Tuesday, 9 March 2010

How not to drink

As well as being on a diet for the wedding I'm not drinking. Well, I'm drinking LESS.

I'm always a bit freaked out by those "Are you an alcoholic?" surveys, because whenever I do them, and answer them honestly, it always turns out that I ought to get myself to the Priory immediately. Do I drink by myself? Yes. Do I drink to forget my problems? Of course. Do I find it difficult to stop after one drink? Who doesn't? Do you scour the house in a rage for alcohol after a particularly trying day? (Ok I made that one up. But the answer is yes.)

There are two times in my life when I've realised that I am going to end up actually an alcoholic if I didn't stop drinking immediately. There are alcoholics on both sides of my family, so I'm as "at risk" as a ming vase on the M4.

The first one was when I was about 23 and working in a seriously lowly job and then my boyfriend ran off with another girl. Which I was doubly pissed off about because before he went out with me he was GAY - running off with a boy I could take but a girl was just beyond the pale. I would come home to my parents' house from work and sit at our kitchen table while my father, god bless him, would pour red wine down my throat until I passed out. I must say, it worked, because I didn't feel nearly so much like killing myself when I was drunk.

In fact, I wrote 40,000 words of a really excellent comic novel, mostly in those evenings when I was drunk. Well, I say it's excellent but the first agent I showed it to hated it and the second didn't even write back. Bastard. And the restraining order means I can't EVEN push a molotov cocktail through his damn letterbox.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, then one day my parents went on holiday and I was left in the house by myself. I wasn't so crazy about cooking and shopping back then and so after three days there was no more alcohol left in the house and I RAGED around it trying to find something to drink. As I stood in the laundry, contemplating a bottle of cherry brandy, I realised I needed to stop immediately.

The second time was when I was working as a reporter for the Londoner's Diary, which is the gossip column in the Evening Standard. I was, for weeks at a time, either drunk or hungover. When I found myself slipping out for a Bloody Mary the second the afternoon edition had been sent (back when the Standard had different editions) I thought I should stop.

I mean, I was hardly Anne Robinson, or George Best, but you don't need to hit rock bottom to be drinking too much, or too regularly. Anyway, my point is that stopping drinking is really boring, but I learnt that it's basically all about replacing the FIRST drink of the evening. (Not a new concept, but I'm pleased with how well it works).

If you want to have an alcohol-free evening, all you need to do is replace the first drink you would normally have of the evening with something else. The plain fact is, I'm normally just thirsty. I'm not one of those people who drinks 18 pints of water a day. I would, but I'm too busy drinking 18 cups of tea. So, my dummy evening drink is usually a virgin Mary or a plain tonic water with ice and lemon.

My brain is so incredibly stupid that it totally thinks it has been given a little drinky and Giles' stash of Chardonnay is left untroubled. If I can just stop Giles from pounding down the stairs at 6pm, rubbing his hands together, doing a little dance and shouting "Let's have a BEER!!!" then I might even make it to the altar sober.

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