Fit in my 40s: ‘Can a sober companion help me give up drink?’

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I am considering another run at sobriety this month – but what about all the social events where it’s not humanly possible to avoid drinking?

Lips and empty glass




Photograph: Kellie French for the Guardian

Fit in my 40s: ‘Can a sober companion help me give up drink?’

I am considering another run at sobriety this month – but what about all the social events where it’s not humanly possible to avoid drinking?

I have been considering – no promises – a sober rerun for December. For this, I need a sobriety coach, which is a real thing. Dr Bunmi Aboaba is transitioning out of dentistry into sober coaching/companionship. So I devised four scenarios in which sobriety is not humanly possible and deposited them before her. They are all real-life events from this coming weekend, so you will be able to see my problem.

Scenario 1: people are coming to dinner. Not drinking would feel like having a pool party and announcing that I have a verruca. Aboaba says, “It’s better to be honest with people and say, ‘I’m not drinking until Christmas, but I’ve got some non-alcoholic cocktails.’” What, you mean they can’t drink, either? “It depends on the severity of your drink problem.” OK, say I don’t mind if they drink. “Just get them to bring their own alcohol.” I don’t mind buying them alcohol. “OK, the important thing is not that they bring it, but that they take it away when they leave.”

Scenario 2: very dear friends are celebrating a big achievement (10th wedding anniversary). “Say you’re drinking vodka and tonic, when really it’s just tonic; say you had a big night last night; say you’re on antibiotics; say you’re driving; say you’re sobercurious.” Sobercurious I like best, plainly invented to sound like bicurious and therefore racy. But I was pregnant-not-drinking at their wedding and I feel a responsibility to rouge my knees and roll my stockings down, as they say in the musicals. “That begs a question about yourself. Some people drink because their boundaries are all over the place; they’re trying to please other people, when other people don’t care.” My friend Marie, who has just come out of NOvember (which I believe she made up), says this is bollocks. Other people hate it when they don’t drink. I hate it when they don’t drink.

Scenario 3: my mister has been working on something for two years and finished it, and it is brilliant, and now he would like to go to the pub. “Have a virgin mojito.” And pretend it’s real? “No, it just looks nice in a wine glass.” That’s not the same. “Look, relationships can break down. Sometimes it’s not really a relationship – you’re just drinking buddies.” No, I promise, it’s real. “Maybe invite someone else and they can drink with him?” It’s a bit Handmaid’s Tale, but OK.

Scenario 4: I’m going to a party which happens every year, at which, historically, I have been lit up like the Commonwealth. “Do not go to this party.” Seriously? “You’ll get euphoric recall. You’re going to drink,” Aboaba says.

Marie says I have to strategise better and not end up in any of these scenarios. “You have to break your routine. Which was easy for us, because our routine was to go to the pub every night at the same time.” Aww, it sounds so Gina Ford. Contented Little Adults.

This week I learned

There are more teetotallers in Britain in 2017 than ever before – 21% of the population.

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