Clari ty ou tside the cu ps
The British chief medical officer has been under fire this month for new alcohol guidelines – no more than 14 standard drinks a week for both men and women, and no safe level of drinking. Professor Dame Sally Davies has remained resolute in the face of claims she’s running a nanny state. In Australia, we’re used to it.
That bunch of wowsers the National Health and Medical Research Council released their guidelines back in 2012 – no more than two standard drinks a day and never more than four in a sitting. At least the NHMRC says it’s up to us how much we drink – they could care less – whereas Dame Sally says she thinks now before every glass of wine whether she wants to increase her risk of breast cancer. Also bowel, liver, throat and mouth cancer.
As it happens, we are on six months’ alcoholfree in our house. We started at new year. At first it was easy because we were still pickled in Christmas champagne. And then we went to dinner at friends’ and felt like those people who come to your house and tell you they are non-drinkers. You don’t resent them exactly but you think they’re judging you, like vegetarians are judging you. Imagine trying to convince someone you’re not judging them when you’re a non-drinking vegetarian. That’s me.
I tell people I don’t drink much and I don’t but the truth is I drink more than I want to. Not at the moment, of course. At the moment I don’t drink anything. For six months. Six.
One friend said when you stop drinking, you have to deal with real life. “Expletive-deleted!” she cried. “You don’t want to do that!” It’s true I’m feeling things more intensely. The world is more real and not necessarily more pleasant. It’s what it is, in all its ragged glory, rather than in the lovely soft focus wine engenders.
“Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?” Kahlil Gibran says, although he was talking about joy and sorrow, not wine; it just feels apt when you haven’t had a drink for this long. By now, of course, it should be the end of February, two whole months. But alcohol-free I not only do more exercise, my thinking is clearer, numbers particularly. For instance, the leap year. I’ve noticed. It’s an extra day without a drink. “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked,” as the prophet said.