Friday, 26 June 2015

Envy and the 'Moderate Drinker'

Day 117.

We all, at least occasionally, envy the 'moderate drinker.'

My husband is one. I watch him sneak his bottle of Saint Emilion out from behind a row of books in our playroom (he's taken to hiding bottles just like an alkie housewife!), and pour one glass to drink while we watch TV.

One glass! Much as I love him, sometimes I feel this urge to stick my fingers in his eyes (and you wonder why he's hiding the bottles!).

When I was a thirty a day smoker (see the pattern here?) I used to envy the moderate smoker with a vengeance.

Then I read Alan Carr. He pointed out that the housewife who limits herself to 5 cigarettes a day is just as addicted as the pack a day smoker. She is utterly reliant on those five and can't quit any easier than I could.

In fact, her life is more miserable, as - because she is defying her inner addict - she has to constantly deal with cravings, whereas I would just satisfy mine.

This, for me, was an epiphany. And, funnily enough, whilst I quit smoking thirteen years ago, my five-a-day friends are still chuffing away and are desperate to stop, especially now their children are older and they find themselves smoking more and more each day.

I now realise that the same is true of drinking. I'm sure that there are people out there who are totally 'take it or leave it' about alcohol, and not in the slightest addicted (although I suspect that they also don't really enjoy it that much - in which case, what's the point?), but there are also vast numbers of people who are just as addicted to their 'moderate amounts' as we were to our bottles a day. And many of them are miserable about it.

I received an e-mail yesterday from Fiona (not her real name), who kindly agreed that I could share her story. Here's what she said:

My problem is I don't drink that much - comparatively that is, but still it disrupts my life. I used to drink just one glass of wine 1-2 times a week when we ate out.  Now it is hard for me to stop at 1 glass, usually I have another and sometimes even a third when we get home, still only 1-2 times a week but I feel cranky, tired and foggy the next day and I think why, why, why, at 50 would I want to waste about 20% of the last of my relatively youthful years feeling like this??? 

I try to picture myself in 20 years at 70 - eegads - and I know if at 70 someone said to me, here you can live this extra year as yourself at age 50 I would loooove that, just as I would love to have a whole year of me at 30 right now, so why do I throw these days away like they aren't precious?? And looking like this too - as you mention, my face now shows it with this sickening puffiness.

So Fiona's tried to quit and, you know what? Not easy! Which is why she mailed me.

The truth is that stories like Fiona's are never going to make those articles in the Daily Mail about 'problem middle aged drinking'. Fiona would be seen as drinking 'sensibly', 'moderately', 'healthily', but it's still messing up her life and making her feel terrible.

The more blogs, books and e-mails I read, the more I realise that generalisations are useless and dangerous, and that none of us knows what goes on in other people's lives. Certainly no-one knew what was going on in mine!

So next time you envy the moderate drinker, just stop. It's terribly likely that (s)he is envying you....

Thank you, Fiona, from us all. Best of luck to you, and please keep in touch.

Have a fab Friday everyone!

SM x


  1. Great post SM. This brings to mind an analogy from Jason Vale as he tries to prove that even most moderate drinkers are addicted to a degree.
    If you said to a group of people who enjoy eating Bananas to stop eating Bananas for a month, most of them would have no problem in achieving this and would barely give the request a second thought.
    If you said to a group of people who enjoyed having a drink to stop drinking for a month, most of them would find this a real challenge, would see it as a big deal and in fact, a fair percentage of the group would fail this request.
    This analogy would point to addiction as a possible explanation, albeit in a more subtle fashion. I saw on the news yesterday, that the UK population spent over £38 billion on alcohol last year. That is more than the entire defence budget and we are on course to break that record again this year. There are a great many faces to alcohol addiction it would seem. Have a great sober weekend. x

  2. Tommy Rosen has the best take on this. When people apologize for drinking around him, felling sorry for him that he "can't drink" he laughs and says he feels sorry for them, because they can't know the clarity and beauty that is life unaltered. He has not lost out on anything. He has gained everything.

    He puts is better than this, and it is worth checking it out.

    I feel the same way.

  3. This is very true.
    As I got older it takes less alcohol to affect us.
    So even moderate drinkers can get to feeling yucky.

  4. You make a great point that we need to remember - comparing ourselves to others in this journey and defining problem drinking in terms of quantities (as in 'I wasn't as bad as that' ) is never comparing like with like. It's down to how we relate to alcohol and sometimes even a little is too much. X

  5. I just read this great article, wondering if you've seen it? I'm still struggling, I still read your posts every day, I am still looking for a solution, and maybe I might have found one? As always, thank you for being you :)


    1. Hi Lindsay! So glad you're still here! Thanks for the link - fascinating article. Loads I agree with totally, like not needing to hit rock bottom, and the fact that there is a spectrum of drinking issues, not a black and while alkie/normal. But I worry about the argument for moderation in that I'm not sure that moderation makes us happy, even if it is possible! Likewise the drug therapy - might be a great idea for 'transition', but you don't want to take the drugs forever, plus if they take away the enjoyment of the drink then what's the point in drinking? Fascinating, in any case. What have you decided? Love SM x

  6. Thank you for this post. It is exactly what I needed to hear this morning.

  7. Another point about moderation is that it's a huge, constant struggle. So much fighting with the wine witch.