Last January was a little wet. It was my 50th birthday and I might have celebrated with one or two Champagnes. Plus, a few wines. I wasn’t counting, but my head the next day suggested (rather loudly) that I might have overdone it.
A year on, I have decided to join the sober masses for Dry January, to discover it feels not to reach for the wine after a long, hard day as a Spa Spy.
It won’t be easy. When I think how booze has been such a large part of my life, I blush, even though it’s been a mostly jolly ride. Pub culture in the 90s was a thing, and I have to say I was a bit of a ladette, downing pints in Soho, then graduating to all-nighters in Hackney. My literary and cultural heroes were big drinkers, as were most of my closest friends and colleagues. There were too many parties, plenty of good times, and a few lost handbags.
Parenthood put a large brake on that sort of behaviour, quite rightly. But I became one of the wine-o-clock mums, rewarding myself with a glass of red around bath time to relax and transform into a nicer, non-shouty person. I couldn't go out any more, so I decided I deserved it.
The wind-down-wine at home habit has stayed 19 years later. I can’t even say, as many do, that I have “a wine with dinner”, which sounds so civilised. For me it’s a large glass slumped in front of Graham Norton or the latest Scandi Drama – the latter of which has become increasingly hard to follow when mildly sozzled. All those jumpers merge into one…
Also, the perimenopause is spoiling most things that used to be fun: hot flushes and night sweats tend to ruin the pleasure a good vintage. My 50something health MOT was thankfully okay, but I am aware now more than ever that drinking can have serious long-term effects. I want to break this habit before it breaks me, and a month off sounds like a good start.
Thanks to the Millennials – who pretty much spearheaded this wellness epoch, no doubt in response to my generation (Gen X)’s excessive hedonism - not drinking has become hipper than drinking. I need to look forward to this month of sobriety, not force myself to endure it like a prison sentence. I need to think like a Millennial.
Number one concern:
What will I be drinking instead of wine?
At home, in front of my Scandi Dramas, I am happy to experiment with herbal teas and will treat myself to a beautiful new mug – the ritual of pouring wine into a lovely glass (instead of a polystyrene cup) is part of the allure. There will be Fever Tree tonics and Elderflower cordials on hand for emergencies.
On my 51st birthday, I will drink Wild Life Botanicals (pictured above). We discovered this delicious and healthy alternative to bubbly as it was being introduced at Champneys spa. We cracked open the pink one at GSG HQ and decided we’d be super happy knocking back a glass or two of this at any party. We loved its floral notes with its undertone of honey – it’s only 0.5 percent and 35 calories a glass. The botanical ingredients include Rose, Lemon Balm, Rosemary and Ashwagandha, all of which improve mood and digestion, as a good wine should – plus Damiana which is said to be a mood-lifting aphrodisiac. My new favourite tipple.
Will I be bored when I go to a party?
Most likely. I’m not the biggest fan of small talk, and a glass of fizz used to take the edge off the tedium – probably by killing a few brain cells so that talking drivel was all I could manage. But those clever people at School of Life have come up with collections of conversation prompts on love, life, family and work, guaranteed to spice up your evenings. Each pack contains 100 cards that you can simply stash a few in your handbag and whisk them out whenever you think of stabbing your own eyeball with a cocktail stick – things like: “Is it a sign of cynicism or wisdom to tolerate affairs?” And “Have you ever sabotaged your own success?” You will either be the life and soul ... or the unwitting party therapist.
What can I do if I’ve had a hard day instead of reach for the bottle?
In the past, I have found these things generally get you through the initial craving: bubble bath with candles; page-turning novel; Netflix; meditation; yoga; making a new Spotify playlist; journaling; listing three things that I am grateful for, or three good things that happened in my day. Some people go to the gym and work out their fury in a spin class; I would obviously rather head straight to a twilight spa for the ultimate chill out and book an amazing massage.
The important thing is to know that cravings pass surprisingly quickly, and if you resist the urge, smugness is its own kind of high.
How will I reward myself on the first day of February?
With a spa day – of course – at our award-winning Best Newcomer 2019, South Lodge. The Omorovicza Botanical treatment Sybaritic Spy described in the review sounds divine.