As far as I am concerned alcohol is, and always has been, very much needed to overcome (alright, numb) the Terror Of Life.
I enjoy a drink. More than one at a time. And surely, that’s ok?
I don’t have any responsibilities - other than to myself, if you count that. Probably should.
I don’t have any children to fail at being a role model for.
As a consenting adult I feel confident, unashamed and guilt-free in my drinking choices…or do I?
I decided to download an app. Yes. The Change4Life Drinks Tracker app.
It all started with a wall chart at the hospital - hang on, reader! I was not in as a result of drinking. I was actually getting some wisdom teeth removed. All four of them. (Bloody HELL, reader – take care of your teeth!)
Anyway I was sat on a bed, naked from the waist up, being hooked up to an ECG machine - this takes forever. It's like being seduced very slowly by an electronic octopus. In this awkward social situation I thought it safest to just stare at the wall. And there, on said wall, was an enormous alcohol unit chart. Really, it took up the whole wall.
Lovely little pictures, depicting all alcoholic beverages imaginable. Along with the units each little bugger came with. I decided to fill the time by attempting some maths. It was quite sobering.
Already feeling vulnerable – sat half-naked on a hospital bed about to be drilled and hammered - I became panicked by my apparent drinking disorder, and decided to behave like a responsible adult, take some action.
Hence, the app.
A couple of months in, I am finding that this app makes me feel incredibly guilty about the way I lead my day to day life, without actually inhibiting me from continuing drinking in any way…hmmm.
According to the stats and charts that this app has created for me, it turns out that yes – I am in fact a binge drinker.
If I'm being honest with myself, I'm not surprised. I haven't been living in a bubble or anything. I know about units and I can sort-of count. But I do feel rather unjustly labelled.
Up to now I've been ignoring all the talk of binge drinking on the TV, because I don’t relate to it;
a) The coverage is almost entirely about young people and the binge drinking epidemic. I'm no longer a young person - supposedly, I'm now a ‘grown up’. Also, all this coverage is painfully predictable and over the top – can’t the reporters remember being young?
b) The general perception of binge drinkers doesn't feel like me. I’m not one of those horrendous ladettes (can I still use that word?), crawling around shoe-less on Broad Street, with my pants round my ankles, falling into unmarked cabs. Surely this is all a mistake and the app has got it wrong...
I know I'm no angel. But it's not like I'm going out partying like I did in my twenties. Hardly. More likely to be sitting in front of the TV, watching The Honourable Woman or such like, cradling a glass of wine to get through the tension.
Basically, it’s harder, harder than you may think, to drink less than 6 units when you go out (...or stay in). Especially if you’re a woman and have less units to work with.
It's not like our contemporaries of the past didn't drink - in fact, surely they drank more? It makes me wonder if there is, in fact, an epidemic. Or have social attitudes to drinking alcohol just changed so much now we've been brainwashed with all this unit-speak; something constructed by the Government to protect the NHS? Fair enough, but it hardly seems right that I'm made to feel guilty if I want to share a bottle of wine with my meal, and then have a cocktail afterwards.
I'm being flippant, I know. It's the 21-year-old in me lingering on and encouraging me to carry bad habits into my thirties. But now, thanks to this app, I am more educated. Whilst it all may be a bit nanny-state, understanding units has helped us to become more clued up about the facts of drinking alcohol, and take control of our health. And it all must have sunk in, struck a nerve with me - otherwise, I would never have downloaded this app in the first place. I must have grown up after all...
The reality - a fact I can't hide behind with a glass of wine - is that excess alcohol raises the risk of developing more than 200 diseases. That really is quite frightening. And although you could argue that merely being alive increases the bloody risk, I'm going to persevere. One glass at a time.
I just need to learn how to transfer the charts and stats into real life, change my bad habits. Next time I'm watching tense TV, instead of reaching for the vino I think I'll switch over to comedy, instead.