You know when the doctor asks you how much alcohol you drink? I never know how to answer that question. Some days I don’t drink anything, other days I drink too much. A glass of wine with dinner, a few beers at the pub, vodka at a party, shots on a night out… it depends on the day, it depends on the occasion.
It also depends who I’m with. Some of my friends aren’t big drinkers so with them it’s all elderflower cordial, an obscene amount of tea and a lot of cake; but some of my friends are the go-big-or-go-home type so with them we start with prosecco and take it from there. Then there are the middle grounders (ahem – me) who love brunch or afternoon tea, but equally love an evening that kicks off with a cocktail and a few glasses of wine.
Too often, though, my couple of glasses lead to a couple more, and although I’m never the biggest drinker in my group, I’m always the one with the biggest hangover.
My hangovers are never like they used to be. The alcohol mixed with my medication is pure horror. It feels like there’s a clamp on my brain, a screwdriver twisting behind my eye socket. I can’t see, I can’t speak, and all I can do is sleep for 24 hours. Sometimes those hours include vomit, sometimes they don’t. But they are always always horrible. More horrible than anything I’ve ever experienced, more horrible than any night is worth.
The most frustrating thing of all is that I can’t even bank on the hangover; some days I wake after a night of drinking and I am absolutely fine. I can’t find a pattern, there’s no particular drink or combination or amount that sends me over the edge, it’s completely unpredictable. And so I drink – crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. I fall asleep and wait and see.
It turns out that this, unsurprisingly, isn’t the best approach. Too many sunny Sunday’s are lost to a day in bed, too many plans are cancelled and too many journeys home are spent with my head in a carrier bag. It’s not pleasant and it’s not fun.
So now it’s time to admit that something has to change. It’s time to test life as a near-non-drinker, a two-drinks-max kinda girl, and see if it’s any better. I’ve been trying to work out when to do this, but there’s always a wedding or a birthday where I want to toast the occasion and so it never seems convenient.
But today – after yet another wasted Sunday – I got to thinking. Why am I even bothered? I’m confident without alcohol, I talk just as freely and laugh just as loudly so there’s no real need to drink. Being sober means I can drive us home at the end of a night out, rather than spending £50 on a taxi, and it means I can start making the most of my weekends. Plus, the variety of non-alcohol drinks and mocktails are far better than they used to be, so what’s the problem?
Well, aside from the fear of missing out (major FOMO girl over here) there’s the whole pain management thing. I can push my body much harder when I’ve been drinking, and although that may not be the recommended medical advice, I make that choice and know that when there’s a special occasion, the booze will usually keep me going. How much sooner will I want to go home if I lead a sober lifestyle? How much will I miss out on? How much sooner will I sleep?
I figure that if the answer to those questions is ‘a lot’, maybe it doesn’t even matter. We’re getting older, friends are having babies and lifestyles are changing. Maybe it won’t have as big an impact as I fear. Maybe we’re all starting to slow down a bit and whilst everyone else is laying off the booze for the good of their child (born or unborn), I’m doing it for the good of myself. Maybe that’s okay, and maybe now is the perfect time to try it.
Raise your glasses, and let’s give this a go. Four beers please, make mine a ginger.
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