Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Day 66 ... plus 6 bottles of wine

Double 6 today.

I'm a bit tired because of work. Earthquakes can cause my employer some trouble and extra work, so I drove to the office when they called all hands on deck. The most remarkable thing was that I was sober after midnight, and fit enough to drive to the office and to help out. A few months ago that would have been unthinkable. I would have had passed out way before midnight and probably would not have felt the quake at all. It was not too strong where I live, but the lamp shades were swinging. Anyway, I pulled a few hours of night shift and still have some sleep to catch up on.

But I did not want to miss writing a post on my day 66 of sobriety, so here it is. Let's make it short. Scroll back to Saturday.

Arriving in Auckland airport at 7 am after an international flight, immediately after passport control there is the onslaught of duty free shopping. Displays with bottles block the traveler's path. The marked walking track meanders around booths and shelves. Bottle upon bottles beckon. Bright lights and sales assistants with too much makeup and pasted-on smiles make me want to run even faster. It's like they are lying in wait, ready to pounce on you, so all you can do is walk faster so they don't drag you into their booze aisles and force feed you the free samples.

Floor to ceiling adverts spell it out for you, in case you missed the message before:

You can bring in three absurdly large 1.125 l bottles of spirits. But that's not all. On top of that you can bring in six bottles of wine.

What an invitation for a nation famous for its binge drinking problems. That looks like the weekend is sorted, right?

By comparison, you can bring in a measly 50 g of tobacco to roll your own cancer sticks, I think. I don't know how many ready-made cigarettes are allowed. That information is given much more discreetly. There is no visible tobacco product in the duty free shopping area. Legislation does not permit the promotion of tobacco.

But - Man! - do they make up for it with the alcohol ads!!

These over-sized ads create a sense of urgency and pressure to buy cheap while you can. Don't miss out. Three bottles of hard booze. Plus six of wine! Go for it!

To me these ads and the way the traveler is forced to walk through the duty-free shopping area felt like an assault. I felt harassed and bullied.

I think alcohol does at least as much damage as tobacco does and should be treated in a similar way. It should be hidden away behind opaque doors and in order to buy it you would have to know what you want, approach someone and ask for it in person.

This duty-free pushiness is one of the reasons why people buy more alcohol than is good for them. I wonder how many duty free bottles are instrumental in creating new alcohol dependencies. I wonder how much longer it will take the authorities to realize that danger and curb alcohol trade like they have curbed tobacco.

Glad I got that out of my system. Off to bed now. Sober and happily so.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Giving in to temptation

I spent the last two weeks away from home, which I knew meant that I would be facing a number of sober "firsts". International travel and conferences with lots of catered food and drink are always a challenge. Especially when trying to stick to a diet, as I have been doing for the last 5 months or so. Very low carb. I lost about 8 kg. And then the whole sober thing on top of that.

Well, the international flight went well. I left the carbs on my plate and drank lots of sparkling water, as reported in the last blog post.

The first week was my own private holiday time and I found that sticking to my principles was relatively easy. I love exploring supermarkets in other countries and I had a great time inspecting products on the shelves of the US states I traveled through.

It's amazing how different the ingredients and the labeling of certain things is, compared to what I'm used to from New Zealand. The US packaging lists the nutritional values in grams per serving and you always need to check the size of what is considered "a serving" for this particular product. Comparing nutritional values across different products and brands is near impossible, because serving sizes may differ considerably. In NZ the labels also list nutritional values per 100g, so comparison is a lot easier.

The ingredients list is another surprising difference. Example: I looked in many different supermarkets but could not find a single mayonnaise without water. If it has been stretched with water, then it needs chemicals to hold it together. They call it "real mayo" but still fill it in with water, so it's not just oil, egg and spices.

Anyway, I managed to keep my carbs at a fairly low level and my drinks alcohol free during that first week.

Then the conference started. I caught up with people who I'd been drinking and partying with on previous occasions. I'm sure that at previous conferences I probably was the most enthusiastic drinker in the group and I was very anxious at the prospect of staying sober. Would anyone notice? Would they react?

Conference days start with hotel breakfast buffet, then catered food throughout the day and evening events where the alcohol flows in big rivers and waiters bring an endless succession of hors d'euvres and drinks on trays.

I tried. I really tried hard, but they practically kept pushing the stuff into my face, under my nose. It was everywhere. It was impossible to resist. So I finally caved.

I succumbed.

I felt guilty, but once I had started I could not stop and I thought, "Oh, what the hell. It's once a year. I have quit before, so I know I can do it. As soon as I get back home I'll quit again". I dropped all resistance and dug into the cookies and the chocolates, the breads and the pasta. And the desserts -- mmmhh! Carb heaven.

Did I drink alcohol? Hell, NO! Of course not.

Staying sober was a LOT easier than staying low carb. Half of the group I hung out with does not drink at all, anyway. The other half usually have a couple of pints and then stop. Nobody asked me why I did not drink. I made fun of the fancy sparkling water in cylindrical bottles that look like they were meant for cosmetics. Someone asked if I'd been to Napa valley on my trip leading up to the conference and I said no, because I was doing the One-Year-No-Beer challenge from the British web site. That was the only time I spoke about alcohol.

I DID gain a couple of pounds, but now that I'm back home, I'll quit the sugar again, get back to my low carb regime and I'm sure I'll be losing that weight again soon.

I also gained a lot of confidence into my sober lifestyle and that I can maintain sobriety indefinitely. What I was very anxious about turned into a great experience and a realisation:

I don't ever have to drink alcohol again and nobody can make me.

What a relief!