Day 18 – The Ghost of Drinkers Future

So… over the halfway point of Dry January with just 13 days to go and the end is in sight… I’d like to thank all my sponsors, family, friends and colleagues who’ve supported me in so many ways and raised £337 for Alcohol Concern now.

I had no idea whether this challenge would take off so started with an initial target of £100, quickly increased it to £175, then doubled it to £350, in response to your generosity, and may yet need to raise it again before the end of the month 🙂

I really appreciate all the encouragement, sharing, and spontaneous discussions that have taken place. A trainer once told me “There are two types of people who like getting positive feedback. Men…and women” and I try to remember that in my work. It’s very affirming to be on the receiving end of people’s comments that recognise our efforts, and strengthen our belief in our abilities – “If I can do this for 18 days without too much difficulty, maybe I could do it for 6 months?…”

I have a challenge for you too, if you’re brave enough. The Drinking Time Machine app http://www.dryjanuary.org.uk/drinking-time-machine.php will allow you to see the effects on your face in 10 years’ time if you drink 14, 28, or 40 units of alcohol a week.

Here’s a computer’s impression of my future 45-year-old self if I drink 28 units a week. That’s about 3 bottles of wine. The recommended weekly guideline is 14 units for a woman (21 for a man). Observe my lovely red “drinker’s nose”, wrinkles and double chin and be warned!!

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To donate online, please go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/bethanfisher

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Day 14 – How many biscuits in a bottle?

A couple of people asked me if I’d lost weight today. I don’t feel like I have, but as I generally avoid scales like the plague I have no way of knowing for sure. I haven’t changed my exercise routine  or diet – in fact in the absence of using alcohol as a “reward” I’ve probably been eating MORE chocolate if anything – but purely by abstaining from alcohol for 2 weeks, it’s highly likely that I have been reducing my calorie intake.

For anyone like me who could do with losing some weight, taking an honest look at the amount of alcohol we drink, and cutting down, is unavoidable if we’re serious about it. It’s quite scary how many calories are in alcohol – 7 calories per gram, nearly as much as in a gram of pure fat (9 calories).

The World Cancer Research fund has a handy automated Alcohol Calorie Counter on its website, which conveniently does the maths for you and tells you the equivalent number of chocolate digestive biscuits to your favourite tipple.

http://www.wcrf-uk.org/cancer_prevention/health_tools/alcohol_calorie_calculator.php

Exhibit A, a pint of cider at 5 % abv contains 244 calories

Exhibit B, a pint of lager at 5% contains 250 calories

Exhibit C, a large (250ml) glass of wine at 13% abv contains 178 calories

JUST ONE DRINK might as well be a packet of crisps in terms of the calorie content, and 4 or 5 drinks on a night out could easily involve a third to a half of the total daily calorie intake we need. Factor in peanuts and a kebab and it’s no wonder we pile on the pounds.

Even for those who are underweight, alcohol does you no favours as it has no nutritional value, so you’re filling yourself up with “empty” calories.

My mind does quite fancy a drink tonight but my stomach really doesn’t.

Nearly at that halfway milestone now, and very close to the £350 target with a running total of £317 (£373.25 including gift aid). If you haven’t yet sponsored me and would like to donate online, why not give the price of a pint (or some very expensive chocolate biscuits!) at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/bethanfisher

Day 11 – Pub o’clock

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Went to the pub tonight, first major challenge as quite a high risk situation for me. If I’m in a pub, I tend to want a pint or several. Stuck to pints (there’s just something reassuring about a pint!) but this time they were of Coke or orange and lemonade, not cider. Still enjoyed myself as I was meeting friends who are always very entertaining company, and who I used to work with at Mind in Taunton & West Somerset, where we would drink a lot of tea together. Still I couldn’t help feeling that alcohol would have enhanced my enjoyment. As the evening wore on and the pub got busier and louder, I had that feeling of being somehow separate, on a different wavelength – sober, basically.

I’m a quiet, introverted type and I often feel I’m “two drinks behind” everyone else, and a couple of drinks really help me to feel at ease, more confident and less inhibited. That’s definitely one of the positives of alcohol for me, not worrying so much socially. There’s a downside to that too of course…embarrassing myself by talking complete rubbish, getting an idea in my head that I won’t let go, falling over, losing my stuff, and relying on alcohol as a social prop.

It’s nice to know I can be in a pub and not have to drink alcohol, and that there’s no chance of waking up tomorrow with a hangover (which seem so much more hellish as I get older), so I think on the whole the pros of abstinence outweigh the cons, at least for the timebeing…but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t tempted.

It’s now a third of the way through Dry January, the “honeymoon period” is well and truly over and as another dry weekend kicks off, there’s still a way to go before I can sit a a pub with a pint of cider. Please sponsor me at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/bethanfisher – running total currently a very respectable £277. 

Day 8 – the Big Issues

The Big Issue does not only help homeless people to earn a legitimate income and access support and opportunities to rebuild their lives, it’s always well worth reading for its thought-provoking articles about a range of social issues.

This week’s edition has an article by Vicky Carroll about the UK’s binge drinking culture and its cost to society “in cash and lives”- on the financial side an estimated £21bn a year, including £11bn in crime and social disorder, £3.5bn for the NHS and £6.4bn lost to the economy. Minimum unit pricing at 50p in Scotland and 45p in England and Wales is being introduced as a measure to reduce alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions.

Investing in specialist alcohol treatment is also desperately needed to reduce alcohol-related harm to individuals and society. For every £1 spent on specialist alcohol treatment, £5 is saved on health, welfare and crime costs. If we put money into services which help people with alcohol issues, we all benefit.

Please do everything you can to support the Dry January campaign to raise money for Alcohol Concern by sponsoring me online at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/bethanfisher and telling people about it. We’ve already got to a running total of £267 and we CAN make a real difference.

Day 7 – Week 1 Completed!

Noticing lots of comment and analysis in the press around Dry January, and also Cancer Research’s Dryathlon campaign, and whether giving up alcohol for a month can have any significant benefits. A piece in the Guardian says that Alcohol Concern cites similar campaigns in Australia and New Zealand, where over a third of participants reported reduced drinking over the rest of the year, which I find genuinely encouraging.

Of course, as highlighted by the British Liver Trust, sensible drinking through the year is preferable to a month of abstinence and excessive drinking the rest of the time, but one week into Dry January, and I’m already wondering how my alcohol  consumption might change as a result of this challenge in the longer term…

Please donate online at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/bethanfisher

Running total £227 including offline donations, so please spread the word that lack of access to digital technology need not be a barrier!

Day 6 – Sunday lunch and drinks (non-alcoholic of course)

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Lovely Sunday lunch and drinks in town with a friend. Usually would have involved some wine or cider and possibly an Irish coffee to round things off. Experimented with soft drinks instead including a raspberry lemonade, which only tasted slightly of jam, and lots of water. Impressed that my friend voluntarily chose to join me in sticking to non-alcoholic drinks, and had some interesting discussions about Dry January. Finding people generally supportive and curious about the campaign. Distinct lack of the usual sleepiness after a leisurely lunch, no doubt due to the lack of alcohol, though possibly the double espressos as well!

I’m well aware that I’m in a very privileged position, and that substituting delicious soft beverages for alcohol is hardly a great sacrifice. I’m not socially excluded by homelessness, poverty, unemployment or disability. For people facing multiple deprivations, the prospect of giving up alcohol can be terrifying as it can be their only coping strategy, no matter how destructive. This is why support services for alcohol users are so important, to help the most vulnerable people and show that change is possible.

Please donate online at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/bethanfisher

Running total £227

Day 4 – First Friday Night

Well it’s Friday night, the end of the working week, and I must admit the idea of a nice glass of wine has crossed my mind…so I’m enjoying a hot chocolate instead. Still feeling highly motivated and confident about being able to do this, and so committed to the cause that I hereby pledge to refund all the wonderful sponsors AND donate the total sponsorship money raised for Alcohol Concern myself if I fall off the wagon at any point during Dry January. The running total is £192 so that would mean nearly £400 if I had a drink today and could be a lot more by the end of the month! Please do share with your contacts if you can, and let’s see if we can hit the £350 target and raise the stakes even further – remember all money raised will go towards improving services for people whose lives are affected by alcohol-related problems and campaigning for effective alcohol policy in England and Wales 🙂

Please sponsor me at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/bethanfisher