As you read this I will be patting myself on the back for having resisted the lure of an alcoholic drink for the entire month of January. I have often considered joining the masses who,full of good intentions, embark upon the #dryjanuary challenge, and have even managed the first day or two some years but have always excused myself from completion with some spurious reason or other well before the end of the first week.
I love a glass of wine or a gin and tonic in the early evening and over the years have undoubtedly indulged in far more than was good for me on many occasions. I grew up in a household where drinking is the norm and while I don’t actually drink huge amounts or consider myself to have a drinking problem (though I acknowledge this is a classic response from those who do) I was beginning to resent the way in which I look forward to a drink at the end of the day. I have had the odd dry week or fortnight here and there over the years, but I don’t think I have gone without a drink for as long as a month since I was last pregnant in 2001.
It was a couple of comments from others towards the end of last year that pulled me up short and resulted in my determination to achieve #dryjanuary this year; a friend texted me at around 4pm on Christmas Eve to say she was pouring a gin as she sat down to prepare the sprouts and was thinking of me. I had just commenced the very same preparations accompanied by a cup of tea and felt vaguely put out that she had assumed I would be drinking already. This and a couple of other flippant comments from others left me feeling sensitive, worried and questioning myself as to whether I feel a need to drink or simply enjoy it.
I suspect my own reasons for drinking are similar to many other’s. At home it is a reward at the end of the day, dulling my brain just a little to the feelings of frustration at never achieving everything I (unrealistically) planned to do, slowing me down, fortifying me as I rise to the challenge of parenting teenagers and in social situations that glass of wine is the crutch without which I simply feel too wobbly. And just perhaps it I have used alcohol to quell the unending anxiety of feeling left out, not one of the cool kids, excluded from the inner circle. These feelings never go away do they? For the longest time I truly believed that becoming a real grown-up would erase these uncomfortable emotions. It’s silly though, for these feelings are all just part of being a whole person aren’t they? It’s the ability to rationalise them that is growing up – the power of finding a credible explanation for others’ behaviour and the way we feel about it – intellectually I know this, but putting it into practise is not always easy!
This weekend sees me accompanying M to a work function in Lisbon, I’m really looking forward to some time together as the year has started briskly for him and it will be good to catch up. We’ve tacked a day onto either side of the weekend to enjoy exploring the city which will be lovely, but the bulk of the weekend itself will have us separated as he is involved in conference activities and I am left to join a ‘partner programme’. I have come to know some of the people I will see during these activities over the past couple of years and it will be good to catch up, but I can’t lie, I know I will relish having a drink in my hand as I navigate a welcome reception and dinner to follow in a large hotel alone…
There have been several occasions throughout the month when it would have been so easy to exonerate myself; an 80th birthday weekend with extended family, a business retreat with friends or to ease my aching body at the end of a long day could all have constituted good excuses in my mind. But actually despite the early evening siren call from the wine rack it hasn’t been that hard; I have mostly slept better (though as I write this I’ve been awake since 3.30am) but I haven’t noticed any reduction in inflammation which I had hoped would improved my aches and pains, and I haven’t become any less forgetful! However, I do feel quietly pleased with myself for completing the month and the reassurance that I can do it any time I like. I’d love to know if this resonates with you in any way – either in the comments below or on Instagram if you feel inclined.