How Much Do You Drink?

That’s the question that makes you cross your legs in shame in middle-age, similar in awkwardness to when the doctor used to ask you how much you smoked or how often you have sex, or (more pertinent these days) when was your last mammogram? Fact: every smoker lies.

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The ‘walk of shame’ these days is related to how often you go to the pub or the bottle shop in a week because apparently us middle-aged folk (and particularly Generation X) are leading the way in alcoholism. And it’s seriously affecting our health. Even I can’t ignore the stats about the increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease due to alcohol – not to mention the anti-social behavior that goes hand in hand with binge-drinking.

 

However…

 

Don’t you think it’s all a bit over the top? I mean, people have always drunk alcohol – apparently, it’s been around since 2000BC so even Jesus Christ would have gone on a bender at some point – and the Mediterranean diet, which condones drinking at lunchtime and dinnertime, has some of the lowest records for cancer and heart disease.

 

You might be aware if you follow this blog and my Facebook page, that I am a self-medicator of the alcohol kind and medically-speaking I am an alcoholic because I drink most nights of the week. If I moved to Spain, where up to thirty-five units a week is acceptable, I’d be fine – for the sake of humor, let’s ignore that that figure applies to men. Indeed, not only do I self-medicate, I am also medicated to get me through each day. And don’t get me wrong, I have tried other ways to improve my mental outlook – exercising, clothes shopping and binge-eating – yet none of them comes close to a glass of wine at the end of the day.

 

We drinkers are being as shamed as smokers were a decade ago – and I know, because I was one of them, and it was a very black period in my personal history and the only way I got through it was by consoling myself that at least there was still wine.

 

Not anymore. It’s a crime against humanity to drink more than one unit of alcohol a day now – up there with smoking while pregnant, eating red meat or asking your teenager to get a beer from the fridge. ‘Drinking’ has been stigmatized and I thank god that my kids are old enough and wise enough to accept me for what I am without too much judgment.

 

But it’s hard to ignore the criticism when the topic du jour at every social event is how much you drink.

 

And I know many people that have stopped drinking in middle age or cut back because it no longer agrees with their aging cells, and sometimes I do wish I could be one of them. Fortunately, I’m a battler and so when I first began to feel the detrimental side effects of white wine, I  persisted and switched to red in a valiant attempt to make it work.

 

I don’t judge. I don’t have a problem drinking with people that choose not to drink, although it can be hard to deflect the judgment from my husband who now abstains during the week and then binge drinks at the weekend.

 

For the record, I think I drink in moderation. I don’t binge drink and I usually have at least one night off a week – although admittedly, the benefit of those nights can be lost the following night in a celebration of just how great my discipline is.

 

Life is short. And perhaps moderate drinking will make it even shorter, in the same way that sky-diving might, or a poor diet, or stress – which can be nicely combatted by an odd glass or two. We all have our different crosses to bear and different mechanisms for coping and we take risks just by getting into a car each day. For some, drinking helps manage the pain of that weight.

 

I drink ten units a week. *lying*

 

Middle-Aged Drinking And Your Relationship With Alcohol

Tetra Pak® - Couple on beach with Tetra Classi...
Tetra Pak® – Couple on beach with Tetra Classic® packages, 1960s (Photo credit: Tetra Pak)

I think I AM probably one of those happy people in denial about their drinking.

The last time I went for a medical and was asked about how many units I consumed on average in a week and answered ‘thirteen’, the doctor replied ‘that’s honest of you’.

It wasn’t. I might have taken the lower end of my ‘average’.

But what was he implying by that comment?

I took it to mean that maybe I wasn’t an alcoholic after all and then persecuted myself for turning into such a lightweight.

You probably know that I’ve been trying out this new-wave dieting healthy eating and exercise fad recently. I’ve found that I have absolutely no problem with eating less but my biggest challenge is not being able to pour myself a liberal glass of wine to make everything seem better at the end of the day.

And when you torture your body with exercise for the first time since high school, it tells you in no uncertain terms that you deserve a drink a treat afterwards. And that treat isn’t a salad.

Apparently, it’s the sugar addiction talking.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to eradicate the mirage of wine completely. So instead of going Cold Turkey and being completely fucking suicidal, I have been trying to cut back to just one sad, lonely glass per night to make way for the calorific extravagance of my mega binging session at the weekend.

Because I’m responsible like that.

But my body still doth protest. It likes its 1-2 glasses a night, it’s what it’s used to, and as I can’t compensate with any culinary naughtiness either, it feels un-sated and dejected in the evening. I felt particularly defeated last night when I watched the Oscars without my customary glass of fizz strapped to my hand, because I’d foolishly used up my allowance in a ‘discussion’ with Kurt about homework.

I’m sorry, but real women just don’t drink herbal tea after 6pm.

And science is on my side. A recent study proved that continuing to drink like a fish in middle age is good for relationships and that the relationships of couples who get shitfaced drink together have a better chance of survival.

This scientific evidence appears to have some credibility in my experience.

Drinking Your Way Through Menopause
Drinking Your Way Through Menopause (Photo credit: RickC)

The old man and I have always been pissheads had a Friday night routine of drinking copiously together and putting the world (and obviously our relationship) to rights – a habit passed down from generation to generation by our own parents.

In fact, I could blame some recent turbulent patches in our relationship on the fact that in middle age, since I have acquired the alcoholic tolerance of a fly, those fabulous evenings are a rarity now. We have to synch our drinking carefully these days, stagger our start and then meet majestically like synchronised swimmers somewhere in the middle.

Another more serious consideration, which could alter the stats of other successful relationships based on alcohol, too, is that we are role models to two impressionable teenagers.

With this in mind, we always take the precaution of thanking them profusely these days when they get our wine and beer from the fridge. As responsible parents, we take the over-consumption of alcohol very seriously and know that drinking has taken a bad rap of late due to the issues with the younger generations not knowing how to handle it.

Personally, I believe that if abused correctly and with experience, alcohol can in fact benefit a relationship by distorting reality for those few precious hours in a long week.

A few glasses into the evening and once the drinking goggles are firmly back in place, the old man begins to look almost attractive again, his dad jokes sound funny and he can even look happy to be in my company.

What is your relationship with alcohol?

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Drinking and Driving In Middle Age

No Alcoholics / Kein Alkohol Logo
No Alcoholics / Kein Alkohol Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the weekend looms enticingly ahead, negotiations have already begun in our household.

Over which of us can drink and which of us has to drive on Saturday night.

It’s got to the point where I almost hate getting invitations beyond a reliable bus route.

That might make me an alcoholic – I’m in denial (So I must be?).

My friends would probably disagree, but it’s not like I want to get outrageously sh*tfaced,  I just want to be able to have more than one glass.

It’s the weekend FFS.

Drink driving laws really do spoil your fun. I know why we have them, don’t get me wrong, and I would never advocate drinking and driving, but going out is absolutely no fun at all on one measly glass of wine – I’d prefer to sit at home on the sofa and get trollied. And the laws don’t just affect your capacity to get embarrassingly and often humiliatingly drunk.

They also affect your marriage.

It’s not like we haven’t got enough to argue about.

If the government had actually taken the alcoholics into consideration when designing the transport system infrastructure in Sydney, they might have saved themselves (and made themselves) a lot more money. Imagine the savings if they didn’t have to shell out on RBTs on every street corner and police walking the streets, looking for trouble. Imagine how much more tax they could reap in from the absolute excess of alcohol consumption if there was a reliable and safe alternative to getting home.

If we had a decent public transport system or reliable taxi service to all suburbs, people might not be tempted to risk drinking and driving. So, in theory, the rate of accidents would decrease.

The divorce rate might fall too.

Our negotiations about who is going to drive at the weekend begin on the Wednesday. There is a ‘let the games commence’ mentality, as we negotiate hard, using money, tv time, time away from the kids and sexual treats as negotiating tools.

If we’re seeing my friends, the old man apparently needs to drink for confidence; when we’re seeing his friends, he needs to be able to drink to fully enjoy his mates company.

I’ve actually put my foot down on this issue – I mean, we’re both alcoholics, so I’m not really sure why he gets to get shitfaced more often than me.

Doesn’t that smack of inequality?

Of course we consider every transport option available, because the ideal scenario is that we can both drink and remain immune to the fact that we’re boring the tits off all the other guests with our personal jokes and penchant for laughing at them.

By Friday night we’re both desperately working out way through every transport App on our phones to find the quickest and cheapest route to the ‘middle of nowhere’ via public transport.

But the issue is, that buses don’t turn up, taxis in the suburbs as about as impossible to get hold of as photos of baby George, and to be honest, sharing buses with puking teenagers catching the last bus home is a little demeaning, even for us.

Needless to say, the old man refuses to pay for a cab.

The sensible and responsible thing for us to do, of course, would be to curb our drinking like some of our other middle-aged friends.

To grow up! Surely not.

So inevitably, it comes down to who cracks first and volunteers, and it’s usually me because the old man sober, in the company of people he doesn’t really know, is a very dull old man.