Novelist. Author of APSARAS and tales from the beautiful Saigh Valley. First person to quantify spiritual values.

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Monday 15 January 2018

Alcohol consumption

Reducing Alcohol Consumption

On December 2nd 2016, my doctor told me I had to stop drinking. It was the second bit of bad news I’d had that day; the first was that I had to go to hospital A & E immediately; my ECG gave cause for alarm.
This is a brief account of my experience in reducing my alcohol consumption. It is written to encourage other males who like their beer and who also want to cut down or cut it out. It may also encourage lady drinkers that perhaps are not alcoholics but perhaps feel they should cut down.
It wasn’t that I was an alcoholic in the sense that I craved booze at all times of the day or frequently binge drank; no it was the fact that I drank, without fail, every day of my life and had been doing so since I took a pub in 1975. Now retired, my favourite time of day was beer o’clock, my 6pm beer, drank as I prepared the evening meal. Usually, I would take a pint, sometimes a bit more with a glass of wine to accompany the meal. Seldom did I drink after dinner, I’d had enough. However, the cumulative effect after forty years of imbibing alcohol, sometimes excessively, was taking its unsensed course. The fatty liver, diagnosed a few years ago was the first clue, general malaise and other symptoms, dismissed as creeping old age, followed.
At first, the thought of giving up alcohol seemed absurd; my consumption, after all, was low, certainly no more, or not much more than that recommended weekly allowance. Alcohol had been my prop all those years in the pub, when facing the public, my customers. Normally reserved, I would become the genial host after the first mouthful of lager in the session, ready to serve and entertain the varied clientele of comics, wits and bores to be found propping up every bar.
Now, without my prop, I feared I would struggle to maintain my already pitiful social persona especially as my family nickname was MOG, standing for ‘miserable old git’.
However, with my wife’s heartfelt support I resolved to have a go, but with the proviso that I wasn’t going to be totally TT. This latter, proved to be important.
The first challenge was the rapidly approaching Christmas and we had company for the festive period. I resolved that if it was to work, I had to want to do it.
The first joint event was the Christmas Eve party in the Emerald Isle, Mojacar, the second such event of what is rapidly becoming a tradition in that bar. My friend drank Guinness, pointedly and repeatedly emphasising his enjoyment, thereby poking fun at my non-alcoholic beers (n-a b) but I persisted. Christmas day we hosted a pre-lunch drink for friends with champagne cocktail for guests and n-a b for me. For Christmas lunch I had a glass of red wine with my Turkey. Somehow I survived the festivities having drunk very little alcohol, emerging at the other end with a quiet satisfaction that it hadn’t been so bad after all. Nevertheless, the feeling that my social life was over couldn’t be shaken. I became indifferent to social occasions, fearing that they wouldn’t be enjoyable without the comforting habit of drink.
I had already stopped the custom of beer o’clock, drinking n-a b when the urge welled and increasingly water. Quickly, I felt that days, weeks had passed without alcohol at home and before long it was the summer and fresh temptations.
We had visitors and I had the occasional pints of alcoholic beer but never to excess. Increasingly, I found that I was becoming less worried about the prospect of drinking alcohol free. The key to my success in curbing my alcohol intake was the promise I made to myself that I could always have a drink; it wasn’t banned. With that in place I always felt that I was in control. As I drive home after a social event I feel pleased with myself, not only that I can drive but also because next day my brain or my liver won’t suffer. Rarely but sometimes I’ve rewarded myself with a treat; a glass of port or a brandy after dinner. But only one; two would be failure.
It must be mentioned here that the improved quality of non-alcoholic beers has been instrumental to my success. Yes, when warm and flat they have a problem with taste and aftertaste, but drunk cold and fresh they are quite palatable and as the year progressed I became more familiar with them. Often available on draught, it’s not bad. It looks like a pint, smells like a pint and almost tastes like a pint. We need to encourage more bars to stock it. Another trick I discovered is to order a pint of regular shandy, periodically topping up with non-alcoholic beers.
By the end of the first year I had consumed in total 15 pints of lager, three glasses of red wine and some odds and sods. I kept a record.
I’m well into my second year now having enjoyed a second Christmas holiday almost alcohol free. The fight is ongoing; temptation is always there and changing circumstances may present other challenges but hopefully we can look forward to a healthier lifestyle.

To summarise:
For those who want to cut down on their alcohol consumption, really want to do it. It’s no good if deep down you don’t.
Drink non-alcoholic beer and learn to enjoy it as much as possible.
Promise yourself that you are not going TT. You’re in control. Allow yourself some ‘treats’ from time to time but only one glass. Discipline.
Remember to congratulate yourself for your abstinence; you’ve earned it.
It does become easier in time.

This programme cannot help those who have a more pronounced alcohol problem. For those who drink at all times of the day or drink spirits or other, stronger drinks, to excess, professional help or joining AA is more appropriate.

Jan 2018

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