I am 40 in five weeks time. The big four zero. Half of my life and what many consider the best half is done and dusted. Yet, I don’t really feel like that. I have a wife, three wonderful kids, a business – things are going well. I am a lucky man.
Yet, I grow ever more aware of how precious time is. The loss of a family member. My oldest child starting secondary school. My youngest heading toward their fourth birthday. Life is a series of moments – many of which are never to be repeated. My life is busy with work and every single spare moment away from that should be optimised to enjoy everything my family has to offer.
But unfortunately, every single moment is not like that. I am often tired and stressed. I work hard. I try to exercise consistently. I eat well and am focused on being well. In a life so busy I typically unwind with a drink. I reward myself for my days hard work with a drink. I maybe have a few more on Thursday, a few more than that Friday and probably even more on Saturday. I cap that off with a couple Sunday afternoon.
Celebrations and Rewards
Booze is woven into everything in our culture. When something great happens we celebrate with Champagne. For birthdays, new years and anything else worth celebrating we tend to celebrate with a drink. A party generally means lots of adults getting together to drink. As we grow up and we start to go out it usually involves alcohol. Booze is everywhere. But so are the hangovers.
Then as we get a bit older alcohol gets wired into our lives as our reward for a hard days work. The glass of wine after work. A few beers after work. The big night out.
Booze is a good thing – right?
Alcohol is everywhere but is it really the great friend it is held up to be in our culture? I tend to find that alcohol makes me snappy, grumpy, tired, sleepy, negative and just generally takes my edge off.
If I have a few drinks I tend to stay up that little bit later and don’t spring out of bed in the morning. Given that I have a gorgeous three year old who gets up early who it is an absolute joy to spend time with you would have thought that getting up would be a joy – and it is – if I have not had a drink the night before.
Everything in moderation
Moderation. Everything in moderation. I really have to call bullshit on that. Firstly, if something is bad for you it’s bad for you so moderation is not suitable for everything – heroin in moderation? Cigarettes in moderation? Of course, moderation with some foods and such may not be a deal breaker but it is certainly not helpful.
However, when it comes to booze moderation is very hard for many people, myself included. The drinking guidelines basically suggest one small drink for females and one larger drink for males per day. And that does not mean seven on one day – it has to be one per day or the supposed health benefits fall away pretty quickly.
My drinking tends to follow a regular pattern in that I will have a couple most week knights and then likely a few more Friday, a few more than that Saturday and then back down to a few on Sunday, Monday etc.
If I have one it always ends up being more than one – it reminds me of an old saying:
First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.
I know that I can’t moderate. Not to say everyone can’t as my wife does great and can happily open one bottle of sweet cider and often only drink half of it. I however can’t do that. As soon as I start I stop caring. I never drink to oblivion but one is not enough.
I have managed to stop for a month before and did a dry November last year but it soon creeps back up. I spent some time on a site that helps people who want to stop drinking called Hello Sunday Morning (HSM) that suggests a three month or twelve month period of abstinence – I only ever managed a month and then tried to do ‘moderation’ which never worked. Once it is back on the table it is too easy to say yes on that Thursday when you are tired, that Friday as it’s the start of the weekend and off we go again.
I do know from my time on HSM that I am not alone in these feelings and this is further backed up by seeing friends and relatives who are lost to booze and it to a large degree rules them – it’s not always so easy to get such perspectives on yourself.
Better, happier & more productive
The whole purpose of this site is how to be happy and healthy once we hit the bump in the road that is our fortieth birthday. So for various reasons I have come to the conclusion that I may well be better off without booze.
I appreciate that this instantly makes me part of the lunatic fringe but after 25 years or so of drinking I need to see if I really am just a tired, grumpy, snappy old git half the time or, as I suspect, alcohol is just not sitting all that well with me any more.
So, like all good scientists I am going to put my theory to the test and do a full year without alcohol. I will document how I get on along that journey here. My birthday is the 6th of December so I figure I will do a warm up five weeks or so now and then get stuck into a full year from the 6th December 2015 to the 6th December 2016.
I can then do a frank and honest evaluation of where I stand and possibly have another go at moderation – that will also be an interesting experiment given my previous failings with this.
There are a few key things I would like to identify during this process and in particular whether I am:
- more productive
- a better husband
- a better parent
I hope that some of you will follow my progress and welcome comments or even anyone who wants to join me on this crazy ride.