Day 20 – Out with the old…


Another weekend nearly over, with plenty of people posting on facebook about their hangovers, and I have remained dry…

I do feel like I have a bit more energy, time and motivation to get things done. As well as walks in the snow, yoga and cello practice I’ve been cleaning, tidying, sorting and getting rid of things (videos!! records!!) I’ve been meaning to get around to for years.

I suppose it’s all a way of letting go of things that I no longer have a use for, that have served their purpose and I have been keeping but don’t actually need. Living with accumulated clutter, like drinking, drains your energy.

I would normally have had some alcohol, maybe a couple of cans of cider or large glasses of wine, and more if I was out, on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s a habit, more than anything. Do I really need it, especially if I’m staying in? I think these last three alcohol-free weekends have proved that I don’t. I haven’t missed it as such, it just feels different. As 6 units of alcohol for a woman (8 for a man) in one day is technically a binge, it’s a positive difference to cut it out.

Here’s a video I came across of a lesser-known song by the excellent Massive Attack, portraying a young, seemingly-professional woman on a serious drinking binge. I think it’s very powerful and may even be shocking for some people. I’ve seen people drinking like this, pouring vodka down their neck as if it was water. Those of us with direct or indirect personal experience of addiction may recognise the desire for oblivion portrayed so hauntingly.

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6 thoughts on “Day 20 – Out with the old…

  1. I do think it’s silly that 6 units is technically a binge. I mean, I drink a pint of Pimms at a time. It has 5 units in it. I make it last 2 or 3 hours, so it covers most of an evening. And then I’ll probably have something else (like my beloved M&S Pina Colada). Yes, I’m drinking “too much” according to the guidelines, but I’m still pretty sober and because it’s normal for me, it’s not a “binge” either. When I google, a “binge” is usually defined as consuming a lot in a short amount of time (be it food, alcohol or whatever). I think if they said “a binge is a lot in a short space of time” or “a binge is more than you would usually consume, for example twice or three times as much” or something else like that, then I could embrace the phrase and pay attention on occasions when I actually do that. But now, I hear about “binge drinking” and think “tsk! How silly! That doesn’t apply to ME!” and ignore any useful advice that might have gone alongside. Dear Government: Dilute your drinks, not your messages!

    …oh. I wrote the above, then I looked at and they actually start by saying “The NHS definition of binge drinking is drinking heavily in a short space of time to get drunk or feel the effects of alcohol”. They then go on to suggest that this might be twice the recommended limits, i.e. 6 units. I think it would be more helpful if they said it was twice what you normally drink.

    Anyway, I don’t binge. “Heavy” drinking… ah, that’s another issue.

    I’m not drinking tonight, so I will think of you not drinking either. I’m sure our livers will thank us.

    I’m still finding your blog really interesting – talking about alcohol, but not repeating messages that have been said a million times. Please do keep blogging when the month is up, I’d love to read your thoughts on other topics in due course.

  2. Hi Flash,

    I knew I could count on you for some topical debate! 😉

    People do have differing understandings of what constitutes binge drinking. We tend to think of it as drinking a lot of alcohol in a short space of time, so I was surprised when I first learned that the marker used by the NHS and NOS is drinking more than twice the recommended daily units of alcohol in one session- after all, to many of us, that doesn’t seem too much out of the ordinary. However it’s not relative to how much you normally drink, as that could be a bottle of wine a day and 2 on a “binge”, but about the risk involved – both would be harmful.

    Your preferred term “heavy drinking” is therefore regular “bingeing” in this sense. The truth is, if you’re a woman regularly (i.e. most days of the week) drinking more than 6 units a day or 35 units a week, or a man regularly drinking more than 8 units a day, or 50 units a week, you are drinking at a Higher Risk level which is likely to be harmful, e.g. increase the risk of liver cirrhosis by 13 times and mouth cancer by 5.4 times (DOH, 2008).

    And drinking anything more than the lower risk drinking guidelines (2-3 daily units for women, 3-4 for men) carries a progressively increasing risk to your health. So while you may not feel drunk on 5+ units, this can be a sign of tolerance, and although the speed you drink, body mass, gender, age etc will play a part in the effects you experience, as well as the strength and amount of alcohol, it can still affect your health e.g.tiredness, memory loss, weight gain.

    As well as sticking within the guidelines it’s also advisable to have 2 or 3 alcohol-free days a week, and 48 hours after a binge, or heavy session. This can reduce the chance of developing a tolerance and risk of dependence.

    I agree that the government messages can be misleading, and confusing, and subject to change. This is partly my reason for doing the Dry January blog, to raise awareness. I’ll use the next blog post to look at different levels of drinking risks. Thanks for your comments and do let me know if there are any other alcohol-related issues you’d like me to post about… I’ll do my best!

    • Fair play, thanks for that. Ive found everything youve said so far to be really insightful… Im currently drafting an article for my own blog on why I DO drink as a result of reading your blog, and comments from another friend who I know used to drink heavily but is now 2 years sober.

      I would be happier not drinking if I could find other solutions, maybe when I post my blog you and others will have some ideas for me. Will it be ok to post that link as a comment in your blog, so you will see it and can hopefully offer some suggestions?

      Thanks again for such thought provoking posts, you are making me stop and think, when I thought I knew everything on this topic already.

      • Thanks…I aim to please! 🙂

        I’m really glad if this has helped others in any way to reflect on their drinking, as it has mine, and that’s the whole idea.

        I’ll be very interested to read your piece and more than happy to see a link to your blog in the comments. I’ll certainly offer any ideas if I can, though I’m always learning too… Good luck! X

    • Also, cheers for addressing this and challenging me rather than fluffily saying “thank you for your comment” or suchlike. I really respect you for taking a stance on this and responding robustly to my thoughts and comments. Thank you.

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