C’mon, admit it.
Your social calendar has cranked up a notch in the last few weeks. You’ve had a few end-of-year celebrations already. Maybe a dusty morning or two spent at your desk at work wishing you’d reigned it in a little last night.
And, as November draws to a close and you stare down the liquor-soaked month of December, you feel a pang of…dread.
The older I get (and the more intense my hangovers become), the more and more I have become familiar with the sensation of Drinking Dread.
It’s a peculiar thing, resenting the social occasions that I should be looking forward to – but like so many other women my age I am starting to realise that the line between ‘one’ and ‘one too many’ is increasingly difficult to manoeuvre. I’m sick of being hungover.
I’d like to slow down, or maybe even stop altogether. I like being fit and healthy, and drinking isn’t really conducive with either of those things.
And so that awkward question arises: how do I stop drinking? Or, even more awkward again – can I stop drinking?
Over the weekend, I read an article in The Sydney Morning Herald entitled, ‘What is the cost to our lives of self-medicating with alcohol?‘
It was an uncomfortable read. Three women were interviewed about their drinking habits. One had given up booze altogether. One rarely drank. But the third? She was a good-time kinda gal: a mother, a businesswoman, a social type, and a self-confessed ‘drinker’.
She is Tegan Sadlier, 45, the picture editor on Good Weekend and Sunday Life; and by any definition, not a drunk. But did she feel like she had a drinking problem? Well, yeah. She did.
“When I drink I can’t have one glass, I have to have four,” she wrote.
“So from Monday to Thursday I eat healthily and I don’t have any alcohol. Friday comes and I switch to Mrs All from Mrs Nothing in the blink of an eye. I think I have that kind of personality, that let-it-rip personality.”
It all sounded so familiar, and I felt a crush on embarrassment as I realised I was in the same boat.
Ask most women my age if they have ever questioned their drinking habits and the answer is likely to be yes.
The cycle seems to be set in cement. Healthy eating, yoga, gym, early mornings, meal-prepped evenings, and other virtuous lifestyle choices Monday to Friday.
But from Friday to Sunday? A spiral of binge drinking, black-out partying, and a shame spiral on Sunday that is only eased slightly by multiple Deliveroo orders and inspirational quotes on Instagram.
I know women who felt so trapped in this cycle that they have taken drastic measures to break free: going teetotal, falling pregnant, moving city. I also know several women who have opted for professional help, from Alcoholics Anonymous or Hello Sunday Morning.
None of whom you would ever in your wildest dreams deem an ‘alcoholic’.
“Because I’m all-or-nothing, I have thought I should just stop completely, and maybe I’ll end up having to, but I don’t really want it to come to that,” wrote Tegan Sadlier in The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Mostly I think it’s all under control. I just need to find that middle ground when I’m socialising, to learn when I’ve reached the point before the point of no return, to say no when someone goes to fill my glass again.”
So, how to reach the ‘point, before the point of no return’…and stay there?
I could rant on about the Great Australian Drinking Problem, or the tangled web of social networking and straight-up binge drinking; but I won’t. You know all of that. What I want to talk about is how we fix this strange dependence on booze.
If grog was a friend, we would kick it to the curb: it takes all our money, makes us do stupid things, gives us next-day shame spirals, and makes us fat. It ruins our internal organs, our mental health, and is the gateway to a slew of other bad habits such as smoking, drugs, and the inevitable next-day junk food binge.
So why do we do it?
MM Confessions: Most Embarrassing Drunk Moments (Post continues after video)
The Sydney Morning Herald article reckons it’s because of increased stress, and a desire to keep up to our male counterparts. I want to cry foul and call that sexist, but…I think there’s truth in that.
“Experts say younger women are aping the behaviour of baby boomers and gen-Xers, the first women to enter the career culture and adopt the drinking habits of their male colleagues. We’re in the workplace and have the money to drink – and the pressure to justify it.”
Right, so, we’re stressed. We’re turning to booze. Got it. But how do we fix it?
To be perfectly honest, the methods given to stop or reduce drinking habits don’t seem to be scripted with millennials in mind. The alcohol dependence groups online feel like they’re targeted towards middle-aged men who have a hip flask stashed in their desk drawer. That’s not us.
Gen Y are not hiding anything, per se – and yet our drinking habits are still epically unhealthy.
We need a whole new approach to kicking booze, something that taps into the triggers specific to our particular age group. These triggers can be anything from workplaces to social dynamics, location to stress levels, mental health issues to parental influence.
Here, I’ll go first: my issue is with wine. Lovely, lovely wine.
A glass of wine is the ultimate alcoholic chameleon. It is used for everything from soothing a bad day at work, to celebrating a good day at work.
It’s the Nice Lady drink of choice, and perfectly reasonable to be consumed in large quantities over lunch. (Like, a drunk woman with a glass of wine in hand is far more socially acceptable than a drunk woman with a glass of vodka in hand. Don’t ask me why.)
Monday night blues? Wine. Rainy Wednesday? Wine. Friday night drinks? Wine.
But regardless of what your triggers are, for most Gen Y’s, the stumbling point comes between being social, and drinking. If you can’t have one without the other, then a booze-free life suddenly looks lonely.
“What would we do if we weren’t drinking?” is a question tossed around regularly around my friends. And it seems like an impossible question to answer until….well, until you answer it.
Hiking. Going the beach. A nice dinner at home. Seeing a movie. Seeing a play. Getting a massage. Making something. Going to an art gallery. Going for a drive to a county town. Taking surf lessons. Going op-shopping.
I'm reminded on a recent post from Drew Barrymore where she snapped herself and her girlfriends on a hike. Her post was probably meant to be about the figurative experience of 'climbing a mountain together', but it was the very literal interpretation that got me thinking.
"#peopleilove hold onto those you love and climb a mountain together," she wrote.
"The women in my life are doers. That can be anything from life, work and physical capability. Zest if you will. I follow my friends. And when I am most in need, I hold on tighter. But it is when they need me... I know I have done something right. To earn their trust. Love your friends. Share kindness. Hold onto moments and most of all... MAKE MORE PLANS!!!!!!!!!"
Make more plans.
MAKE MORE PLANS.
I liked the sound of that.
#peopleilove hold onto those you love and climb a mountain together. The women in my life are doers. That can be anything from life, work and physical capability. Zest if you will. I follow my friends. And when I am most in need, I hold on tighter. But it is when they need me... I know I have done something right. To earn their trust. Love your fiends. Share kindness. Hold onto moments and most of all... MAKE MORE PLANS!!!!!!!!!
So my mantra leading into the festive season - and the temptation of many big boozy night - is to make plans.
I will avoid the boredom-induced boozing by filling my life with healthy decisions. I'm doing to make all the plans. Book myself in for brunch early Saturday morning. Stuff my afternoon and evening full of booze-free events. Plans, plans, plans.
One of our Mamamia writers who recently kicked the booze when training for a half marathon gave me the following nuggets of advice, and I reckon they're the best I've heard yet.
1. Make plans for the next day. You have to show up and you have to be a decent version of yourself, so reign it in because no one likes the friend that shows up hungover and whines the whole time.
2. Have a goal that's larger than the weekend. Training for a fun run really helped me want to be better about my overall health, including getting enough sleep, eating well and being able to train.
3. Remember all the mornings you've spent lying in bed in a shame spiral, thinking about what embarrassing thing you said or did last time.
4. Every time you reach for a drink think about the worst drunken thing you've ever done, and then put the drink down again.
Watch this space.