Ditching the alcohol and being sober by choice.

My father’s family were Welsh Presbyterians who had all “signed the pledge” not to touch alcohol. My aunt and her husband in particular wouldn’t even have alcohol for “medicinal reasons” and when my mother once innocently added a ‘drop of Whisky’ into some hot lemon and honey, when my uncle was ill, all Hell broke loose! Whilst my father wasn’t quite so strict in his beliefs, alcohol just wasn’t on the agenda in our house, although weirdly he made parsley wine to ‘show’ in the Wine Club his office ran. In our sideboard there was a mysterious selection of never drunk bottles: Warnick’s Advocaat, De Kuyper Cherry Brandy and Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry. My mum had a bit of a fancy for the latter and would very occasionally have a little glass if she was feeling very daring, but I can’t remember the two of them ever sitting there of an evening with a drink. There were no beers in the fridge and the only time I ever remember having wine, was maybe for someone’s birthday or Christmas, when a bottle of sweet Sauterne would appear at the table, never, I hasten to add to be finished in one sitting!

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Being brought up in such a strict household, (I also had to be home hours earlier then my friends,) you’re going to go one of two ways – be law-abiding or rebel! By the time I was sixteen I was a member of the one and only night-club (for over18s only of course,) in Weymouth, where I lived and my ‘tipple’ was usually Cinzano & Lemonade. I was supposed to get the last bus home, but as that left the town centre at 10.20, I almost never caught it. I’d sneak home around midnight thinking my parents were asleep, but my father’s total silence the next day, assured me I was wrong. (We had a lot of quiet Sundays.)

However until I left home to go to ‘uni’ in London, I never actually got drunk.

Within months I had a rugby-playing boyfriend and was drinking pints! The only time in my life I’ve ever drunk Bitter! Student life of course, can revolve around alcohol –even when you don’t have much spare cash. My friends and flat-mates proved to have a much stronger ability to hold their liquor than me. When it was one friend’s birthday, three of us consumed a bottle of Sweet Martini, one of Dry Martini and a bottle of Reisling, plus a chocolate cake. The next morning they banged on my door, up and ready for breakfast, I’d vomited most of the night and when I woke up the thin mattress on my single, hall of residence bed, was hanging off and there was a bottle of cleanser smashed on the floor. Even worse, was the night before we were to give in our final theses, when four of us, consumed a bottle of cheap Spanish rum. The other three managed to go to hand in their theses, (though apparently smelling like petrol) and one of them took mine. I remained in bed, head spinning and puking all day.



I have various other tales to tell of equal horror and I’m not proud. A lost day in Amsterdam, after drinking beer and one Bailey’s, (I couldn’t even eat Bailey’s ice-cream for years,) drunk dancing in ski boots in a mountain bar and not remembering how I got back to my hotel, even breaking a bone in my foot in a Portuguese bar on a girly trip (only a few years ago). But when I found out I was pregnant, I gave up drinking, not just for nine months, but three years, apart from a very occasional glass of wine with dinner. My theory was that if my child was ill or had an accident I wanted to be able to drive to A&E. Eventually I gave up worrying and a few glasses of Champagne at a dinner, gave me a hangover to be reckoned with, and resulted in my three year old picking up the phone to her grandmother the next morning and announcing that neither of her parents could come to the phone because they’d got drunk!

In the 90s, like many people in that decade, business was done over long lunches always with wine and I would regularly share a bottle of wine with a beauty editor or advertising manager. Over the years however, I’ve learnt I don’t need alcohol to join in the party. I’ve also mainly lived ‘off the grid’ – always an expensive taxi ride away from nightlife and offering to be the ‘designated driver’ is a good get out clause to keep sober.

And, over the last year or so I’ve found myself drinking less and less. I partly blame Prosecco. I used to travel to Italy a lot and I remember Prosecco as an almost colourless liquid with a clean, beautiful taste, totally unlike the yellowy fizz sold in supermarkets for six or seven quid. Half a bottle and I wake up in a hot sweat with palpitations and the next morning, a raging headache. My daughter’s actually allergic to the stuff and that doesn’t surprise me one bit.

It wasn’t long ago; we’d have a glass of wine or two mid-week and the same at weekends and maybe ‘go out for a drink’. These days I’m more likely to choose a non-alcoholic cocktail or tonic water. Talking of which, let’s mention Gin! I’ve missed out on the whole Gin obsession. I might have one, very occasionally, but I’m unlikely to go through all the flavours on the shelf!

So it seems I’m joining Generation Z, who reportedly drink little or no alcohol, and an increasing number of celebs. Waking up with a clear head is great, having clear skin is a bonus and from a health perspective I feel little or no alcohol is good for me. So as with my eating, I’m definitely a “flexitarian”, with sobriety my choice, and I’m not quite ready to call myself a non-drinker.

So these days, giving up alcohol for Dry January isn’t an issue for me at all. In fact there are really only two issues. Firstly I don’t like many soft drinks. I’ve never favoured fruit juices or Coca-Cola or Sprite, maybe occasionally a Ginger Beer and you can’t drink fizzy water all night. Secondly it’s peer pressure. Friends just don’t like it. But I don’t want to change my friends for a load of tee-totallers……they might end up being like my aunt and uncle and that, I’m sure, would turn me back on the ‘hard stuff’!


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