All of my life I have associated alcohol with fun, relaxing, unwinding. It is the ideal antidote to bad news. It is the perfect accompaniment to good news. Alcohol is my friend after a long day and it is my wing-man on a night out. It makes me feel good, it makes me feel free. I even think that it makes me be better company. So I drink and I love to do so. It is something that I enjoy passing the time with.
Everywhere I look there are advertisements depicting young, affluent and beautiful people drinking their favored alcoholic beverages. They look so carefree and happy. Who wouldn’t want to be there at that happy gathering hearing the funniest joke ever and buzzing with fun and goodwill? I am human, I am a social creature. I want to be happy and presentable and have my friends enjoy being around me. So I drink because that’s what people do.
The thing is, if I pause for a moment I don’t ever remember feeling that young and that beautiful anytime that I drank a gin and tonic. More often than not, I am sitting on my couch watching the latest TV series on a Friday night, tired, disheveled and in my pajamas. I wonder if that would sell many billboards. Probably not, it doesn’t have the same aspirational appeal. It might be my life but my life is an average persons life and that doesn’t sell.
So why really change the habit of a lifetime. A pastime that I enjoy part-taking in? It doesn’t impact my life in a negative way. Why fix something if it is not broken?
Well, as it turns out two things happened recently that made me rethink my mindset. These two events combined switched something inside me which caused be to commit to a no alcohol at all in The Year of Less But Better.
The First Event- I blame the Simpsons
Recently, I put on an episode of the Simpsons. I wanted to introduce my children to some of the cartoons that I would have watched in my youth. As it so happened, in the episode Bart spiked his teacher, Mrs. Krabappels drink. She got drunk in school and was subsequently fired. My daughter, a little distressed asked ‘Mom, why did they ‘drunked‘ her, they ‘drunked’ her and now she’s lost her job.’ I told her that Bart had done this as a game and he thought that it was hilarious but that he meant no harm. She was not impressed in the slightest and since that point has not been able to warm to Bart Simpson at all.
She is relatively naive to alcohol, but her reaction to what it could do to a persons ability to speak and control their impulses baffled her. She was dismayed that not only could someone get another person drunk but that a person might willingly do that to themselves. I thought about how many times have a repeatedly offered a drink to someone even after they had declined. At the time I saw it as being a good host, but my daughter’s reaction was putting a different slant on my actions. Her objective point-of-view and simple logic caused me to pause.
Maybe I can’t blame the Simpsons
However I hadn’t learned my lesson yet, my son unwittingly played his part too. I, at the time, happened to have a glass of wine beside me. After hearing his sister he turned to me, pointed to the glass and said, ‘that will ‘drunked‘ you mom and it will make your liver not work anymore, it’s bad.’
A wave of shame flowed across me. What message was I sending my children? I focus so much on thier health, helping them to build strong bodies and minds, yet they see me actively damaging mine. They are so sponge-like . I am a scientist by training and have from an early age thought them about anatomy and how their bodies use food to fuel them and here we were, the students teaching the teacher. What a poor example I was to be so duplicitous.
Not There Yet
What was I to do, I want to do the best for my children and lead by example. However, was giving up my glass of wine for a whole year going just a bit too far?
As I said earlier, I enjoy drinking and the sensation of that first sip. I was reluctant to do the right thing as I didn’t feel that it was necessary to take such drastic action. I knew that it may have been the right thing to do but I am selfish and am liable to do selfish things. I also know that in certain cases I am a chicken and am guilty of cowardice from time to time. This was one of those times. I just didn’t know if I was strong enough to buck my habit of a lifetime or the social norms that come with our drinking culture.
I also knew the challenge that I had ahead of me with The Year of Less But Better. There was a lot of change on the horizon and I needed to have a crutch to get me though. So, as much as I would love to tell you that alcohol went straight on the list, it did not dear reader. I am ashamed to say that I spend the next few weeks justifying to myself all the reasons as to why I should keep alcohol in my life.
The Second Event
The Year of Less But Better came closer. The backbone of this initiativeis based entirely on my values and what makes me truly happy in life. My values are:
My Family and Friends
My Financial Independence
When putting together the manifesto, I had to be very clear on what I had to do to make it work. I had to stop spending money on things that took me away from my values and channel all my time, energy and money into the things that brought me closer to them. The interesting thing was that no matter what way I cut it, changed it, or looked at it, alcohol didn’t fit into any of my values.
My Family and Friends
Drinking was not something I wanted my children to see me doing or become accustomed too. If I did imbibe of an evening it made me slower the next day and if I am, to be honest with myself I have lost days to the couch due to the actions of the night before. I don’t have the same energy to keep up with them and I cannot enjoy them to the same level as I would otherwise.
Alcohol also took time from my friends. It dulls my senses, I cannot be properly present in conversations. I forget bits of what people say and things get jumbled in my mind.
I don’t believe that there is anything else in my life that takes me away from my family and friends as much as this does. Which I find totally ironic considering how it is advertised to us by mass media.
My time is also impinged upon. Alcohol is not like a sandwich, you can’t just drink and get on with your day. There are a huge time costs and life-limiting aspects to it. I didn’t understand this for the longest time, the time that goes into arranging drinking space is impressive. Time away from home, time drinking, time recovering, time purchasing it, time thinking about it and time regretting it. You can’t just have a drink and go for a drive to visit friends. You have to wait until your senses return to you and can control your reaction time enough to function as a responsible adult.
When I think about it, I don’t think that I have any hobby that is as time-consuming as drinking alcohol.
My Financial Independence
Alcohol is expensive. There are no two ways to cut this one. A simple bottle of wine at home per week is around €15 of my after-tax earnings. This means that I have to earn approximately €30 to pay for an average bottle. Over the course of a year, this amounts to €1560 of my hard earned money. If I put that into a real-world scenario and add Christmas, birthdays, nights-out, gifts I feel that I can modestly double that number. This hits my bottom line by over €3000 per year after tax and whooping €6000 per year of my gross earnings. And yet, I have not included the spin-offs costs of alcohol. The mixers, glasses, taxis, hotels stays, late-night takeaways, the morning after food, paracetamol and goodness knows what else. This amount alone would cover a large proportion of my household running costs for a year.
My final value of financial security cannot condone this expense.
Goodbye for now, my friend.
So there is it.
Dear Alcohol, I enjoy you, you’ve been my wingman for years. It hurts me to say this but, we must part ways, for now at least. My life has moved on, I have better ways to spend my time and money and other ways to build friendships.
What can I say?, It has been fun, I know that I will miss you. I will probably crave your company at times. However, you are a red herring on my path and even though we may meet again. For now, I must say goodbye. It’s been a blast.
aka Mrs. Smart Money.
What I’m reading at the moment to keep me in the right mindset.
Marie Condo – The Japanese Art of Tidying
Michael A Singer – The Untethered Soul