The Sobriety Diaries – week two: ‘I arrive in Donegal gumming for a drink’

A ‘normal Irish drinker’ has quit alcohol for four weeks, to experience life without booze. She’s halfway there

Sat, May 17, 2014, 01:00

These older carers are the people who both drink and cope; no one wants to know how they manage that. In situations like these it can be useful to define problem drinking more broadly.

This new model recognises problems that were not considered serious enough before, says Rocca. “And it is serious. Just because the effects of drinking are not earth-shattering doesn’t mean it’s not serious.”

Rocca’s problems before she gave up alcohol included “a crap job, low self-esteem, not-great relationships”. She never lost a job; her daughter was not taken into care. Yet it took giving up drinking “for everything to turn around” for her.

Chris Raine, who five years ago started the Hello Sunday Morning website to encourage people to examine their drinking, agrees that for many people drinking is not a black-and-white situation. “Rather than a bingeing culture, in reality it’s a huge spectrum.” If he could change one thing about the public attitude to alcohol, he says, it would be that “we see alcohol as a drug”.

Raine, who is Australian, started Hello Sunday Morning when he was just 22. He is currently in the UK, doing an MBA at Oxford. His study includes a method of calculating the financial benefits to a government of its population reducing its alcohol intake. He has already worked with the governments of Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia.

Raine sees that England, Ireland and his native Australia have what he calls a shared drinking culture. “If the goal is for us to drink for all our lives, then we have to find a point of moderation.”

He took a year off alcohol five years ago. “It was the best thing I ever did for myself,” he says. In that time he started Hello Sunday Morning.

Raine now drinks, but more consciously. “I finished the 12 months alcohol-free and I didn’t drink the first night. Then I went back drinking much, much less. There were times I had one too many, but that would be five or six drinks, not 10 drinks. My body’s not attuned to it. And every year I take three months off.”

We handle our drinking in different ways. Like the woman who almost bumped into me while coming around the corner last week and cried out, “Oh no, I’ve had two glasses of wine!”

Enjoy your glasses of wine, I say. What we need is a much wider conversation about drinking, one conducted without guilt or the fear of being found out.

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