Working women need to escape the grog bog
Can you hear a faint sort of teeth-grindy sound? No it’s not the rats in the roof gnawing the wires again, it’s just those thousands of lady drivers with the windows down as they motor past the bottle shop.
Even just four days into Febfast, the annual excruciating month of alcohol abstinence, the novelty will have well and truly worn off and we’re already down to the bare bones of resentment and “I know it’s for charity and all but what the feck was I thinking”.
All around Australia there are mild-mannered ladies cursing the leap year, too, as were it not for that stupid spare day, there would only be 24 grogless ones left. For many of us talented drinkers, when it comes to one’s consumption of alcohol there is the comfort of denial and “look over there, is that a rare orange-bellied parrot? (Yes waiter top me up)” for 11 months of the year, and then there is the long, hard look in the mirror that is horrendous February.
It’s a laughing matter over a glass of bubbly, how warmly many of us regard an alcoholic beverage—but then again not. I have an image burned onto the back of my eyeballs of the first time I spotted that wine glass in the doctor’s office which has the “one standard drink” line in texta so terribly low across the bottom. That glass was put there to taunt me, I’m certain, and it did.
I have a long and happy relationship with vine-based products, but I’ve been reassured to discover that I am able to clean up my act and have none during the week, none while I’m chopping that annoying first onion after work at 6pm, none just about every evening when the work-life stress mounts at the end of about term two for longish periods of time.
These are the covered-in-glory periods of extreme self-discipline when my drink-deprived brain tricks itself into thinking the colour of the herb tea is similar enough to a mirage of a fruity chardy to do the “you can relax now” trick.
I can manage this because I’ve learnt the art of distraction. If you can only just say a silent “la-la-la” when the impulse strikes at wine o’clock you can generally outlast the craving. But the fact is, the craving is there. For me, the evening tipple means release on the first glass and a turbo-boost of energy to get me through the rest of the chores on the second.
There isn’t a third—I’m not a total lush!
Or am I? Two a night for women is too many, we’re told, and the key to looking after your health is regular AFD’s (alcohol-free days), though the complete break in Feb must do you some good. I realised I was perhaps drinking a little too regularly when someone introduced me to the concept that “you’re supposed to have one or two alcohol-free days”. I said, “what, ever”’. No, every week actually.
The “I know we drink too much, but it’s not really that much of a problem” smirk kind of ran off my face this week when I read the VicHealth research which found professional women in their 30s to 50s were the biggest up-takers of Febfast—and many had a big over-drinking problem.
Seventy-five per cent of fasters were working women and other than in February they “tended to drink more often, and more on each occasion, compared to a sample of Australians who had consumed alcohol in the past year”. They tended to have more than FOUR standard drinks a day.
And: “Researchers noted that professional women were often overlooked by alcohol-awareness or harm-reduction campaigns, which generally focused on young people and men”. Maybe that’s because we generally don’t drink drive (I’m looking for up-sides here).
As I write this, I am 19 days “sober” as they say on the 12-step programs—not that I’ve ever investigated one or anything. I could act holy by kind of lying and saying I just wanted a really solid head-start on Febfast so I got in early, or, I could tell the truth: that I intended to have the annual crack at giving up on New Year’s and it took me 13 days to pull it off.
One of the reasons clever Febfast—for which you register online at www.febfast.org.au and raise money for youth drug and alcohol services—is so successful is because you don’t have the climb Mount Go-Without solo, and can band with others (even men!) who would like to get a handle on the bottle. Specially in a culture as booze-lubed as ours, giving up alone can be daunting.
As a woman, try it in your 30s and everyone assumes you’re pregnant and not letting on yet. Once you’re clearly completed the family the book club girls just consider you a freak.
You can water it down, of course, but people still think you’re a bit of a hand-bag. Funnily enough, sometimes you get the feeling it makes other people feel bad if you’re trying to do yourself a bit of good by cutting down on the grog, which is get another reason—as if we need one—to just chuck it in and go the bevvy.
You’d hate to think we put pressure on each other, albeit unintentionally, to keep up with each other in the grog stakes and all end up marinating… In fact I’d love those VicHealth researchers to dig a bit deeper and investigate why working women are the silent but steady drinkers they’ve found our demographic to be. Stress, anyone?
Just to cross my t’s, I called Febfast to make sure that if you’re reading this and want to join in that it’s not too late. The lovely guy I spoke to said not at all, just log on and go for it.
“Thanks,” I said. “Cheers.”
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