Alcohol: I was only going to give up alcohol for a month but I wasn’t prepared for the impact it had

Gay Alcorn

I drank to pretend my life was more interesting. Feeling slow or a little sad in the mornings was so normal I barely noticed it

Tue 30 Jul 2019


‘If I’m honest, what I missed most is that feeling 30 minutes or so after the first drink. The feeling of bliss, when problems float away.’ Photograph: webphotographeer/Getty Images

Now what? I have given up alcohol for a month. That’s nothing special. Thousands of people do Dry July or Feb Fast or some random month. But it is a big thing. I hadn’t had 30 days off alcohol my entire adult life.

The reason I thought it was a good idea isn’t unique either. It’s boringly familiar. I’m middle aged and, after drinking modestly for decades, it had crept up. One glass of wine a night became two, and then three and – no point in skirting around the facts here – too often it was a bottle, sometimes more. Occasionally, if I was particularly anxious, I’d buy a bottle of wine during the day and drink the lot.

Here’s why moderate drinking is probably not good for you

There’s shame in even writing that, but it’s true. Over the past few years, my husband and I had countless discussions and a few raging arguments about cutting back alcohol, and we tried the obligatory “alcohol-free nights”. But in the jargon of the online crowd experimenting with the previously unthinkable, I was “sober curious”.

One of my main worries was what on earth I would do in the evenings. Drinking was what I “did” – preferably alone in my head or watching some Netflix show or offering random opinions on Twitter.

Feeling slow or a little sad in the mornings was so normal I barely noticed it. Work was interesting but I lacked ambition. I avoided people, not especially enjoying everyday things like going for a walk, or a seeing a movie, or meeting friends for lunch. It took me a few years to grasp it, but alcohol was controlling my life to an extent that I found it hard to hide, even to myself. I had watched my father commit the slow suicide of the middle class, slumped drunk in front of the television. I had contempt for him at the time, and I was becoming him.

Every person is different. Jill Stark was a young single woman when she wrote High Sobriety, and her tussle with alcohol was about social binge drinking.


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