Every time I show the slide that says “35% of Scottish women aged over 50 drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week,” I am reminded that this includes me.  I would not describe myself as a heavy drinker, but I do drink more than I know is appropriate for my health. From my research on alcohol intake in women and breast cancer risk, I know that I am not alone in being reluctant to discuss the pleasure of red wine consumption with health professionals.

I certainly drink more than my mother did, and my daughters drink more than I do, so I feel the extra guilt of being a poor role model. To ease my conscience I have joined in dry January for the last 4 years, and ticked a box that says I can do without alcohol for 31 consecutive days. More and more people are joining this January fast, and this year I had the pleasure of a family event where 5 of the 8 guests were alcohol free. Work colleagues also joined in, as did a neighbour and friend…made life so much easier – but also easy to forget from February 1st onwards.




So – I thought I would try extending my dry habits through to the end of February, and that really wasn’t so easy.  It meant not drinking on New Year’s Day, a family weekend in London, Valentines Day, a wine tasting event and three days in France. I can do will power but I want a life!

However, will power alone runs dry pretty quickly in Scotland, where hospitality starts with a glass and ends with a glass. Still astounds me how many health conferences, meetings, receptions have free flowing wine – we really aren’t good at practicing what we preach!

But my extended sobriety this year meant I have had to develop some good strategies, preferably ones I could apply all year round.  So far, March has been pretty good with my new plan of action – here is how I have cut my alcohol intake by half:

  1. Find some good alcohol free beer.


    It’s worth the effort, and there are now lots to try. I have a (barking) favourite which just happens to be brewed in Scotland.

  2. Mocktails can be fun for those special occasions.


  3. Search and find good wines sold in half bottles.


    For years we have always squealed that half bottles are poor value for money but at the end of day the bills and the alcohol consumption are less!

  4. Share good finds with friends and funnily enough, they share back.


    Suddenly the tables are turned not how much has been drunk but how little, how low the bill, how good the morning after.

When I asked around about dry (or damp) January here are some of the responses:

My dry January did not start until the 14th for a variety of reasons.  I promised myself it would last until the 14th February.  And here I am, a pensioner on a rare treat, a first class train ride from Newcastle back to Dundee, on February 1st, and I am being offered lashings of free wine which, so far, I have managed to resist. 

– Male, aged 65


A few mouthfuls of wine get the taste…no need for more

– Female, aged 59


And from the money conscious young adult, a screenshot…



Finally, in February, our SCPN conference had two great sessions about alcohol. Dr Peter Rice from SHAAP http://www.shaap.org.uk/ gave an excellent overview of health and policy issues and a reminder of how there may be unintended consequences from the “sober month” approach about. The second presentation was from Lucy Rocca from Soberistas https://soberistas.com/ – an amazing presentation from an amazing lady and a great organisation.

No box ticking this year… its never enough!