I visited my doctor for a check-up recently. She took my blood pressure and asked a few questions. One was how many days of the week did I drink alcohol?
“I try to limit myself to days ending in ‘y’,” I replied.
“No, seriously,” she continued.
“I am being serious,” I said.
To her credit, she wasn’t judgemental, but did suggest I try to have at least two or three alcohol-free days each week.
I was given a clean bill of health, but when I got home, I did some research to determine whether or not I had a drinking problem. I found a survey that asked six questions.
- Do you drink more than you planned?
- Does drinking consume a lot of your time?
- Can you be happy without alcohol?
- Does seeing alcohol advertising make you want a drink?
- Does your drinking cause you to give up other activities?
- Does your drinking cause social or family issues?
The only answer that caused me to, perhaps, ponder what I was doing was my reply to the first question – I do drink more than I planned, simply because it is often my intention to have at least one alcohol-free day each week, but I don’t, although I did have one in April.
Call me weak, but I find it impossible to not have a glass of wine if I’m sitting down to a good dinner. One complements the other. Conversely, it’s an insult to the food if I don’t respect it with wine.
The second question also raised an issue, for while I don’t spend a lot of my time drinking, I do think about it quite a lot. For example, if I’m having a steak for dinner, I might start looking forward to a good red wine during the day, and I might think about that red wine several times as the afternoon unfolds.
As for question five, yes, one of the activities I don’t do as much is drive. That’s a good thing on several fronts – safety, pollution and cost to name just three.
It was over a couple of beers recently that I mentioned my medical check-up to a friend. He’s in his early 70s and during a recent medical his doctor told him that too much alcohol can be linked to at least 60 different health conditions, all of them bad.
This doctor described heavy drinking as 15 standard drinks a week for a male, eight standard drinks a week for a female. But, my friend went on, this doctor did say that it wasn’t a matter of drinking every day that defined an alcoholic, but rather the affect it had on them.
“I don’t black out, I don’t have hangovers, I don’t feel guilty about my drinking and I don’t lie to people about it,” my friend said. “My drinking doesn’t cause me problems.”
Nor me, I think. So I asked my wife. Did my drinking embarrass her? No. And I asked my kids. Same answer. No.
So I’m not an alcoholic, but by consuming more than 15 drinks a week – I estimate I’m nearer 25 – I am certainly having a negative impact on my potential for the fullest life possible, whatever my life expectancy may be.
Daily drinking, I know, increases my chances of liver, stomach and bowel cancers. It can also decrease my testosterone levels and sperm count, not that this worries me at 65.
Drinking as much as I do is also expensive. I could estimate how much I spend annually on alcohol, but, to be honest, I’d prefer not to know. It would only add to my stress levels, and that might kill me.
And I know that giving up alcohol would improve my chances of losing weight, but without wine to fill me, maybe I’d eat more.
Anyway, the upshot is that I’ve decided to make one concession – I won’t drink on Mondays. To help me achieve this, I’m going to have a Monday night dinner that doesn’t deserve wine as an accompaniment. Sardines on toast perhaps, or poached eggs.
This is a prospect that already depresses me, but don’t let’s start worrying about depression. There’s already too much to worry about at my age.
Are you concerned about how much alcohol you drink?
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