Giving up the demon drink for January is a bona fide thing these days. Three of our writers reflect on their different decisions. Alice Sanders is doing it for the right reasons, and chucking fags and sugar into the bin, too.
I wish I could say I’m giving up booze, fags, and sugar in January to be holier-than-thou. I’d love to feel superior and wang on endlessly about quinoa and yoga and how I feel so at peace with myself, I really would. But the truth is I’ve been having a rough old time of it recently, health-wise and I thought it might help.
I wish I could say, too, that I’m not that bothered about booze, that I don’t really like it, and I don’t need it to have a good time. Well the truth is, while I don’t drink every day, I love drinking.
I like that for me, it often quietens my anxious mind for a few hours. I find a glass of red wine or a large G&T helps me relax. And wine, in particular, feels like a sociable drink, because you share a bottle of wine, don’t you? Over the wine you talk about how your day was with a pal or a partner – you decompress together. You begin to get giggly and light-hearted. When you go to the toilet you realise you have a red wine moustache, even when you’ve only had half a glass. And then you order another bottle and share that too.
“Now you know the truth: if I could choose a way to die, it would be soaking in a bath of gin with a cherry eclair in one hand and a fag in the other.”
Cigarettes just go along with the drinking, I’m not a 40-a-day girl. For me, a cigarette goes hand in hand with a glass of red. It might be my immature brain still feeling like it’s a tiny piece of rebellion in the midst of a life filled with tasks like doing taxes or painting over a patch of mould on the wall.
Or it might be, as the Tizabi Study from the Howard University College of Medicine suggests, that receiving an alcohol and nicotine hit simultaneously increases dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, which is the pleasure and reward centre of your brain. Apparently, though, cigarettes are very bad for you, even if you just smoke them a couple of times a week.
I could write a whole book of poetry on my feelings about sugar. I’ve consumed a light yoghurt sponge infused with mandarin syrup that made me hear angels sing; I’ve made batches of chocolate cupcakes topped with peanut butter icing under the pretence of doing it for my football team or colleagues and then consumed half the batch myself. I was recently very taken with the Hotel Chocolat salted popcorn supermilk chocolate bar, and was a little distraught when it disappeared from the shelves.
Also, a new Danish bakery has opened up three doors down from me and I’m worried it will be my undoing. Their cinnamon buns are truly the best I’ve ever tasted. They do both the pastry kind and the bread kind. Their pastries are incredible – light, flaky, and buttery but not overly sweet. But it is the bread cinnamon buns, infused with a syrup of cinnamon and cardamom, that are my Achilles heel. I was finding it very difficult to walk past that place without popping in for one. Just thinking about them has me drooling.
Now you know the truth: if I could choose a way to die, it would be soaking in a bath of gin with a cherry eclair in one hand and a fag in the other.
And now I’ve given them all up. They say if you love something you should let it go… We’re only a week into January and I haven’t murdered anybody yet, so I’m pretty proud of myself. I don’t believe in dieting; I think it’s socially restrictive and weakening for the body and spirit. I certainly don’t believe in counting calories because, personally, that sets off my horribly obsessive brain down a bad path.
I’m quitting booze and sugar for a month because I’m hoping it will reset me back to having them as a treat, and giving more consideration to what I’m shoving down my throat. And I’m hoping it might make me feel better, and give my body more of a chance of recuperating properly. I might even join a yoga class…
Those cinnamon buns, though.
Dry January? Why, it’s the best time to appreciate the joys of a good tipple, says Karen Campbell.
Meanwhile Sophie Scott reveals why laying off the drink does more for your state of mind than you think.
Alice Sanders is a freelance writer. She writes articles, audio description for the visually impaired, and fiction. She also performs with comedy improv troupe The Pioneers. @wernerspenguin