I won’t be getting sober anytime soon but I am “drinking smarter”

Photo from Damir Spanic on Unsplash

I was a grown-up last weekend. The old man and I went on a date night to a swanky restaurant and I chose to drive.

In my last post I talked about the necessity of making choices in middle age, and prior to last night, I would have looked forward to washing down the posh grub with a bottle of expensive wine, and wasted the afternoon working out a feasible way to get to the restaurant on public transport. What can I say? I like drinking. Alcohol tastes nice. Drinking turns me into the interesting, cool girl I should have been…at least, until the next morning. It helps me cope, and gets me out of the house.

For me, drinking is also a form of self-care. Hear me out, peeps. You see, my list above doesn’t account for alcohol’s other, hidden benefits for me personally: its medicinal ones for colds, backache, and muscle pain; its effectiveness as a coping strategy for my social anxiety; its ability to foster connection; and the strength it provides me to contend with a society that writes women my age off, (or only draws attention to us for all the wrong reasons – Alexandra Grant).

Therefore, it was with some surprise that grown-up-me decided that night that (for the sake of a couple more drinks) I couldn’t be assed to sit on a bus full of obnoxious teenagers or work through a heinous hangover the next morning.

Anyway, everyone knows the first sip is the best.

A few years ago, I wrote in my first paid article for Mamamia on the subject of my concerns about my drinking and the increase in women’s drinking in middle age. I remember that what I was really aiming to do in that article was to empathize rather than shame women who drink. I can’t remember the exact headline I pitched to the editor for the story, but it was changed to ‘I am a functioning alcoholic and I’m not alone’ – and I was mortified. At the time I think I was looking for a new job.

BUT… if the decrease in the number of units our government deems healthy for us to drink is anything to go by, she had a point. AND…Maybe I’m paranoid, but drink shaming seems to be levelled more directly at women – and in particular middle-aged women. Granted, there are medical reasons for this – in that women’s bodies can’t process as much alcohol as men. But there is also this social construct that a woman who is drunk is far more shameful than a man, even though many men who have drunk too much go on to do terrible things, while a woman is more likely to fall asleep on the sofa. Just check out the photos of the after-race parties if you don’t believe me.

Why are men given license to have fun, while women are expected to stay at home and live like nuns? You can see that question in people’s heads when they see a group of drunk women – who’s looking after the kids while they’re out drinking? Well, Carol, who’s looking after the kids while their dad’s out drinking?

However, since I wrote that article, I have become more aware of the effect that alcohol has on my body – I’m getting old, Goddammit! – which is why, (and trust me when I promise that I am not getting sober and deserting my people entirely) – I’ve decided to “drink smarter” (in the words of Kate Spicer from The Sunday Times).

Menopause has played a huge role in that decision. I’m certain that many of you fifty-somethings will identify with the impossibility of being a functioning alcoholic when your hormones contrive to make your life – and in particular, your hangovers – as unpleasant as possible. Suffice it to say, I have to be fully committed to knock back a bottle of wine.

So, yes…the hangovers from hell, my aspirations to run 5kms (more than once), and that other cruel twist of menopause – weight gain – have guilted me into reducing the Rose and discarding the Chardy. I wish I could say that concerns about my longevity or longterm health were truly behind my decision, but after twenty years of smoking, a lifetime of anxiety, and a pretty shoddy family history when it comes to health, I know I’m fucked I’ve been playing Russian Roulette for a while now.

And I won’t deny it is a struggle. Alcohol is a wonderful crutch, it has been a loyal and reliable friend, and maintaining my commitment to Kombucha for just a couple of nights a week has stretched my self-discipline to the max. I am want to crumble at the first sign or conflict or stress.

But that’s okay. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I suppose what I’m really trying to say in this very convoluted post is that when the fun police make you feel bad about your drinking, don’t beat yourself up about it. You are not alone. Many of us have vices we’re not proud of – for some of us that is a glass or two of wine, for others it is several Magnums – as in the ice cream; for others still, it is leading corrupt governments and ignoring the voice of democracy.

Personally, I’ve never had a problem with drinking with non-drinkers or fellow alcoholics and I don’t need anyone to drink with me to have a good time (See symptoms of an alcoholic). I do see the benefits of sobriety, but I am also aware that swift judgments are easy to make; it takes much more time to look beneath the surface.

My intention is not to glorify alcohol, but there are still occasions in my life when I am dealing with stuff when I want/need to drink. There are also occasions when I want to celebrate that I’m still here and in a good place. And in the words of the author, Mike Gayle “We all do what we need to do to get by.”

It was the small, magical moments during our holiday to Hawaii that mattered most

Forgive me for my recent radio silence, but I’m struggling to get back into real time since our return from Hawaii.

No doubt, some of you will be interested to know how we fared, having spent so much time reading about my angst in relation to where the fuck to take an anxious, middle-aged man who didn’t want to leave his suburb. But, alas, I am no travel writer, so I’ve decided to style this post in the same way as Jamila Rizvi did here last week in The Age, and focus on the small things that made it feel so special.

Woman sitting on beach in front of view.
I call this photo “Come to Mama!”

I won’t lie, the holiday (in the company of my husband and our twenty-something daughter) wasn’t always the plain sailing experience I had prayed for prior to our departure from Sydney. However, I won’t bore you with the stories of when our two hire cars broke down – leading to the old man’s worldwide ban from AVIS – the loss of his bank card, or the time he turned the wrong way down a street. As I’m sure you can tell from this photo, he had a great time.

Man looking miserable at shopping center.
Have you ever seen such a vision of natural joy? He just LOVES shopping and Halloween.

And by normal standards, I imagine that the sort of holiday woes we experienced are the kind of par-for-the-course shit that everyone goes through, laughs about and puts down to travelling.

Admittedly, the bus tour between Honolulu and Haleiwa on the North Shore was not the anticipated 45 minute journey I had forecast in my itinerary – probably because I read the ‘by car’ calculation of time instead of ‘by stagecoach’ – but at least it included an educational tour of Honolulu’s military bases and a nostalgic trip back to the prison set where Hawaii 5-0 must have been shot. The return journey was even longer, and while none of us expected a three-hour circumnavigation of Oahu that took us into the night, we were all grateful for the scenic experience.

Many lessons were learned: we now know never to declare war on a feisty Hawaiian customer service lady who deals with entitled tourists on a daily basis; we learned that the portion sizes really are as terrifying in the US as we had been led to believe, and that you only need order a few plates to share; and finally, we now appreciate that the mountain temperature on our weather App is no guide to the temperature on the beach.

Mouthwatering plate of Tuna Tataki.
The TUNA!

There were the usual minor medical issues like blocked ears, dehydration, and some ongoing issues with obesity augmented by the portion size of the Rocky Road ice cream they sold at our local bar.

But let me get back to the small things that justified our thousands of dollars spent choice of destination, that still make my heart sing to the tune of Moana each time I think back to them:

  1. The landscape: What’s not to love about a destination that offers world-class beaches, the spirituality of a mountain landscape (that look like it belongs in Peru), and cheap, designer shopping that even the most ardent window shopper will find impossible to resist?
  2. The beaches: I can honestly say that Waikiki, the beaches on the North Shore of Honolulu, and those in Maui lived up to the paradise we had been promised. Living in Australia, it’s hard to impress us when it comes to beaches, but we weren’t disappointed – particularly by the ocean temperature, which made it dead easy to plunge into it several times a day.
  3. The turtles: I’ll be honest, we didn’t see flocks of them like I imagined – a bit like when we visited Kangaroo Valley and never saw any kangaroos – but we spotted several from the shoreline and a couple swam up close to us. Fact: they can be SERIOUSLY BIG MOTHERFUCKERS!
  4. The snorkelling: This time it was the relaxing experience I imagined it could be when I was growing up and wanted to be Jacques Cousteau. Pretty, unthreatening tropical fish were a welcome change from The Great Barrier Reef’s terrifyingly black Gropers and slimy cucumbers, and although NC swore she saw a sea snake, she only told me about it once we were on the plane home.
  5. The music: Hawaiian music comes from the soul and shoots straight through the heart. I will always remember the night the old man asked a Hawaiian singer to sing a song from Moana for NC, who ugly-cried (very publicly), and another when a heavily pregnant dancer performed the Hula.
  6. American coffee: It gets a bad rap around the world, but the choice of flavours is awesome. I mean, how can a Vanilla/Macadamia nut coffee be bad?
  7. The food: OMG! Sex is good but have you ever tried melt-in-your-mouth Ahi (tuna), sealed in hot butter, with sides of coleslaw and coconut rice?
  8. The sunsets: I’m usually half way down a bottle by sunset and never fully appreciate their beauty, but Maui’s sunsets light up the sky like fireworks and are impossible to ignore.
Restaurant view of stunning mountain landscape in Maui.
Not a bad view for lunch.

And then there were the cheap COCKTAILS, an overdue discovery of Fireball whisky. and the old man’s dishcloth dance – after aforementioned whisky. All in all, a myriad of magical moments thrown into twelve days and an experience I’d love to replicate, had the old man not thrown away his passport.

If You Could Invite Any Eight People – Living Or Dead – To Dinner, Who Would They Be? And What Is On The Menu?

If you could invite any eight people - living or dead - to a dinner, who would they be? And what is on the menu?

Whenever I’m put on the spot to choose my favorite song, book or movie, I get flustered and find it impossible to narrow my choice down. It’s much easier to select a group of people to dine with – a lot to do, I imagine, with the improved conditions in my comfort zone whenever wine and good food are on offer.

I stole the idea for this post from an interview I read on The Squiz recently, because I love these types of games – especially now, as time hurtles forward, and I can appreciate the wealth of interesting people that have made an impact on the portfolio of my life.

Admittedly, narrowing the guests down to eight wasn’t easy, mainly because of my insistence on getting the balance right – to ensure that my guests would play nicely together at my fictional dining table – but also because I had to exclude family and friends – for obvious reasons.

Interestingly, as I finalized my selection, I realized how imperative for me it was to mix up the age range of the group, and it also became very clear how much I am influenced by people that touch my life in some way now, in the present, in this new, exciting phase of middle age. It is also noteworthy that I am drawn to people that don’t take life too seriously.

So, here’s my guest list, in no particular order:

Caitlin Moran – Little or no explanation required if you read my blog. Awesome writer, feminist and “ladette,” with a similarly devilish humor to my own. For this lady, I’d have to screw table etiquette and seat her at my side.

Benjamin Law – Australian writer, swimmer, activist and the person I hold responsible for my addiction to Twitter and Instagram. A thinker and a doer, he makes me laugh out loud, think deeper thoughts, and vow to do better.

Barack Obama – The imposter in me (when it comes to politics), would be honored to sit at the feet of this great man at my table with the dog. Sage, humorous, a man that exudes love and trust and who has proven to be an invaluable asset for women’s rights and discrimination, I hope that he would bring Michelle along with him.

Mick Jagger – Mick is there for his raw energy, stories, talent, and unapologetic maleness. He is my “older man” fantasy. I need someone at my table to flirt with, someone who has extracted every ounce of living out of life, with the kind of stories that make everyone’s toes curl.

Russell Brand – More raw maleness – there seems to be a bit of a pattern here. I am full of admiration for the way this man has turned his troubled past around to embrace a more spiritual, altruistic path in the public eye. The way his “different” mind works intrigues me. He reminds me of Kurt.

Graham Norton – He appeals to the undiscovered columnist in me. Secretly, I lap up gossip and gratuitous material about the decadent, torrid lives of celebrities. I have always liked Graham. He has always remained true to himself in what can’t have been an easy start for his career, and I admire the way he has leveraged his innate talent – his charisma – into a profession.

Clementine Ford – I’m Clementine’s fan-girl. I devour everything she writes and I am often moved by the power of her convictions, her bravery, and her transparency. We share the loss of our mothers at a young age, and I admire how she has used that loss to empower herself. I admire how unafraid she is to demonstrate her struggles and the emotional sides to her personality as well as her more well-known public persona, her radical side – a range that stretches from staunch feminist and activist to vulnerable partner, mother, and fellow anxiety sufferer.

JK Rowling – I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve only read parts of the Harry Potter series. Where the old man will only read books with dragons, I have never been able to get to grips with fantasy or sci-fi. NC read the series before she could walk, and Kurt wasn’t interested in them. But I’ve seen and read enough about this lady to know how much I would learn from her about self-belief, authenticity, writing, and humor.

And for my menu:

I’m will ignore the likelihood that there are more than a handful of vegetarians at my table. However, I would choose oysters for my starter as a nod to sustainability, a medium-rare tuna steak for the main – and creme caramel for dessert – a favorite since my childhood.

Tell me who I’ve missed?

New Years Resolutions: Page 1 of 365

I didn’t begin page 1 of the next 365 with a run or yoga. Instead, I lay in bed for as long as I could, and when the pain in my head refused to go away, I was grateful for Berocca.

On page 1 of 365, it wasn’t goals on my mind, it was food – ALL THE FOOD! A traditional English brunch – hastily crafted out of the Christmas leftovers in the fridge and including lashings of carcinogen bacon – helped put me out of my misery. I am grateful for my Statins.

On page 1 of 365, the old man forced me out of the house to take the dog for a walk and a swim and I cursed him all of the way. I may even have considered divorce for the first time this year as I rued that last glass of white of 2018 – that with hindsight, I didn’t really need. But I was grateful to our little dog for reminding me of the joy of the simple things in life.

On page 1 of 365, I warned the old man to remain outside a five-meter radius of me at all times and each time he breached it, I snarled and barked at him. But I was grateful that I could.

On page 1 of 365, I moved from breakfast to the main course of chocolate with ease. When the Celebrations had gone, I shifted gear onto the family box of Maltesers from NC’s stocking and the last couple of Ferrero Rocher that had somehow survived Kurt’s random assault on Christmas Eve. I am always grateful for chocolate, which has been a stalwart best friend through the toughest of times.

On page 1 of 365, I drank so much water that every Victoria’s Secret Angel would be proud of me, and I was grateful for clean water and a Soda Stream.

On page 1 of 365, I finished one series on Netflix and began a second on Amazon Prime. I can now see what Emily Blunt sees in John Krasinski, and I am grateful that wine has not killed as many brain cells as I suspected, and I could still concentrate. I only asked the old man once to explain WTF was going on.

On page 1 of 365, I ignored the call of the expensive bottle of wine from the fridge – that had somehow camouflaged itself behind the cheap wine and the turkey legs (that no one eats) over Christmas – and I am grateful for that surprising, long twelve hours of willpower.

On page 1 of 365, I decided to focus on networking, so I dedicated a good five out of twelve hours to social media, hating on Louis CK, stalking women I admire, commiserating with other drunks (women I admire), and celebrating the confirmation that there will always be something to laugh about – in spite of 2018.

On page 1 of 365, I didn’t swear to make drastic changes in my life. I swore once again to live life to the full and to hope that I can keep on narrowly missing the cracks. But when I do fall ass over tits into one of them, I promised myself to go out with a bang.

Page 2…

Recipe For The Best Christmas Punch, (Or How To Get Your Friends Slaughtered At Your Christmas Party)

So, this year’s Christmas party is done and dusted. More than thirty of us sweltered under the deck on what felt like the hottest day of the past month – as ordained by climate change or whichever God seems to take such personal pleasure out of fucking up my life as often as possible.

And yet, other than NC’s comments about how my plastic glasses were killing turtles, the permanent gush of sweat dribbling down my back, the red punch stains down my new silk lounge pants, the soggy lettuce in the mini prawn cocktails, the coriander I bought instead of mint, or (as per usual), my inability to remember to cook up the bulk of the frozen savory appetizers after a few glasses of aforementioned punch, all went surprisingly well.

Photo from original Taste recipe

I’ve decided that along with Michael Buble’s Christmas songs on repeat, watching the expressions on the faces of kids eating olives for the first time and Amaretto mince pies, a good Christmas punch is an absolute necessity for a Christmas party. And once our core group of 50-somethings had nervously sniffed our version, got to grips with their (justified) fears about what was in it, (because of work the next day etc), it didn’t take long until we found ourselves on a community mission to finish all eighteen litres of the devilish stuff.

The old man – who knocks up a mean Sangria for each birthday party – tried out a new punch recipe this year – The Berry Christmas Punch from Taste. And because it’s Christmas and the season for giving, and it received such a wealth of slurred compliments (I think), I thought I’d gift it to you.

BERRY CHRISTMAS PUNCH (6 Servings)

Ingredients:

1.5 litres of raspberry/cranberry juice, well-chilled

2 x 187ml Sparkling wine, well-chilled

1/2 cup of Cointreau

2 limes

250g strawberries

150g blueberries

120g raspberries

1/4 cup of fresh mint leaves

Method:

Pour the cranberry juice, sparkling wine and Cointreau into punch bowl. Use your hands to squeeze some of the juice from the limes into the punch. Stir to combine. Add the squeezed limes to the punch.

Add the strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and mint leaves.

FYI, a few changes we made from the original recipe: we used cranberry juice and a bottle of processed lime juice for $2 in place of the 12 limes at $1.50 each – WTF? Also, there was no mint in our version, for obvious reasons.

You’re welcome!

Beware! Irresponsible Middle-Aged Drinkers On The Loose

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Found on Pinterest. Four women dancing at the water’s edge. circa 1940 Picture #: 543H Copyright 2003 – Photographs Of Old America. Photosofoldamerica.com

A couple of girlfriends and I have had a lunch planned in the diary for a while. It is a lunch without husbands, none of us are driving, and we are going to a hang-out typically patronized by millennials ie. the age of our children.

I can only compare the anticipation of the event to Christmas Eve as a child or the end of Trump’s presidency, even though the three of us are aware of the likelihood of glugging jugs of water rather than Sangria by the main course, and crashing and burning by dessert.

I like to envisage ending the day in some club for the over-aged, dancing the night away to Abba, in full view of a group of hot surfer types that are into vintage. We’ve been sending gifs to each other of women drinking and getting all lairy, which I know is childish and irresponsible, but which I see as an obvious sign that we need to let our grey hair down. It is obvious that we miss the good old days when we believed that we were immortal and our main purpose in life was to get shit-faced as often as possible. I should point out that all of us are from the UK, so I blame the culture.

Hmmm…

But in truth, we’re all terrified. These days, our hangovers compete with the transition stage in childbirth, and then there’s the shame of being seen as prime examples of middle-aged women with a drinking problem and the prohibitive cost of drinking out – explain to me how cocktails can cost $16? There’s also the worry about getting public transport home and needing to wee, or that we might not make it home in time for Masterchef.

I know that some of you will not agree with this admission, and let me assure you that I would like to be the type of responsible middle-aged woman that has slowed down her drinking in consideration of her health, or because I am a role model to my children. However, occasionally, I think FUCK IT! the world might end tomorrow. And when it doesn’t, I hide in shame for weeks. 

If you find yourself in Manly tomorrow, please don’t judge us.

Eating And Drinking Healthily In Middle Age To Maintain Your Body Weight

I’ve written a lot of posts about this topic in the past because let’s face it, girls, on a scale of stuff that still turns us on in middle age, (where sex with our husbands/partners is at one), food has to be at least a ten. The struggle is real. And to my horror, I recently discovered that there is sugar in fruit and wine – which is a bit rude, frankly – and a fact that has made rather a mockery of just about everything I have aspired to achieve over the past few years in my war on the muffin top.

 

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Sugar in fruit? Like, WTF!

 

The good news (this week) is that two glasses of red wine before bedtime is now good for us, according to the fat-busting scientists, which must mean that for those that are partial to a few more than two (due to mental health issues, say), that makes them virtually Roger Federer.

 

I gave up on traditional diets a long time ago, mainly because they don’t work, I can’t stick to them and they make me very dull and bad-tempered with a hunger only seen in Labradors and an irrational fixation on the breadbasket.

 

Fortunately, I am a moderation kind of girl, (Kettle Chips and cheese excluded – OBVS) and although I don’t deny myself any food groups really – except octopus because WTF and legs – I like to think that I choose wisely and healthily. I also try to balance my out my diet using a cutting-edge, self-developed point system that I stole from Weightwatchers designed for myself, that seems to work for me… sometimes – as in I don’t get the kind of hunger where all I can think about is eating other people’s leftovers in cafes and I can maintain focus on a sensible health target at this stage of my life – to maintain my drinking goals and weight at the same time.

 

Here are some of my tips:

 

If I have yogurt for brekkie, I won’t touch dairy for the rest of the day until my Snickers smoothie at bedtime.

 

If I blow out seriously on carbs, I limit myself to less than a bottle of wine that evening.

 

If I’ve starved myself with a steak and blue cheese salad for lunch, denied myself my morning tea toast and my afternoon snack of crackers and hummus, I allow myself an all-you-can-eat/all-you-can-drink week.

 

I only eat carbs when I’m hormonal, pre-menstrual, peri-menopausal, feeling fat, feeling unloved, feeling hungry, the kids hate me, or with wine.

 

You see – all pretty straightforward really. But let’s be honest, we all have those really shitty years when there’s been nothing on telly but sport for months, you’re fifty-two and still getting acne or your local restaurants decide to allow babies, and it’s hard to be virtuous all the time. Those days when all you want to do is crawl into bed with Pods on toast and an Amaretto on ice. And on those occasions – because remember, I said it’s about balance – I increase my exercise by searching out the furthest pub on Google maps and walking there AND BACK.

Can I Please Stop Drinking Now?

We’re drawing to the end of those tricky days between  Christmas and New Year, where no one really knows what the fuck to do with themselves apart from drink alcohol at odd times of the day and gorge on left-overs.

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It has been stinky-hot here in Sydney, but at least we’ve had the coolness of the ocean to cure our hangovers and to waste the hours between breakfast and the first mid-morning drink. There are no rules during these final hours of festivity, and as each day crawls closer to the New Year and the promise of its heinous list of resolutions – typically of sobriety – my body is trying to get as much alcohol into its system as possible in preparation for the stoicism of January – that usually lasts around two days.

This is the first New Year where I’m proud to admit that I will probably be in bed before 12pm. I no longer feel that pressure to keep up with The Jones’ in most aspects of my middle-aged life. Finally, I am my own person and I do what I want to do – unless the old man disagrees – and tonight we will meet like-minded friends for dinner, drag ourselves down to the water to watch the 9pm fireworks with the mums and bubs, and then my best intentions will no doubt fly out of the window and I’ll be found, washed up on Manly beach tomorrow morning, with no memory of the night before.

I have relaxed these past few days, with long walks and long dinners, in the company of gorgeous friends and family – a good time to reflect on exactly how much my liver can withstand. Indeed, when walking back from the beach the other day, I experienced one of those rare moments of total happiness, and if no one had been around and I could actually lift my legs off the ground without pulling a muscle, I might have jumped for joy –  a serenity that I hope had less to do with the alcohol in my veins and rather more to do with where I find myself in my life right now. Then a hornet flew out of no-where and bit me on the leg – a reminder to embrace those moments fully and seize the day. I am still in pain.

Thank you to my loyal followers who have shared their own thoughts on the absurdity of life with me, or made kind comments about my writing that incentivize me to keep churning out this drivel ad nauseam.

Thank you to my family for keeping my feet on the ground and reminding me that life is about living in the here and now and about taking risks, and that the rough molds us as much as the smooth.

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2018 bring you love, happiness, good health and an abundance of belly laughter.

Please, can I stop drinking now?

 

 

 

 

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*

 

Why Do Hangovers Have To Be So Much Worse In Middle Age?

I farewelled my drinking legs in style this weekend.

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But there are worst places than the Hunter Valley to find out that you’re a pussy.

 

Not even the enticement of membership to my favourite winery, Scarborough Wines, a life-long ambition of mine, along with the purchase of twelve bottles of my favourite Chardonnay (now safely stashed away from Kurt in the boot of my car), can change the fact that my body refuses to play ball when it comes to alcohol. 

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There are worst places than the Hunter Valley to admit defeat.

 

I know we’ve had a good run, and unlike all my previous, very silly, failed promises when I said that I would give up drinking because I was worried I might have a problem (!), I won’t be giving up anytime soon, however I might concede that I need to push down a tad more gently on the throttle.

 

It just proves that life’s a bitch, because first it takes our looks, then our bodies, our tolerance to wine and finally our brains. Phone number for the Euthanasia society handy, anyone?

 

Like those first grey hairs in your pubes, it’s got to be one of the most debilitating side effects of middle age when you notice those first signs of your alcoholic tolerance slippage, forcing you to approach old age with dementia as the only viable means of forgetting. It’s your body’s way of reminding you that you have lots of confused, bad-assed hormones and a predisposition to premature death unless you listen to it and cut the fuck down.

 

And for those who care…

 

According to Science Of Us and Cari Romm, ‘one of the major reasons for a hangover is that you simply become less efficient at processing your drinks. Each drink you force on your poor body takes about an hour to break down. Doing so is a multi-step process: First, a liver enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase transforms the alcohol you’ve ingested into a compound called acetaldehyde. Next, another enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase breaks that down into acetate, which then becomes carbon dioxide and water. When you’re 21, this process acts as a fairly well-oiled machine. But over time, our levels of the necessary enzymes decrease, meaning acetaldehyde — which is a highly toxic, nasty chemical — spends more time hanging out in your system, causing headaches, mouth dryness, nausea, and a host of other symptoms. ‘

What this means in practise is that we’re too fucking old to be having fun.

Also, ‘As they grow older, people may also build up more body fat, which leaves them more susceptible to alcohol’s effects. Fat doesn’t absorb alcohol, meaning someone who has more of it will have less space for booze to dilute — it’s the reason women, who generally have more body fat than men, also tend to have lower tolerance. The body also loses water with age — you have more water in you at 20 than you do at 40 — which, again, means the booze stays more concentrated in your system. ‘

 

IMG_2509As you’ll be aware from my past moans of frustration here on this blog, this pussy-liver condition of mine has been looming for a while, but being the stalwart that I am, I’ve chosen to ignore it thus far, in much the same way I’ve ignored advice about being too old to wear leggings and keeping my hair long.

 

For those of you still in denial, the symptoms start with noticeably worse headaches and flu-like symptoms the morning after, even after you’ve resorted to finer wines in desperation or an attempt at other drinks in search of that perfect elixir to provide a comparable buzz without the dire consequences.

 

The delightful young cellar hottie at Keith Tulloch Wines told me that hangovers are due to the amount of sulphur in cheaper wines, but I’ve tried expensive and organic wines and they’re just as unforgiving and generally the latter taste as gross AF.

 

Which is why I suspected that last weekend’s trip to the Hunter Wine Valley would be a test. Sobriety is not exactly a viable option on a two-day wine tour, accompanied by a man about to turn fifty and still searching for the secret to his life, and three young adults, excited as puppies about getting shit-faced with their parents, at their parents expense.

 

Remember those halcyon days when you too possessed the superpower to drink all night, get up in the morning and start all over again?

 

I was uncharacteristically careful. I volunteered as the responsible driver to some of the cellars (the ones I knew made shit Chardonnay), sipped at tastings and tried to pretend that I didn’t hate everyone. Although it nearly killed me to spit away the majority of each glass in the spittoons.

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Seriously grainy photo because it was dusk and I was as pissed AF, but they were bonafide kangaroos which meant they were off the menu that night.

 

And then we reached the afternoon, parked the car at our beautiful house and walked through the lush vineyards to our local cellars – (a tad of misrepresentation there as there are no leaves on the vines in the winter, but fortunately the cellars have plenty stashed away).

 

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Our quaint little cottage with the three Musketeers poised to show up the “olds”.

And no judgment, but by the time we walked back home that evening I was actually seeing kangaroos, NC was cuddling Kurt and the Astronaut had sneakily set up Twenty Questions on the dining table – he was that confident about winning. Which was very fortuitous as it turned out because it distracted the old man’s middle-aged whinging about the Liberals not winning.

 

Anyone else feeling a little vulnerable that we still don’t have a prime minister?

 

And as I tucked into a vat of cheese, bread and cold meat, I was having such a good time that I thought I’d got away with it.

 

Until the next morning when I woke up at dawn to balloons in the garden, and a humdinger of a hangover that not even our cholesterol-infused breakfast, several sneaky black coffees and gallons of water could alleviate.

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Seriously though, there were fucking balloons in the garden the next morning!

 

Was it worth it? Of course.

Alcohol: Time To Farewell A Dear, Old Friend?

I’m feeling old today; certainly older than I should feel at fifty, although my kids may argue with that. shoes-402257_1280

 

I look at the recent family photos we took at Easter and although I understand that we women of a certain age never like how we appear under the scrutiny of the lens, the cost of two days of celebratory over-drinking (and I don’t mean ‘water’) has had a very obvious toll on my face.

 

On days like this, I’d love to be able to turn back time and control the seismic shift in mood that hormones and alcohol in partnership together have on my body now that I’ve reached (what should be) the maturity of my fifties. I wake up and still feel like a Spring chicken after days of sobriety, whereas days after I’ve burned the candle at both ends, I’m tired, crabby and full of self-remorse.

 

I can’t keep ignoring the fact that alcohol and me just don’t get along anymore; we’ve outgrown each other, and are ready to move on now to our own respective pastures new. Our relationship has become toxic – these days drinking makes me feel more miserable than good about myself.

 

But how to let it go? I’m naturally an introvert, you see, so I’ve relied on this liquid crutch since I was sixteen when I supped my first illegal Vodka and Orange down at the local pub. Worse, I still like the way drinking makes me feel – up to around the third glass – when from thereon in it’s always the same down-hill debacle.

 

Alcohol is such an easy friend to be around. It’s unassuming, doesn’t judge me, makes me appear far more fun than I really know how to be, puts a fake shine on my normally reserved personality like the one on black patent shoes, and when you can function relatively normally on it, (which I have done up until now), where’s the problem?

 

I’ve been drawn to posts from other bloggers and writers recently who have given up the booze, and swear they’ve never felt better, even though the decision has required more changes than they anticipated. It’s not simply a question of avoiding the bottle shop; a need to to redefine who you are in sobriety and society appears to be a common theme.

 

Which is daunting, because all my best relationships thrive around drinking.

 

But the negative impact of this friend of mine, to my self-esteem and creativity, is no longer worth the minimal gain. The depressant effect it has on a mind already vulnerable to erring towards negativity, not to mention the guilt associated with being a role model to a young adult who is already fighting his own drinking demons and the risks of elevating my chance of all manner of horrible cancers, means it’s time.

 

I’ve used the excuse that I don’t need to drink every day, for so long, it bores me. While at the same time, I’ve come to detest those predictable weekend mornings ‘after’, when the hangover invades my body, egged on by my self-hate for not having the discipline to stop, forcing me to waste another Sunday that I’ve looked forward to all week.

 

You see, the real problem I have with my relationship with alcohol is my body’s poor recovery from its effects, since I’ve aged. It’s how quickly the deterioration from fun-time, party animal to hung-over hobo in yoga pants happens. Self-disgust is not pretty, and I now resent the reliance I have on something so puerile to make me feel good about myself, when there is so much else that should work.

 

But then there is the fear that if I remove this loyal, close friend who has stood by me for most of my adult life, will I become an uninteresting shadow of the person I was?

 

To be continued…

Older, But Still No Wiser When It Comes To Drinking

What I’d seriously like to know is when exactly the middle-aged wisdom/acceptance thingy that my body can no longer drink alcohol is going to finally kick in. drunken-40363_1280

I’d also like to know if I can justifiably lay the full weight of blame for our behaviour firmly on the shoulders of our hosts yesterday, for contributing to the vilest hangover I’ve experienced since …er… last month?

 

Such a shame, because I really wanted them to like us.

 

I realize that they probably thought that they were doing the honorable thing by constantly refilling those massive wine goblets – that must have each held at least four standard drinks when full – but they obviously had no idea who they were dealing with.

 

  • A couple of high-functioning, still in-denial alcoholics.

 

  • A couple that possess the self-control of a pair of Labradors in the vicinity of food.

 

  • A couple that sadly love the sound of their own voices when inebriated a little too much; who have a tendency to become unintentionally (yet rudely) impervious to the contribution of others when under the influence of their favourite wines.

 

  • A couple who misguidedly (and too often) assume the role as the entertainment for the evening; who mistakenly believe that they are hysterical company when drunk, tell the best stories and are completely oblivious to the telltale boredom signs (yawns and watch-checking) of their poor hosts.

 

  • A couple that, (being naturally introverted), foolishly resort to alcohol to help make them appear more interesting.

 

  • A couple that sometimes feel so hemmed in by the responsibilities of the life sentence that is parenthood, they can go a bit crazy when let out from the cage. A couple who with that first whiff of freedom lose all impulse control and throw responsibility to the wind quickly before being forced back to the position of sensible role model.

 

  • A couple who are old enough to know better, but who sadly still don’t.

 

  • A couple that gets so over-excited at any opportunity to make ‘new friends’, they sometimes forget that middle-aged piss artists are very unattractive.

 

  • A couple that should have understood when they received the LUNCH invitation that 9.30pm is probably a little later than their hosts expected them to leave. And that ‘to outstay your welcome’ is unfortunately not an expression that strikes a chord in the midst of their wine-induced mayhem.

 

  • A couple who were having such a good time that at the height of their drunkenness selfishly forgot that their hosts were working the next day,and that they themselves would have to get up early to pick up the car in the morning – possibly still intoxicated.

 

  • A couple that also forgot at the height of their exuberance all those mature conversations they continually share about a glorious future of sobriety.

 

  • A couple that once again chose to abandon all knowledge acquired of the limited tolerance of their changing middle-aged bodies to more than a few glasses of wine.

 

  • A couple who are older, and should be so much fucking wiser.

 

How I Survived My First Drinks Party Without Drinking

You know that I like a drink…

 

But I’m a complex personality, hence I’m also a huge fan of Mindbodygreen, a website that publishes lots of great posts that highlight readers genuine experiences of how they improved their health or lifestyle, without that underlying virtuous and condescending ‘I’m better than you’ you approach.

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Found on dryjanuary.org.uk

 

I’m particularly drawn to the posts written by those people who suddenly decide to become sober, (because that is also an ambition of mine) deep down I suspect that I may have a problem.

 

Not that I think I’m an alcoholic – I meanwho does? – it’s not like I’m surreptitiously slipping Gin into my water bottle on the way to the gym or anything. I don’t go to the gym. I don’t even really exceed the recommended weekly units most of the time, but I do use alcohol as a crutch to appear more interesting than I am, and rarely a day goes by when I don’t drink at least one glass of wine.

 

At this time of the year, no-one can be immune to the smugs who march through the alcoholic debauchery of Christmas week, straight into a dry January. This year, the idea did cross my mind several times through December to try it, and promptly terrified me –  so was quickly dismissed on the grounds of a drinks party we had lined up last night and the birthday of one of my bestie’s on the 15th.

 

Aside from which, abject misery didn’t seem the best start to the new year.

 

But as my liver and kidneys struggled to cope through the Christmas period and began to ache worryingly at night, the thought of not waking up with a rancid wine taste in my mouth became bizarrely appealing.

 

And I had also found a secret weapon to make the idea of sobriety a little more appealing. Because in the way that vapourisers work for the ex-smoker, I decided that if I was going to go cold turkey, I needed something to replace my wine with.

 

So while recently on holiday, and after one too many dire hangovers embarrassingly caused by a measly couple of wines which completely fucked me over, I decided to research other drink options.

 

And to my delight, I rediscovered the Bloody Mary – a drink, which I believe must have been demonised by Australians because you can’t find tomato juice in the pubs anywhere. Anyway… the Bloody Mary is the perfect alternative, because not only is tomato juice relatively low in calories, it is also filling, and if you really extend your imagination and think about Chris Hemsworth’s dick lines and add tons of Tabasco, a Virgin Mary tastes almost as good as the alcoholic version.

 

But I digress.

 

So yesterday’s New Year’s drinks party loomed ever closer and after three days of sobriety, luckily for me, drinking still held about as much appeal as going back to work this morning. So I offered to drive, mainly to ensure that I couldn’t get off my face, but also because in the back of my mind were all those wise words from Mindbodygreen, challenging me to change my ways.

 

I prepared well. I made up my own batch of Virgin Mary for the first part of the evening and took some Coconut Water along for something lighter to get me through the pain of the rest of the evening.

 

I also worked out what was the earliest time we could leave without appearing rude and drilled that information into the short-term memory of the old man, who joshed meanly that my soft drinks probably cost more than a bottle of wine… because he’s super supportive like that…

 

And unbelievably I got through the evening.

 

I can’t deny that the first hour was hard. Meeting new people is a personal torture for me; meeting new people without lubrication for my anxiety is terrifying. Even more terrifying was my biggest fear that I would be as dull as dishwater and I certainly felt that curse at the beginning of the evening as everyone else knocked back their Champagnes around me. It’s hard to get enthusiastic when you feel like you’re missing out; especially when you don’t have to.

 

Food helped. Fortunately for me, it wasn’t one of my drinks parties where the most elaborate canapé is cheese and pineapple on a stick and this year the hostess surpassed herself with one of Jamie’s homemade pates to die for, so each time I needed a boost of energy, there it was.

 

This short-term sobriety will certainly not contribute to weight-loss.

 

And as the evening progressed it got easier as the people got sillier and strangely more approachable to a cold fish who was feeling superior, and I found myself forgetting about my dependence and… well…almost enjoying myself.

 

The wonderful feeling of virtuousness that I felt as I drove home with the old man snoring in the car next to me, sweating wine, almost made my sacrifice worth it.

 

But I still felt shit this morning, which leads me to suspect that I’m just not a morning person and it has nothing to do with the wine.

 

Dreaming Of A Wine Christmas

This image shows a white wine glass (WMF Easy)...
This image shows a white wine glass (WMF Easy) with white wine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To Whom It May Concern, Scarborough Wine Co, Hunter Valley

Dear Sir/Madam,

Re: Brand Ambassador Role

Please accept my application for the role of Brand Ambassador for your wine company. Although this role has yet to be advertised, after extensive market research, I believe that like Angelina Jolie before me in her role as Ambassador for UNICEF, I could be the new face of Scarborough Wine, bring a heightened awareness to the fabulousness of your wines and hence invigorate the profitability of your products.

In terms of my credentials, I drink loads of your wine. HEAPS. This means that I know the product inside out.

Your Yellow Label Chardonnay is my preferred tipple but I will take the Blue if I have too, and my fellow wine connoisseurs have informed me that your White is the crème de la crème, so it goes without saying that I would be only too happy to sample and review it for you.

In terms of the right niche marketing and brand placement, if all of the the readers of My Midlife Drinking had to pick two words to associate with me, they would undoubtedly be ‘Scarborough’ and ‘Wine’…or maybe ‘lush’ or ‘whiner’, depending on the day. I envisage a short campaign, simple in its approach, yet highly effective in terms of output; one that involves me and my friends drinking lots of wine and then telling you how much we all enjoyed it.

In terms of my relationship history with your company thus far, I have visited your cellar door in the Hunter Valley numerous times, sampled the wonderful freebie cheese spread you provide to help flog your wine and have always set back home with the comforting sound of clanging bottles of Yellow Label in the boot of my car – even though your cellar prices are more expensive than the deals I get at my local bottle shop – something we need to discuss, if you don’t mind me saying.

Furthermore, I see this as a medical intervention. Due to the heinous symptoms of menopause, I am exactly the right guinea pig to trial your wine because my tolerance for alcohol has taken an unacceptable dip of late, and I need to get back on the horse with a wine I know to be not only sublime on the tastebuds, but also easy on the head.

Yes, I will go that far. In spite of the worrying trend towards alcoholism, which is particularly noticeable in the 50+ female age group, and the inconclusive science that insists on lying that wine is bad for us, I have decided to put my health on the line for your company, the future of the grape and progress. I have always believed that the health benefits of being a lush far outweigh the negatives; that such a lifestyle choice facilitates the improvement of major mental health issues such as avoidance, anxiety and poor social skills as well as staving hunger pangs when there is clearly an obesity problem in society that needs to be addressed.

In terms of salary expectation, I would never be greedy and a few hundred cases a month should suffice for any new product trial.

In conclusion, I am highly efficient at drinking wine, have a high tolerance for wine and a mature outlook. I also produce some of my best work in a drinking team environment.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Louisa Simmonds