol. Why can some people consume it in moderation, whilst others can’t start because they won’t stop? For me, I think there is a greed issue and possibly, or probably, an addictive disorder. For instance, I have no betting apps on my phone and I never put money on a horse or a football match. Why? Because of a fear that if I try it, I might chase my losses. I don’t know that I will behave that way, but I decided decades ago, not to risk it. Gambling addiction looks bloody terrifying.

Finally, here’s a thing that really struck a chord with me. I went out on a rare work function in Wokingham last week. As it was a Friday I thought I might get the train and have some booze. When I found out it was 3 station changes from Whitchurch, I decided to drive. I had 4 bottles of alcohol free lager and didn’t notice I wasn’t boozing.

A few days later, I got an email from one of the directors saying, “Thanks Bob , and thank you for Friday. Bad planning by you though, bringing the car!!!!” I instantly thought, “actually it was good planning”. I had a really good afternoon in good company with people I like, and I got to drive home safely. Sometimes we (or I) think we have to have a drink to have a good time. Fortunately, I only believed that for about 35 years.

Peer and Parental Pressure

Parental habits, peer pressure, laddish influences and a perception that the more beer you can take, the more of a man you are, all play their part in forming our relationship with booze. When I look back, booze has had a role in some of the funniest good times, but also darker events that I’d rather forget. It almost certainly played a role in a period of depression that, fortunately, was slowly solved by a hardened doctor telling me to clean my act up rather than filling myself up with Prozac.

The other thing about booze is this, and it’s hard to comprehend fully. If I had tried drinking at 16 and been allergic to hops or something, my long standing peer group would be entirely different. When booze passes your lips for the fist time and releases the endorphins that demand more, it is probably the biggest ‘sliding doors’ moment of your life.

It’s the moment when you believe non-drinkers are squares.

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