The Sobriety Diaries – week three: ‘I’m not counting the days until I start drinking again’

Three weeks without drink, one more to go. But it’s not like leaving society – I’m going out more than ever, and readers are chatting away to me

Tea total: Ann Marie Hourihane in Cinnamon Cafe in Ranelagh, Dublin 6. Photograph: Alan Betson Tea total: Ann Marie Hourihane in Cinnamon Cafe in Ranelagh, Dublin 6. Photograph: Alan Betson

Tea total: Ann Marie Hourihane in Cinnamon Cafe in Ranelagh, Dublin 6. Photograph: Alan Betson Tea total: Ann Marie Hourihane in Cinnamon Cafe in Ranelagh, Dublin 6. Photograph: Alan Betson

Sat, May 24, 2014, 01:00

Oh yes, the consumption of alcohol among the Irish. Last year there was a fall of 7.7 per cent, to 10.73 litres of pure alcohol per person per year. These falls, based on figures produced by the Revenue Commissioners, have been interpreted as a sign of decreasing consumption.

Although another set of statistics, also issued by Revenue, shows our consumption of whiskey rising substantially over seven years, from 5.09 litres per capita to 6.91 litres per capita.

All right, so the second set of figures, which were originally in gallons, relates to the years 1831 and 1838, and is taken from Paul A Townsend’s excellent book Father Mathew, Temperance and Irish Identity. Those figures come from a time when the population of this island was 7,767,401 (in 1831) and 8,080,400 (in 1838); the latter figure is an estimation.

It must be remembered that they are based on whiskey on which duty was officially charged; there was no way of estimating the amount of alcohol produced by Ireland’s thriving illegal distilleries. With humans and alcohol it seems it’s all a cycle, really.

Pineapple rings This week I’ve mostly been thinking about the private versus the public experience of alcohol. That’s what happens when you have been feasting periodically on pineapple rings and Bournville. (“Not a pound,” said a man who had given up alcohol for a month, bitterly. This message was relayed to me from Australia. “Tell her I didn’t lose a pound,” he said.

Several men said the same. They seem more optimistic about the prospect of immediate physical improvement once you’re on the wagon. Women know you’re going to have to pay for your abstinence, at least at first, in Maltesers, cheesecake and peanuts. The miracle is that I haven’t put on any weight, as far as I know.)

On a personal level, and entering my fourth week free of alcohol, I’d like to thank Richmond Marketing for dropping in to The Irish Times a bag containing two dozen alcohol-free beverages. It was murder smuggling them past the newspaper’s ethics committee, but I’m delighted I did.

In other news, I’ve had two road-rage incidents in the past seven days – and, no, I’m not sorry. For me the biggest side effect of not drinking could turn out to be increased use of my car, with the consequent rocketing expenditure on parking. Also, I’m a bit impatient socially, as in: “Yeah, yeah, yeah, that was quite funny. Now let’s get on with another story . . .”

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