I decided to give up drinking alcohol for a month. I'd seen the posters for Octsober, a month-long initiative to make people aware of alcohol abuse, similar to this month's Movember, during which time men grow their facial hair to raise awareness of testicular cancer; I'd seen the poster, but didn't feel terribly compelled to participate in a month-long spell of enforced alcohol abstinence. I'm not good at feeling like I'm being told to do something by a marketing campaign.
Be assured, I'm not a alcoholic, nor do I consider myself to have any sort of drinking problem, and in fact, in contrast to others I know, I barely drink at all. I never drink on a school night, I hardly ever drink if I'm at a work dinner or on the rare occasion I go out for after-work drinks, I can only think of a handful of occasions where I've shared a whole bottle of wine with my wife during the course of an evening, and my principal alcohol consumption is confined to a couple of cocktails on a Friday and Saturday night and a glass of wine with lunch on a Sunday. In this sense, I'm not that different to my younger self; I didn't drink that much as a student and I can probably count the number of times I've been properly wasted on two hands. In fact, I wrote a post for my first blog (The First Days Of My Thirties) a few years ago that covered my mild misdemeanours with alcohol, and I have no other notable additions to make to that list. When I had a compulsory medical in my first few weeks of starting at university in 1995, in response to the question 'Has anyone commented on the amount you drink?' I put 'Yes, people say I don't drink enough.' The doctor didn't see the funny side of this. So, in summary, I don't think I have a problem, but then again, I imagine that most people with an alcohol problem don't think they do either.
The opportunity to abstain for a month came with the confluence of the bottles of vodka, gin and Bacardi in our house all running dry at more or less the same time. These are the bases I use for most of the cocktails I make so it meant spending anything up to £70 on three bottles of booze in one go. Money being tight anyway these days and with Christmas coming up, the idea of that expenditure was hard to justify, in the same way as I'd find it hard to justify buying music or an expensive hobby right now.
So for the entire month of November not a drop of alcohol passed my lips. I'd like to say that I felt better for it, but for some reason the only real benefit seems to have been financial. The month of abstention seemed to coincide with a period of unsettled sleep for our youngest daughter, and so I still woke up on Saturday and Sunday mornings during November with a jaded feeling, just as if I'd had a few drinks the night before. I'm sure my body appreciated the detox on some level, but I suspect you need to drink a lot more than I do to feel a major benefit.
But maybe there was one major benefit of the month off: I didn't miss alcohol at all. I didn't drive home from the train station after work on a Friday looking forward to a gin and tonic, or idly look through my cocktail books on a Saturday afternoon looking for interesting recipes to make, and in spite of having a pretty stressful period at work, I don't remember once thinking to myself that I needed a drink after an especially gruelling day in the office.
Still, that was November. It's now practically December, the time for Christmas traditions; mulled wine, the first alcohol I will have consumed in a month is being prepared, its boozy, fruity, spicy fragrance filling my kitchen. The Christmas drinks cupboard is being restocked and festive cocktail recipes are being pulled out of the Saturday papers.