Photo: Jocelyn Durston
What’s the big deal I hear you ask? It's only a couple of glasses of wine at night. Where’s the harm?
I’ve been drinking at least two or three glasses of wine every night for maybe a year, and what I don’t like is that my little habit has turned into a battle of wills, with wine winning more often than not.
Like most women, I'm always trying to shift a few pounds. Following my recent health problems and surgery, in January I made a decision to get back in shape and thought giving up alcohol for a few weeks was bound to help the waistline. Easy enough, yes?
No. I made the decision mid-week but by Thursday my resolve was weakening.On Friday when hubby poured himself a glass and asked if I fancied one, I found myself justifying the craving. "It's only one glass. It’s your only vice. You deserve it” ‘Oh, go on then.’ The words were out before I could stop them and I caved. A few weeks later in March I tried again. I lasted two weeks, and actually, every day since, I’ve told myself I won’t have a drink, or I’ll only have one glass, but every evening my willpower ends up round my ankles, not to mention the guilt, the castigating, and disappointment with myself.
This realisation of my unhealthy relationship with fermented grape juice has crept up on me. I don’t remember exactly when the penchant began. Like many people, when I worked, I liked to come in from work at night and pour a glass of wine while preparing dinner. After the kids came along, it was "wine o'clock," that magic ‘me’ time after the little blighters had gone to bed and calm was restored chez nous, and I’d sit and watch TV, or read, with a glass of wine clasped firmly in hand. When I retired from work on ill health grounds, I carried on the habit. Hubby would come in from work - I’d already have a glass on the worktop as I prepared dinner - I’d get him a beer and pour myself a top up as we chatted and ate dinner. After clearing up, I’d pour another glass as the family sat down to watch TV. Three or four glasses said in context doesn’t sound excessive, does it?
The trouble is, then there's the occasional glass of Dutch courage I need if I'm going somewhere and feel unconfident, like one of hubby's work parties. Or the habit I've developed of having one while I do the ironing in an evening. And there's nothing like sitting on the patio, admiring the view and watching the swallows while sipping a cold glass of white...
These little associations to alcohol aren't healthy. Don’t get me wrong, drinking doesn’t affect my day to day life. I’m not out of control or a binge drinker. I rarely get drunk. Two or three bad hangovers in my early years of drinking are deterrent enough to stop a desire to get blotto. And unless we’re having Sunday dinner or on holiday, I can't stomach a drink before tea-time.
But am I the only woman, who around the time of 'The Weakest Link,' finds themselves watching the clock, waiting for the magic moment when it will be six o’clock somewhere in the world so I can get the corkscrew out and open the next bottle?
Evidently not. When I speak to my friends, some of them share the same habit. And according to several articles there's a growing trend for middle-age women to hit the wine bottle in the evening, not falling down drunk, but a glass or two at the end of the day. Every day. That's me. Who would have thought about the 35+ units it adds up to.
As many as 1 in 6 has a problem with alcohol dependency. More than 1 in 3 women over 35 drinks more than they did in their teens. And 1 in 5 women over 35 admits to regularly binge drinking.
It’s a standing joke in our house about "Mum and her wine."
Even the kids see the association. It was funny at first but now I’m starting to feel it’s all a little sad. I don't want to turn into a bag lady. I started buying boxes instead of bottles. It didn’t look quite so desperate (or was it because it hid how much I was drinking?) But then I realised I could get through a box of wine in three to four days. It’s too easy to keep topping up with a box. And it was even more of a shock when I calculated how many units are in a box. Mum’s psychological crutch had increased to a bottle of wine a night. How shocking is that?
The fact that I've been able to stop in January and March without any ill effect shows I’m not physically addicted as such. However, I don’t like the thought that psychologically, my drinking habits are hooking me in, as alcohol insiduously teases me towards the slippery slope. It might be a way of helping me to wind down, but is the increase because it takes more and more alcohol to achieve the same effects, as your body becomes used to it. Because eventually alcohol might become the only way to wind down...
Am I over-analysing? Do I have a drink problem? I should be the one in control, not the wine, so I guess that makes it one, if it’s a problem to me.
I'm not addicted, but it's a habit which is starting to make me unhappy, and therefore one that needs breaking. Besides anything else, I take a lot of medication already for my Behcets disease – Methotrexate (an anti-cancer drug,) Sulphasalazine, (an anti-rheumatic,) Celecoxib, painkillers (sometimes morphine based.) I won’t bore you with them all, but you can see the amount of toxins my system has to cope with. I really shouldn’t punish my body by adding more.
And also, I have a new set of health worries to contend with - more about them in another post - but I need to make sure I’m strong and able to cope with whatever the outcome. Time will tell. Perhaps it's this scare which has given me the jolt I need, and to this end, I’ve stopped drinking. No wine has passed my lips for...err... forty-eight hours... but it's a start, and giving up for one night was the first psychological hurdle.
I won't set myself up to fail by declaring I'm going teetotal. For the time being, I’d like it to stop for longer than the two weeks I managed earlier in the year and to show I’m serious, I’ve posted this blog for the world to see and that I can re-read it as a reminder to look after myself better.
Right, it's your turn to be honest. Do you drink more than is good for you? And if so, have you tried to stop? Or if it's not the booze, what habit would you like to break?
Until another day
Above statistics and information obtained from:
NHS live well
Alcohol Substance Abuse
The British Liver Trust