What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
As you may or may not be aware, on account of me constantly banging on about it, I stopped drinking for a month in January, after deciding in December that I was drinking far too much and it was time to give it a rest.
My main concern beforehand was that I’d find it really difficult, fall off the wagon after a couple of weeks and give up on the whole thing – raising some tricky questions about my relationship with alcohol.
Instead I found it freakishly easy – getting out of the habit of ordering an alcoholic drink as soon as I sat down took a bit of getting used to, but once I was past the first round, it really wasn’t too bad. And I felt AMAZING – did I tell you how AMAZING I felt?
I was sleeping better than I’ve done in years and felt calm, relaxed and in control. So, all in all, the experiment was a success. But, BUT, I was all too aware that February was looming, along with my 30th birthday and a whole myriad of reasons to drink again.
There was nothing I dreaded more than feeling as sluggish, depressed and crap as I did by the end of 2012. So, I concocted millions of plans to avoid getting back to December’s levels of booze fitness.
But here’s the thing – rather than coming up with sensible strategies to cut down on how much I was drinking when I was out, they all revolved around me avoiding going out at all.
You see, Dry January was easy because it was no great test. It’s not like I put myself in any situations where it was particularly difficult to not drink.
Yes, I went out to the pub with my friends, and stuck to soft drinks. But, I wasn’t the only one, and it was a Tuesday night for crissakes. I was hardly negotiating a baccalaurean orgy on half a shandy.
I avoided any occasions that might have been socially difficult, and tried not to see anyone for whom I’m a sure-fire get pissed drinking companion (I fear I’m this person for more of my mates than is healthy).
Also, one month isn’t a very long time to keep anything up, really. There was always an end point I had to reach, and once I’d gotten past the halfway point, it was easy.
Do you know what would have been harder, better, more useful? To use January to learn to drink moderately when I do go out, and then stick with it forever. But that would have been really, really hard, and I don’t think I’d have succeeded.
I certainly don’t go out and get completely plastered every time I have a drink. But on occasions when I extract myself early, turn down that last glass of wine and go to bed before midnight, I feel really bloody proud of myself. Those evenings stand our as me being ‘good’ rather than just being the norm.
And so, once February arrived, and I’d got past my birthday (at which is acquitted myself admirably – I got totally bat-faced, yes, but I didn’t puke, cry or pass out), I found myself right back where I was in December. I’ve had plenty of dry days, but I’ve also drunk that little bit too much every time I have been out.
I certainly haven’t ended up dancing on a table with my knickers on my head (that I know of – lolz), but you know that one glass of wine that you drink at the end of the night? The one you know will give you the hangover, and that you certainly don’t need? The one that doesn’t quite go down properly? Yep, you know the one. I always have to bloody drink it.
Even though I know I don’t need it, and I know it will make me feel like shit, I’m still incapable of turning that one-for-the-road-yes-it’s-11.10-on-a-Monday-night-but-you’ll-still-catch-the-last-tube-home-so-you-might-as-well-oh-well-if-we’re-both-getting-a-glass-better-make-it-a-bottle drink.
And it shows – my not-drinking January euphoria has been replaced by a dull gloom, all the more potent for its contrast to my mood last month. I’ve noticed myself feeling more irrationally panicky about stupid things.
It’s creeping up on me, and I’ve managed to reign it in so far, but I know from past experience that it’s only going to get worse, until I have a full-on meltdown and burst into tears in the middle of the homes department in TK Maxx because the only Le Creuset they’ve got in are those crappy ramekins and I really wanted a new pie dish, even though I already have four pie dishes and I only came in for a new bra.
So, it’s Choose Your Own Adventure Time. My instinct now is to try and negotiate the social events I have coming up over the next few weeks with as much grace and as little booze as I can manage, and see how I feel then.
I want to reach a happy medium where more than two nights out during the week don't leave me feeling completely drained, and where I can see my friends and enjoy spending time with them without worrying that I’m going to have a hangover in the morning.
Or, as I don’t seem to respond to a total lack of boundaries, I could give myself a set of arbitrary, but very black and white rules to follow: no alcohol from Sunday – Wednesday, no more than four drinks on a work night, no wine apart from with food, no sleeping under my desk (ha!).
I’m not really sure what the answer is, because a bit of me wonders if I’ve invented the entire problem. In January, 2013 seemed shiny and new. I was back in a routine post-Christmas, which I always prefer to the total anarchy of December, and was in a great mood.
Now the new-year shine’s worn off, but the weather’s still crap, I’ve got no money and I lost my Oyster card on Saturday night (side note: did you know that a single bus fair in London is now £2.40, WTF???).
Maybe that’s the problem? Maybe I’d been feeling just as crappy now even if I wasn’t drinking? Maybe I’ve just invented something to feel unnecessarily guilty about and I just need to stop thinking about it?
Or maybe excessive alcohol consumption is the only thing wrong in my life, and if I cut it out everything else would be perfect?
Gah I don’t know the answer, if I did I’d have done something about it by now.
Are you a moderate drinker? HOW DO YOU DO IT? Are you magic?
Rebecca is tweeting her units per day @rebecca_hol.