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LORRAINE WILSON: Why I’m giving up alcohol – and this time I mean it

When Lorraine launched her book, Facing Forwards, she did it in a pub.
When Lorraine launched her book, Facing Forwards, she did it in a pub.

I gave up alcohol last week. Again.

I’m hoping it’s the final time. This might seem overly dramatic to people who know me. I can hear it: “She doesn’t have a drink problem!”

It’s all relative. If I think I have a problem, it’s a problem.

If giving up alcohol for good means ridding myself of an uneasy feeling around hooch, then it’s what I should do.

I don’t drink during the day. I can go for months on end without drinking. Even before lockdown I can’t remember the last time I saw the inside of a pub. In some circles I would be described as a “lightweight”.

Maybe it’s an age thing, but the hangovers get more crippling on less booze and the “fear” sets in for days on end.

It’s a ridiculous thing to do to myself.

It’s difficult to find a comprehensive definition of an alcoholic. I can only think of people I know who have seen their lives descend into chaos, losing everything as they can’t see further than the bottom of a bottle.

The NHS website has guides that can advise on whether alcohol use has descended into misuse. It’s worth a look.

In TIME, Sean Bean plays Mark Cobden, imprisoned and tormented after killing someone while driving while drunk.

For me, the realities of alcoholism were brought into sharp focus with Jimmy McGovern’s TIME.

In the three-part BBC series, Sean Bean’s character is imprisoned for four years for dangerous driving after he drove drunk and killed a cyclist.

It’s a long way from Absolutely Fabulous, with Patsy and Edina passing the days in a drunken haze and sometimes worse. It hasn’t dated well.

I can say, hand on heart, that I have never driven with the tiniest amount of alcohol in my system. Not even a shandy.

I haven’t missed a day’s work through alcohol either. However, I’ve probably been less productive, as I hauled my still slightly shaky carcass in front of a screen with a pile of junk food for comfort.

Why haven’t I managed to give it up then? Why haven’t the countless “that’s it” moments stuck?

Maybe it IS the lack of a significant problem. Like many people of my generation, I’m a domestic drinker. I WAS a domestic drinker I should say.

Where’s the harm in a glass with dinner?

A glass of wine with dinner that somehow leads to the bottle, disappearing in the haze of a film.

I’ve associated booze with food for as long as I’ve had delusions of grandeur. A decent robust red with pasta. New Zealand’s best Sauvignon Blanc with a light salad. A strangely named artisan lager with a burger. Gin with pretty much anything.

Non-alcoholic wines have a long way to go to catch up but breweries have turned their marketing savvy to a rapidly expanding choice of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic brews, generally referred to now as alcohol free (AF).

There’s been a massive rise in demand for alcohol-free beers.

As I stick my nose out of the burrow and emerge into the world again, these will definitely help with social events.

The days of overpriced soda water and lime is over. If teetotallers are going to be charged over the odds, it might as well be for something that makes them still feel somehow included.

I love the taste of beer and wine in the same way that I used to slaver at the prospect of a bacon roll. Now the thought of eating meat appals me, but if I can find a decent replacement I’ll take it.

Alcohol sales falling as young wise up

Things are changing. Last week Public Health Scotland reported that the amount of alcohol sold per person in Scotland last year fell to its lowest level for 26 years.

It’s still higher than England and Wales, but even there, the gap is narrowing.

Anecdotally I’ve noticed that far fewer people in their 20s see alcohol as an essential part of their social lives.

My 50-something cohort experienced the 80s transition from pints of heavy in spit and sawdust pubs, to cocktail bars serving newfangled foreign lagers with multiple syllables in their names. Alcohol became as much of a style choice as one of flavour.

I didn’t drink (not much anyway) until I was 18, but it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t.

The childhood memories of my parents really cutting loose and enjoying themselves are linked to parties where the Bacardi and the McEwan’s Pale Ale flowed freely.

I was lucky. My parents were cheery drinkers. On a Friday night, I would accompany my dad to the corner shop. He would get a quarter bottle of vodka for my mum and Pale Ale for himself.

Young Lorraine Wilson growing up in Dundee.

Friends who have given up drinking have said that once you get “the biggies” out of the way, it gets easier.

The first birthday, Christmas, wedding… but I’ve failed at those hurdles in the past.

I’m heading off to a residential training course in a few weeks. Normally breaking the ice would involve breaking the seal on a few bottles.

If I can find the words, “I don’t drink” on that first night, this will be my final time.

LORRAINE WILSON: The old Overgate, a ‘secret’ city and going home after 13 years – this is my Dundee story