So here it is. My first weekend as a Graduate Dryathlete™, Class of 2014. Woohoo!
I did it.
On Friday night (31 January, proper countdown) I went out for dinner at Asia de Cuba in Covent Garden with some of my closest girl friends. It was to celebrate one of the girl’s birthdays, a fellow Dryathlete™. Rightly so, she decided to end her Dryathlon™ experience six hours ahead of the deadline but I stayed strong and worked my way through the non alcoholic cocktail menu to accompany my bottle of sparkling water with ice and wedges of lime (no tongs this time).
After dinner we went to the adjoining cocktail bar where the birthday girl offered to donate £20 to my Just Giving account if I would have a drink. What would you call that? Bribery? Emotional blackmail? Shocking tactics! I contemplated it due to the potential donation to Cancer Research but luckily one of the other girls talked me out of it and said, “what’s two hours for the 31 days you’ve stayed strong?” Wise words indeed! So I continued to work my way through the virgin list.
I did it.
I can however confirm that you’re not really meant to eat lemongrass or chunks of ginger. They should only be used for decorative purposes in cocktails unless, of course, you quite like to gag.
Every year since I was little I’ve given up sweets and chocolate for Lent. I think they call it Catholic guilt. Anyway, I always stay up until midnight on Easter Sunday morning to have my first taste of chocolate. A lot of thought goes into what the first taste will be and, in recent years, Lindt Lindor has won the accolade of being first past the lips. So, in keeping with tradition of how I celebrate ending a period of Lenten abstinence I contemplated doing similar to mark the end of Dryathlon™.
But I didn’t do it.
Firstly, I was shattered from a busy (but rewarding) week at work so was home for just after 23:00 and, secondly, I wanted it to feel more of a celebration than sitting alone on my sofa swigging a mouthful of fizz whilst watching part 2 of Silent Witness on the iPlayer wrapped up in my snuggle blanket.
So I decided to wait.
Saturday saw me head down to Exeter for a friend’s 40th. A 3hr 20min journey accompanied by my free cup of peppermint tea as part of my weekend upgrade to first class. After a few hours of shopping in the time-warped high street of my sister’s university city, I decided to reward myself with some new shoes from LK Bennett. Actually, make that two pairs and a matching clutch bag. I figured the whole lot cost me much less than I’d have spent on alcohol during January had I not taken up the Dryathlon™ challenge. And before anyone asks, no, I can’t actually walk in them but my God do they look pretty!
At 17:00, 17 hours after I was technically allowed to have alcohol for the first time since New Year’s Eve, I went to meet some friends in the The Mount Radford pub to watch the France England game. Wales had already won so I was pretty chuffed. The pub was, understandably, heaving and I really wanted my first drink to feel more special than one where I risked ending up being barged by someone, resulting in having it part in my mouth, part in my hair, part on my new shoes.
So I waited.
Doing something for the first time is always so much more enjoyable when you can do it with friends. I love creating memories! We decided to have pre-dinner drinks at the gorgeous Magdalen Chapter hotel in Exeter and my long time friend Rob (pictured with me above) insisted on buying me that first drink. Not having drunk there before, I couldn’t be confident at the quality of the cocktails. Whilst I’m sure they would have been lovely, I couldn’t run the risk of my first drink being a disappointment so I decided to go for a safe bet. A glass of Perrier Jouet champagne.
So how did it taste?
I’m not sure really. I didn’t have that “oh that tastes soooo gooood” feeling and whilst it really is a lovely champagne I felt decidedly underwhelmed. Another two glasses of fizz with dinner and I was back on the lemonade, not because the alcohol was going to my head and I wanted to slow down but more because I just wasn’t really enjoying it.
So I got a good night’s sleep and woke up with no hangover.
On Sunday, I headed across to Axminster for some fresh west country air and a catch up lunch with my friend Chris at his place of work, River Cottage. Lunch was lovely, and whilst my locally sourced mussels were cooked in a cider and cream sauce, I chose a non alcoholic Luscombe blueberry drink to accompany my meal.
The other reason I know I’ve changed is because I didn’t get a can of G&T from M&S for my long train journey home.
So what now?
Whilst there may not be a cap and gown for a Dryathlon™ graduation, there’s certainly a massive sense of personal fulfilment, a clear head, a strong focus and a new found love of fitness and wellbeing to take away from the experience. I’ve learnt so much about what makes me tick, when and why I choose to drink and, ultimately, a much deeper understanding of my relationship with alcohol in general.
Thank you so much to everyone who has supported and encouraged me on my journey and for reading my blog along the way.
I have one ask of you if you reached the end of this blog. As well as the health benefits and the personal challenge, I really wanted to do something for a good cause. OK so it wasn’t a marathon or climbing a mountain but it really was a big deal for a prosecco-loving socialite. If every person who’s read my blog to date and has laughed, smiled or simply just related to something I said, I’d love for you to click onto my fundraising page and make a small contribution to Cancer Research. If everyone who I’m connected to via social media donated just £1, we’d be £2000 closer to finding a cure for cancer. Anything you can give will be warmly and gratefully received.
I did it.