Book Review: The Good Drinker: How I Learned to Love Drinking Less by Adrian Chiles

I heard Adrian talking about this book on the Parenting Hell podcast (coincidentally, as a parent of teenagers, it was a bloody brilliant episode – and had me in floods of tears when talking about the fact you pack your child off to Uni telling them ‘it’s going to be the best time of your life’ – and actually it can be really tough, especially at the start, being dumped in a random place with random people and expected to make friends for life and have an amazing time. Can you tell I’d just a few months earlier dropped my eldest at Uni?!?)

Anyway – back to the book! It sounded really interesting. I have a number of friends who have given up alcohol completely, and had various mental health issues entwined with alcohol issues (although none were lying in a doorstep alcoholics, cracking open the vodka at breakfast) but at the same time I didn’t feel my husband and I had ‘that much of a problem’. I can freely admit that both of us drink far more than the recommended limits – and definitely when on holiday would be up at a level similar to Adrian’s historic levels. Only recently someone reported, in hushed and shocked tones, that a relative going through a trauma had drunk a litre bottle of vodka – and I asked ‘over what time period?’ – thinking that on a day on holiday with wine starting at lunchtime, pushing through the afternoon with a beer in the sunshine, cocktails before dinner, and yet more wine with dinner – it probably wasn’t dissimilar units wise.

But ‘of course I don’t have a problem’.

I don’t drink every night.
I can do Dry January (although I prefer Sober October as January is sh*t enough).
I drink posh gins, expensive wine and champagne not cheap cider.
When our daughter was seriously ill (suspected leukaemia initially, and then diagnosed with an auto immune disease) I gave up completely as I knew it was all or nothing at a time of stress- and dealing with sleepless nights and a hangover would have been horrific.
However I don’t often get hangovers (although when I do they are awful in my 40s!).
I rarely vomit from alcohol consumption (and last time I did, I’m sure there was something wrong with the coffee beans in the espresso martinis, it wasn’t the volume of booze!).
I’ve never woken up in the morning needing a hair of the dog.
I’m carrying extra weight – but otherwise my recent health check was absolutely fine.
I manage to run a successful business and a family of four, so I can’t be doing that much damage to myself.
I can easily go out for dinner with friends and be the designated driver and not drink.
I enjoy drinking with my friends and family.
I can always recite the quadratic equation formula to prove I’m sober (this was my party trick during sixth form and uni – I did a maths degree, so can be excused for being a total geek!)
I would never drink and drive.
A matching drinks flight to a taster menu in a lovely restaurant is one of life’s fabulous luxuries.
You can’t turn down a free drink.

This whole list reads like one of the chapters in the book…….. #excuses

So – here’s the blurb:

The popular broadcaster and columnist sets out to discover the unsung pleasures of drinking in moderation.
The recommended alcohol limit is 14 units a week. Adrian Chiles used to put away almost 100. Ever since he was a teenager, drinking was his idea of a good time – and not just his, but seemingly the whole nation’s. Still, it wasn’t very good for him: the doctor made that clear. If you lined them up, Adrian must have knocked back three miles of drinks. How many of them had he genuinely wanted? A mile?
There’s an awful lot of advice out there on how to quit booze completely. If you just want to drink a bit less, the pickings are slim. Yet while the alcohol industry depends on a minority of problem drinkers, the majority really do enjoy in moderation. What’s their secret? Join the inimitable Chiles as he sets out around Britain and plumbs his only slightly fuzzy memories of a lifetime in pubs in a quest to find the good drinker within.”

Firstly I love Adrian – and you can ‘hear’ his voice in the writing which I really enjoyed (and not just because we have a similar accent, although I have been known to take issue with people who call him a ‘Brummie’!!)

It’s a really good mix of being informative, factual – but not preachy – and most definitely not ‘it’s my way or the highway’. He recognises that for some people complete abstinence is the only option. However, he also points out that a lot of people who drink a lot are put off by the thought of total abstinence – and therefore don’t bother looking at their drinking levels at all, because moderate drinking isn’t often deemed an option. There are loads of books about quitting the booze completely – but not many about just cutting down and not being a ‘heavy’ drinker.

As Adrian says in the book – alcohol is the only drug you have to explain why you’re NOT taking it! When I’ve not been drinking at some points I’ve had friends say ‘Oh, let me know when you’re drinking again, and then we can go out’ – as if somehow not drinking alcohol precludes having a night out?

It really did give me food for thought – in a good way – and I have been waxing lyrical to friends (over drinks!) about it ever since I finished it over the Christmas holidays. The combination of facts and anecdotes means it’s an interesting and amusing read and I plan to follow Adrian’s example and be more mindful about what I consume alcohol-wise going forwards. For now it’s ‘damp’ January in the Price household.

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