Saturday, 13 June 2015

Drinking Alone

Day 104 and HUGE CONGRATULATIONS TALLAXO for making the big 100 yesterday! How does it feel? Did you celebrate?

A while ago someone left a comment on here that's been niggling away at me. I tried to find it again this morning, but I can't. It read something like 'anyone who drinks alone has a problem IMHO'. Kats76, was it you?

It got me thinking: when did drinking alone stop being a stigma? Or maybe it still is a stigma, but just one I, and most people I know, ignored?

The 'line that shall not be crossed,' as far as I was concerned, was drinking before midday, and being deceitful about drinking (things like hiding bottles, and lying to the husband and friends. Lying to the GP doesn't count, obviously).

I used to drink at lunch time every weekend, and at business lunches, and when out for lunch with friends. Slowly, slowly it got to the stage where it was very unusual for me not to drink at lunchtime.

And the start time got earlier and earlier, until the point where I would pour a drink at 11.45am, then just watch it until 12pm.

The deceit started creeping up too. I didn't overtly lie to the husband about how much I was drinking. I'd just neglect to mention the half bottle of vino I'd just drunk when I'd suggest he pick up a bottle for us to share with dinner.

And if a friend asked, casually, how much I drank in the evening I'd quote a 'good' day, not an evil one. Doesn't everyone?

But the day came, as it always does, when I couldn't fool myself any more and I knew I'd crossed the line good and proper (see Secret Drinker Hits the High Bottom). That's what made me stop.

So, my question is: did I draw the line in the right place?

If I had seen drinking alone as a danger sign, I would have crossed the line twenty years ago. At that point I wouldn't have had to quit altogether, I would have just reined it all in, and carried on as a happy, moderate, normie with no inkling whatsoever of the wine witch.

Whenever I did one of those online questionnaires entitled: 'are you an alcoholic?' (and I did loads of them) and I got to the question 'do you drink alone?' I'd mentally discount it. Drink alone? Of course I do. Doesn't everyone?

My drinking career started off socially, but, by the time I got to Oxford, there were 'social' drinking events pretty much every evening.

Then, when I left uni, I shared a house with 3 university friends who were trainee doctors. No-one knows how to 'let off steam' better than a trainee doctor. Our house was 'social drinking central' most evenings.

Eventually I got fed up of living in a shared house where everyone pretended not to notice the sink overflowing with mouldy plates so that they wouldn't have to do anything about it and, at the age of 26, I bought my own flat.

I found a large one bedroom in Fulham for the price of £80,000 (I got a 95% bank loan and a 5% loan from my parents). That wouldn't buy you enough space to park a moped on these days.

I had so few possessions that I was able to move with the help of a friend's VW hatchback, and a friendly black cab driver.

That first evening I sat in my only chair (a brightly coloured deck chair) in my new sitting room. The only other furnishings were 2 ornate candlesticks from the Conran shop, my stereo system, a yucca plant and a packing case which doubled as a coffee table. I had never been so happy.

So, did I toast my achievement with a glass of Perrier? F**k no! Obviously I opened a bottle of champagne and drank half of it (that was plenty in those days!) on my own.

Given that I now lived alone, it stood to reason that I would drink alone. I never questioned it. In fact, being able to go to my own fridge, after a hard day of kicking ass in the cut-throat world of advertising, and pour myself a large, chilled glass of chardonnay (as it was in those days) felt terribly grown up.

It was sophisticated. Emancipated. Not sad! Oh no! Bridget Jones drank alone. Carrie Bradshaw drank alone. It's what young, independent, single women did.

As I grew up, got married and had children, pouring oneself a large glass (or three) of vino once the children were in bed (and then earlier and earlier) was all part of being a busy, stressed out Mum.

Every day you'd hear someone say something along the lines of "God I need a glass of wine", or making jokes about "Mummy juice". And we sure as hell wouldn't wait for company before getting stuck in (and blitzed out).

But, the problem with drinking alone is that that's when the vino morphs from being 'social lubricantion' to 'self medication'.

When you drink socially, you drink for the buzz, the relaxation, the shared change of mood. When you drink alone, you drink because you're stressed. Bored. Angry. Lonely. Soon you find that you're drinking to numb any emotion at all. And that is NOT HEALTHY (obviously).

Plus, if you only drink socially, you're more likely to drink about the same as your peers. Drink alone and you set your own measures. A glass becomes a third of a bottle. You 'pre-load' with several drinks before you join your friends. You assume that everyone does the same, then suddenly realise that you're an outlier.

So, I believe that one of the best things we can do for our children, and all today's young people, is to bring back the stigma of drinking alone.

If the government poured some cash into an ad campaign portraying solo drinking as sad, desperate and a problem they would save a huge amount of money down the line in treating the immediate and knock on effects of problem drinking.

God, how I loved drinking alone......(and that says it all, really).

Love SM x


  1. Drinking alone was the best. Guilt-free and no-one monitoring over their frowning brow.... On the other end of the scale I work with someone who NEVER drinks at home. Can you imagine how that statement would make us feel BS?!! x

    1. It scares me that the new me would never have been friends with the 'old me'.

  2. I too loved drinking alone. LOVED it! Hubby out, kids in bed, party time. I almost always fell asleep by end of bottle and my nice night on my own with tv remote and wine was not as much fun as I'd planned but I'd keep on trying! I totally agree that drinking alone or even just having drink in the house to drink most nights normalised it for me. I have some friends who never drink at home and certainly not alone. I used to be amazed and so relieved that I had plenty of others just like me. Except they probably weren't. I also used to bemoan the fact that wine is so drinkable and affordable and I used to call it the last legal high (esp after smoking became outlawed! ) as I couldn't believe you could get sooooo out of it on a supposedly sociable drink!!! One of the reasons I quit and want to stay AF is for exactly that reason. I do not want my kids to grow up thinking it's ok and normal to get pissed every single night or even just at weekends. I am so happy you gave written about this that I could cry. Guess I'm hitting g the 5 week emotional wreck stage! Shame you're not still in advertising ;-)

  3. I lived alone for about five years after getting divorced, and my social life was zero, and I remember having a telephone conversation with my Mum, who was horrified that I was drinking wine alone....and I said 'Mum, if I didn't drink alone, I would never drink.." I often think of that. I totally agree with bringing the stigma back - my mum would 1. Never drink alone 2. Never buy alcohol on her own 3. Never go to a pub or bar on her own. (Ok, ok, she does vote, but you get my point..)

  4. When I'd go out with friends, and then they all left, I'd stay and drink alone.
    I started drinking alone in my house after work.
    Then when I retired, it got to be I was drinking alone a lot.
    There are some people who can drink alone, and only have one or two drinks.
    I was not one of them.
    For me to drink alone means I am hiding.

  5. Thank you for the warm congratulations. I did indeed celebrate. I went and bought something nice with some of the money I saved not pouring poison down my throat!!
    I too drank alone...Every night, without fail. I would sometimes smuggle extra cans/ bottles in when the wife was busy doing something else and the kids were distracted. I also used to feel pleased with myself when the booty was safely stashed away for later.
    Then the evening ritual would start. The first can was always the nicest. That was the one that really quenched the thirst and with that surge of confidence would be the futile promise to myself that I would try and take it easier and not drink so much tonight. Of course, that notion was thrown out the window after can number 2 as the self control all but evaporated. Then the inevitable depression would creep up on me as my supplies started to run low, almost like a dull subdued panic. Then as the last mouthful of the stash was consumed, I would bottom out and feel totally disgusted with myself and take to bed for a rubbish nights sleep. the next day I would just repeat the process.
    That was 101 days ago. I dont miss it one iota. Thank you SM and all the other contributers on this blog for the daily inspiration. x

  6. Well done tallaxo that's awesome - I was unfortunately a home alone drinker ( in fact I never really drank much out socially) but would watch the clock tick to wine o clock and pour a very large glass of red which was devoured without even noticing so that I could crack on with the second .... I just can't imagine doing that now not at all - why would I want to go back to groggy mornings and working out how much wine I had left for the next day ? My motivator has been that I really didn't want my son to grow up thinking thst it is normal to drink alcohol every single day - I've now become obsessed with making sure he sees me being healthy and attentive every single day it's so lovely being free of the wine witch and even better feeling great in the morning ( even though I still suffer with horrendous bed hair !!)

  7. I didn't have to drink alone too often as my hubby was a drinker too.
    But we often sat together/alone on the couch, each drinking in our own little worlds.
    Sad, but true.

  8. Wow! I sure needed to read this post after my shitty day yesterday....I wondered if I was really an alcoholic, and you just helped me realize that ...yes, I am. ...and I want to stay sober....

    ** But, the problem with drinking alone is that that's when the vino morphs from being 'social lubricant' to 'self medication'. ....

    Read this loud and clear..... Thank you. xo

  9. Mmm drinking on my own. Loved it. Loved when my husband went out and I'd stock up on my bottle of wine and make popcorn and watch crap tv. Often till 3am. Eugh but also I miss it sometimes..

  10. My heart would leap when my husband said he was going out for the evening as I knew then I could drink to my heart's content, alone, with no censure. Isn't that sad?