Life’s too short to wait for the per per­fect av­o­cado

The Sunday Telegraph - - Features & Arts - Old fash­ioned

ahead of the curve. At my 35th birth­day, there were no soft drinks, and I couldn’t un­der­stand why any adult would want one. Ten years on, I am three years dry, with an ad­dic­tion merely to spicy Vir­gin Marys. Peo­ple as­sure me that I “never had a prob­lem”, as though I would re­nounce my so­bri­ety. I’m not evan­gel­i­cal: I loved al­co­hol. I miss it. I’ll al­ways miss it. And if I could drink like a sane per­son, I would. How­ever, as an all-or-noth­ing type, noth­ing is un­ques­tion­ably the bet­ter op­tion.

Like many who are part of this New So­bri­ety, mine is a sec­u­lar and solo life­style choice. Al­though I ben­e­fit from much of its wis­dom, I do not do AA be­cause I can­not sub­scribe to a “higher power”. My af­fil­i­a­tions are vir­tual – to the bril­liant Re­cov­ered pod­cast (re­cov­ered­, for in­stance – rather than meet­ing room-based.

Lucy Rocca, founder of Soberis­tas (soberis­, a tee­to­tal sup­port web­site that boasts 43,500 reg­is­tered mem­bers, con­firms this trend: “The com­mon fac­tor in the ex­plo­sion of on­line re­sources is that they are reach­ing out to ‘nor­mal’ peo­ple, not med­i­cal pro­grammes aimed at ‘ad­dicts’. That kind of lan­guage seems so old-fash­ioned now. There has been a real shift in recog­nis­ing that lots of to­tally nor­mal peo­ple, hold­ing down good jobs and get­ting on with life, might want help in re­duc­ing, or quit­ting. You don’t need to call your­self an al­co­holic and go shuf­fling off with head bowed, filled with shame.” Women are lead­ing the way in this zeit­geist change, not

least in de­con­struct­ing our cul­tural en­shrine­ment of wine as “mother’s lit­tle helper”. Soberis­tas’ mem­bers are 90 per cent fe­male, with a core aged be­tween 40 and 60. Club Soda ( join­club­, a “mind­ful drink­ing” or­gan­i­sa­tion, is two-thirds fe­male. Ac­cord­ing to Laura Wil­loughby, its co-cre­ator, “women are wor­ried about their men­tal health and know al­co­hol af­fects it. They can spend a for­tune in the gym, and know that al­co­hol un­doe­sundo all that. Af­ter all, if you could b buy a pill that helped you lose weight weight, sleep bet­ter, in­crease en­ergy, imp im­prove productivity and make you look younger, you would pay a lo lot. Cut­ting down drink­ing doe does all of that – and saves you money money.”

When I went dry, I lost a mor­ti­fy­ing stone and a half dur­ing the first seven weeks, havin hav­ing to eat more to put the pounds bac back on. The sleep ben­e­fits haveha been in­c­cred­i­ble. in­cred­i­ble. My de­pres­sionde hass has un­doubt­edly ben­n­efited ben­e­fited from n no longer sellf-med­i­cat­ing. self-med­i­cat­ing. With­out su­uggest­ing­sug­gest­ing that cou­ple­dom is the be all or ennd end all, I know I wouldn’t bee be in a happy re­la­tion­shiprel weere were I still a dips dip­so­ma­niac looon. loon.

For all the talk of red wwinewine be­ing good for you – in which the c caveats in­nvari­ably in­vari­ably outw out­weigh the been­e­fits ben­e­fits – ab­stin ab­sti­nence reemains re­mains an obvi ob­vi­ous path too to health. Ac­cor Ac­cord­ingly, am­mong among many of us who fifind find our­selves deepd in mmid­dle-class mid­dle-class mid­dlem age, thherethere has come a ddawn­ing dawn­ing dis­bel dis­be­lief that al­cophilia shou should be a re­li­gion among in­di­vid­u­als for whom drugs drugs, smok­ing, junk food and mereme lack of

Sober so­cialites are more anx­iou­sanx­iou than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions

move­ment would be vi viewed as un­ac­cept­able.

Up un­til re­cently, m my life’s goal was he­do­nism. T To­day, hav­ing watched both par­ents die young and hor­ribl hor­ri­bly, in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion feels a goodgo deal less fun. My fa­ther’s d de­clared am­bi­tion was to drink him­self to death, as it is the un un­de­clared am­bi­tion of so many s se­nior cit­i­zens, among whom con­sump­tion has rock­eted.rock If it sounds like a good wa way to go then, be­lieve me, it is isn’t: plea­sure be­ing less in ev­i­dence than con­stant dan­ger and in­dig­nity. It was a lon lonely and lac­er­at­ing demise thattha I would have done any­thing to spare him.

There may also be m more meta­phys­i­cal as­pects t to the em­brace of ab­stemiou ab­stemious­ness than its myr­iad prac­tic prac­ti­cal ad­van­tages. “The world­worl feels se­ri­ous right now,” sayssay Rocca. “Peo­ple are more anxio anx­ious and care­ful than the more h he­do­nis­tic gen­er­a­tions that came be­foreb them.

“Has so­cial me­dia got some­thing to do with it, too?to The worry you’re al­ways un­der­unde threat of be­ing filmed? We neve never had to think about that when wew were busy get­ting trashed on cheapc cider and throw­ing up at par­ties.” Yet what the sobe­ro­c­ra­cysobe­rocr most cer­tainly aren’t about is pu­ri­tanism. Bri­tain’s grow­inggr band of sober so­cialites­so­cialite are learn­ing that life can be even bet­ter with­out the mother’smoth ruin. I have a far bet­ter time so­cially than I did when I was carous­ing,c not least as I get to re­mem­ber­rem it, as per the Soberist Soberis­tas’ maxim “Love life in con­trol”.con­trol We’re tired of drunk­en­ness, not tiredti of life – booze be­ing the only area in which we, the sobe­ro­c­racy, have reached our limit.

Sober so­cialiser: Since giv­ing up al­co­hol, Han­nah Betts has lost weight, gets a bet­ter night’s sleep and is less prone to de­pres­sion

In the bar: the old Bri­tish be­lief that nights out re­quire al­co­hol is look­ing in­creas­ingly anachro­nis­tic. Be­low: the ‘Go Sober for Oc­to­ber’ cam­paign

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