For many, a dry January is now an annual rite, and new guidelines will soon be released on our uptake. Here, six novelists discuss their relationship with alcohol
John Sutherland: Its 34 years since I stopped utilizing the stuff
Among my favourite lines of poetry are Christopher Logues woeful, Nevertheless, I shall forget her, and, alas, as if by collision, a day will pass in which I shall not think about her even more. I run whole months now, without thinking of what was once the most important thing in my life. Forget family, undertaking, liver and lightings, bank balance. All that mattered was the elusive next one.
The scarlet letter I wear( for alcoholic , not the other A) is somewhat faded nowadays. Its getting on for 34 years since I stopped use the stuff that came close to killing me. Without alcohol, life is duller: but its longer( be borne in mind that corny gag about it merely feeling longer ). And you can remember more of it.
How useful is AA? It varies from user to user. In my example it served as a kind of A& E. But, having done its cleansing undertaking, I could leave it behind. Many successfully retrieving choose not to. Good for them.
You never recover. I had cancer four years ago and, although cured, I shall be, for the rest of my life, defined by the NHS as a person with cancer( it helps with the prescription charges ). I shall also be, until the day I die, an alcoholic. In permanent remission on both fronts, I hope.
Only a couple of times over the decades have I relapsed. Once an injudiciously eaten mousse, soused in brandy. The other period a misnamed non-alcoholic mojito. I felt, almost instantaneously after the first( and only) mouthful, a flush rising through my cheek and that wonderful, first-drink, euphoria. The impression you chase thereafter until darkness autumns. I can live without it. And, if I want to live, shall have to.
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett: I no longer drink to get trashed
Booze, drinking, grog, plonk, sauce, hooch whatever you call alcohol( in Wales we say lysh) theres no denying that many of us love it. The fact that a photograph of new year mayhem in Manchester at its centre, reclining on the tarmac, a demi-nude, white belly flopping out as his mannered hand reachings for a bottle of lager was compared to a Renaissance masterpiece is testament to that. As is the fact that, at the weekend, most UK high streets resemble modern recreations of William Hogarths Gin Lane, except with more tit and leg on show.
Im no different. Ive never been a snifter kind of daughter. If I have one glass I might as well have the plenty, especially if it involves white wine( a ridiculous thing to get lashed on, and yet for some reason I persist ).
If this sounds fretting, rest assured that Im not a daily drinker. Whenever someone says that theyre having a night off I feel a vague sense of alarm. My night on is usually so excessive that it puts me off boozing the rest of the time. Its similar to the style my mother gave up smoking: 10 fags and three cans of special brew would guarantee she felt so rough that she didnt smoke again for a while. Not that Im saying an all-out binge is better than the little and often technique. Whichever camp were in, neither is ideal.
I will engage in brief periods of abstinence, usually when I want to lose a quick half stone; nothing works better. But I usually fall off the wagon again pretty soon afterwards. That first taste of chilled sauv blanc after a period of restriction is a thing of beauty.
I no longer drink to get trashed, as I did as a student, and I always maintain my wits about me, so I dont insure the harm in having the odd heavy session. But these days, I know my limits.
Remona Aly: Watching drinkers get sloshed is amusing
Life as a teetotaller has been a liquid journey that has flung me far away from the puritanical glass of orange juice, and opened up a daring world of Shloer and myriad pretentiously named mocktails.
My family has enjoyed its own version of a halal knees-up. Weve often had our home red or white grape juice to accompany lamb or chicken for dinner. This Christmas just gone, we went all-out on elderflower fizz, PS5 a pop. It was good stuff and I couldnt get enough of it. I felt what it must be to feel hungover the next day. If I lived up north, Id love to go down the Halal Inn in Oldham the UKs first alcohol free tavern a exhaustively British-Muslim concept.
On several occasions, people have been stunned, even mortified, upon hearing Ive never touched a drop. What , not even once? they ask. However, I cannot say, hand on heart, that my life has been fully alcohol-free. Ive accidentally munched on the odd champagne truffle and doused my pancakes with bourbon sauce in a cafe once. An honest mistake. Sometimes I wish I induced more of them.
A highlight or nadir that combined my faith with a little bit of the ol bottle, came during one of the most sacred months for Muslims: Ramadan. A friend bought an enormous cake to add to the iftar feast. Once sunset kicked in, seven hungry Muslims were halfway through devouring it, when I piped up, Tastes a bit alcoholic doesnt it? A Google afterwards and we guiltily lowered our forks.
Ive never been entirely comfy around alcohol, but watching drinkers get tipsy or even sloshed is amusing. At house parties, bridals, university balls, Ive seen inhibitions set free. Some gush odes and declarations of platonic love. Others become philosophers.
Many drinking friends have told me that I dont need alcohol to relax and have a good time, saying lovingly, I hope that I act drunk at times. It seems that an overt show of happiness mirrors a state of intoxication. Yet these same friends have showed tremendous consideration, ensuring Im not left out with gestures such as concocting alcohol-free mulled wine for me.
So alcohol whether through abstention, being surrounded by it, or by accidental uptake has played some part in my life. Ive never truly wanted to drink it though, and according to friends its likely safer for everyone that I never try.