lifestyle

How is your relationship with alcohol?

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I don’t drink and type. Never have. So I’m not writing this column with a glass of wine perched next to my keyboard. This is partly because I once stood in a line of desperate people at a computer repair shop watching the guy in front of me burst into tears when told that the glass of pinot he spilt on his laptop had drowned it.

And also because I keep my relationship with alcohol on a very tight leash.

In high school – I mean UNIVERSITY – one of my nicknames was Cadbury. Not just for my love of chocolate but because it only ever took a glass and a half to get me drunk. Nothing much has changed although after years of gentle nudging I’ve recently pushed my limit all the way to two.

Drinking is clearly not in my DNA. I’ve never seen either of my parents drunk. They love a good wine but never to excess and perhaps nature and nurture have made me the same.

My friends laugh at how much of a lightweight I am. Especially the girlfriends who took me on my first and last pub crawl 12 years ago where I was forced to throw Tequila shots over my shoulder so I could stay vertical and remember my own name.

Piss-fit I was not (I learnt this expression from a friend during the silly season. It means you have a high tolerance for alcohol and recover quickly after consuming it. I asked my friend: could another way of saying this be: functional alcoholic? She agreed this was possible.)

While I certainly had some blowouts when I was younger, being drunk is fundamentally incompatible with being a control freak and thus, I’m almost always the self-designated driver.

Laziness also plays a part.

Since having children, the days of hangover indulgence are gone. You’ve never had a real hangover until you’ve been woken after three hours sleep to answer detailed questions about Thomas The Tank, prepare peanut butter toast and change a nappy simultaneously.

I know one couple with three young kids who take a methodical approach to parenting while hung over. They do shifts. Two hours in bed, two hours with the kids, back to bed – throughout the day. Me, I’d just prefer to switch to water at 9pm and feel human in the morning.

‘Tis the season to be hung-over. If not literally then figuratively. After the Christmas tree gets turfed onto the nature strip and the smell of fireworks subsides, January can become ground zero for those who realise they need to take a long hard look at their relationship with alcohol.

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So, what do you see?

It’s all relative. I get mildly anxious when I realise I’ve consumed any kind of alcohol more than two days in a row. For others, it’s the realization they’ve started drinking before 4pm. Or before lunch. Or that they can’t remember the last day they didn’t drink.

January is a great month for self-flagellation. You ate too much. Drank too much. Bought too much. They’re the biggies. And since alcohol is so often at the top of the guilt tree, I entertained myself during my holidays by asking people about their drinking.

One woman told me she has a similar handbrake to mine but for a very different reason; at nine years of age she sat in AA meetings with her dad who has since allowed alcohol to destroy his life. “I hated it then and still have fear and hate around it today at times. Two spirits is my limit and one wine is my max – with food only.”

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Another woman said: “Yes, in January I generally do give myself a hard time about it. I wince at my actions, wantonness, weight gain and day-after depression. But then it’s called the festive season for a reason – it’s a passing period.  Or, for some, just keeping up the drinking pace.”

Another said: “I’m not one of those people that can savour the taste of a fine wine. To me it all tastes like medicine.  I drink different drinks for the effect it will have on me. I drink champagne because the bubbles make me giggle, red wine because it makes me mellow.”

So what are her parameters? “I never drink more than two drinks in a night because I can practically get drunk off wine gums. I also only drink when I’m with people.  Never when it’s just my husband and me – because that would be like drinking alone. I need for it to be a social occasion.”

A friend in her early 30s is jealous of my low alcohol tolerance. “I wish that was me,” she admits. “I certainly would have saved lots of money over the years. I’m still waiting for my ‘adult’ instincts to kick in and to be responsible enough to stop after one or two wines, but I still drink the way I did in my early twenties.”

Like many people I know, this friend has decided to put her drinking on ice next month and give up alcohol entirely for four weeks. If January is the month of reflection, February is the month of deprivation. Ah, cold turkey. The OTHER kind…

How is your relationship with alcohol? Is it different over the Christmas period?

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