I’m a man who likes the pub. I frequent it regularly, I talk about it a lot, and I even listen to a podcast about pubs. I would say I’m a beer and pub enthusiast. I often ask myself whether that’s just a sugar-coated term for alcoholics, however.
I have never considered Dry January before. “Support your local,” is my motto. But over the last few months, like many people, I’ve begun to question my alcohol intake and what it means for me in the present and the future.
As is the case with many people too, my thoughts have spiraled. Am I an alcoholic? Do I need to go to rehab and get addiction treatment? I’ve spent plenty of time even Googling “alcohol home detox” and “alcohol rehab” to see what it entails. And then January hit.
Well, what better time to see just how dependent on alcohol I am? Encouraged by my partner, at the time of writing, we’re approaching the end of the month, and I’m still not sure how I feel.
My outlook on alcohol is certainly different. And largely for the better.
First Lesson: Pubs are more than booze
“Support your local,” has always been my excuse for not doing Dry January. However, I haven’t drunk a drop of the stuff and still frequented my local pub regularly. I have felt a duty to do so, strangely. A kind of guilt that if I don’t go then I could lose it during a cost-of-living crisis. That’s probably an unhealthy relationship to have.
That said, throughout this month of January, “supporting my local” has been mainly via the 0% beers that it has on offer. And it gave me a fresh perspective. I have always seen the value of pubs as places to socialize, but I’ve often placed alcohol alongside that. They aren’t places where you have to drink, they are places to converse, socialize and escape the monotony of work and home life.
Second Lesson: Weekends don’t need alcohol
I am a big football fan. My Saturday is made up of traveling across the north of England to watch my team play. For a 3 pm kick-off, it will usually start at midday, with a few pints in the pub, followed by a few at the match. It’s become an incredibly unhealthy routine, and one, again, that shouldn’t define a Saturday at football.
I know I am no way near the only one here. The relationship between alcohol and football is toxic, and I certainly don’t fall into any sort of violent, abusive, or dangerous brackets, but it is still a case of coming home to my partner after a game and being tired, a little tipsy or not as sharp-minded as I would be had I not drank.
Turns out, Saturday nights and Sunday mornings are much more fun without having had five or six pints across a footballing afternoon.
Third Lesson: What have I actually learned?
Aside from the above, I don’t really drink alcohol. It’s rare I do it at home, so it’s in those two areas where I saw major differences in my life. Will I be sticking to no alcohol in February? I’m not sure.
There are times I crave a pint of beer and a packet of pork scratchings on a Sunday afternoon, or a glass of wine when going out for dinner. I miss those things. But what I’ve learned is that it’s the one glass here, one glass there I have missed. Not struggled with, missed.
I have not missed the Saturday afternoon binges or three-to-four pints sat in the pub having a chat. I actually enjoy those more without the booze.
Which has left me a little confused. Am I an alcoholic? Do I need addiction treatment? Should I give it up altogether? I simply don’t know.
One thing is for sure though, I have a new perspective on my own relationship with alcohol. I’ll continue to review that, and I’d encourage anyone else to do the same.