Do I Really Have To Give Up Drinking?

There are, after all, a multitude of other crazy, irresponsible ways to die

I’m one of those people who flicks quickly past any article on my socials about “How Many Drinks Are Too Much” or “How Much Happier I Am Since I Got Sober”. But unfortunately, the older I get, the closer I get to not wanting to drink anymore.

Table of glasses of alcohol.
Photo by Terje Sollie on

It’s kind of annoying that it has come to this because I hate being told what to do or shamed for not being one of those healthy influencer models of perfection types who only wear white and live in Byron, and although I can’t compete at my son’s level of oppositional defiance, I want to keep drinking – albeit more mindfully.

I should point out – and this may be controversial – that my choice to drink less has nothing to do with “seeing the light” in terms of my health, or because I’ve somehow managed to avoid the dangerous lure of addiction that runs through my family tree. It is not even based on the advice of my doctor – although I’m sure she would back me wholeheartedly. No, the main reason I’m denying myself one of the few great pleasures in my life is that my post-menopausal body will no longer tolerate it.

These days, three drinks give me the type of hangover I used to get after a 12hr bender

As many women my age discover, our bodies stop metabolising alcohol as easily as they did when we were younger – one of those unfair, gender-biased bummers that come with turning fifty that is a bit like how men look distinguished with grey hair, and women just look old. Then there’s the well-documented scientific link between alcohol and breast cancer, which my anxiety can’t shake off.

The problem is, despite the dire health warnings, it is still not easy for someone as anxious as me to give up something that has been a dependable crutch for as long as I can remember.

Even now, in what should be my twilight years, my favourite pastime is to share a few drinks and good food with friends. I mean, ordinarily, I wouldn’t allow a few nasty headaches to get in the way of my fun, but it’s hard to ignore the science. So though I’m still drinking in excess of the recommended number of units per week – around ten in Australia – I am trying to participate in a couple of alcohol-free nights when I’m like a bear with a sore head, devour every snack in my cupboard, and feel generally miserable. I am also usually in bed by nine o’clock.

Clearly, I have a problem with alcohol…

However, what I like to believe is that in the grand scheme of things, mine is a small problem.

A friend of mine has a pleasing way of putting my concerns into perspective. She agrees that yes, we both drink more than we should, but she also points out that 1. No one is perfect, that 2. There are certain negatives to stopping – social ostracisation and permanently designated driver status to name a few, and 3. There are many equally risky pastimes we could be doing.

Yet for all the downsides of recreational drinking, it can also bring delight: for centuries, it has been the backdrop to life-affirming adventures; liquid to help us let loose.

Michael Segalov, The Guardian

Imagine how boring socially anxious people like me would become if we stopped drinking

There are a multitude of other crazy ways to die if you count getting into your car each day, being the same partner for more than twenty-five years, or taking the concoction of medications I put in my body each day that will likely damage my organs and reduce my longevity. Then there’s stress. I know that everyone experiences this at some time or another, but over the past few years, we’ve had more than our fair share, primarily in the shape of one of those stadium-sized, scary stressors that are neither controllable nor easy to manage. At the end of some of those tough days, nothing alleviated it quite like a large, cool glass of Rose.

I’m not condoning drinking, I suppose what I’m saying is that as long as you’re not slugging Vodka from your water bottle at the gym or getting the shakes after an alcohol-free night, maybe you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself.

Life isn’t perfect and neither are we

Think about those crazies who do extreme sports, who despite risking their lives each time they jump off or free-climb a mountain, we applaud. I don’t expect anyone to congratulate me for drinking, but if a glass of wine gets me through another day, then why not?

I understand the reasons our governments want us to cut back – to ease the pressure on our healthcare system and reduce abuse – but if we return to the driving analogy, we don’t recommend that everyone stops driving to prevent the small percentage who take risks.

Sure as eggs are eggs, alcohol will get me in the end. But for me, it is a risk worth taking. In my own way, I am working towards drinking less, but as neither an irresponsible nor abusive drinker, I won’t beat myself up about those evenings when I find it too hard to resist.

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