Hilly Janes can see the light at the end of the tunnel as Lent draws to a close - but is she giving up alcohol for good?
On Easter Saturday, my 40 days and 40 nights in the alcohol-free wilderness of Lent will be over. Forty-six actually, including the Sundays, although a friend whose father is a vicar tells me they don’t count. Someone else tells me that according to his mum, transgression is also permissible on Mother’s Day. Hmm... sounds more like the Church of Mum to me than the Church of England.
But Mother’s Day, a second Big-0 birthday party and a child-free weekend in Berlin all without a drop passing my lips were a breeze compared to what happened last week. I discovered that the application form to renew my daughter’s passport in time for a booked-and-paid-for family Easter holiday abroad has been stuck in the system since February. It took 24 hours of persistent phone calls and a £65 “service upgrade” to get it dispatched, hopefully in time for us to go. (Moral of the story: asking a married woman who is also known by her maiden name to be a countersignatory on a passport application is asking for trouble.)
MORE GLOSS: Hilly Janes on giving up alcohol for Lent
If that isn’t enough to drive anyone to drink, I don't know what is. But six weeks on the wagon has taught me that alcohol doesn't always help ease stress. When you need all your wits around you, it’s more likely to scatter them to the four winds. If you’ve had a long hard day, with no fresh air and little to eat or drink, by the end of it you are likely to be tired, hungry and thirsty. What could be more welcome than a chilled glass of white, a G&T or cold beer? What your body is really telling you is that it is dehydrated, has low blood sugar, and it wants a quick fix. So the drinks, at 150-200 calories a glass, tick all those boxes. But as the alcohol kicks in, it further reduces your willpower, and so one drink can lead to another...
My wine o’clock needs are now met by a diet tonic water or diet ginger ale with lots of ice, fresh lemon and lime. (OK I cheated in Berlin and had two alcohol free beers, but I reckon as it tastes quite like the real thing, it’s giving into the craving, rather than getting rid of it.) The soft drinks curb the hunger pangs and perk me up till supper, when once properly fed and watered, the desire passes.
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Women could be even more likely to follow the line of least resistance. Some research suggests that people who are driven by external desires and goals, like pleasing others, are likely to have less willpower than those whose desires and goals are internally driven. And how many women do you know who want to please others?
Here endeth the Lenten lesson. The good news is that I’m sleeping better and I have more energy, especially in the evenings. A niggling little pain on my left side has gone and a lingering sensitivity after some nasty bouts of cystitis two years ago has almost disappeared. I’ve lost a few pounds, despite “rewarding” myself by nibbling at my other two weaknesses, crisps and chocolate. Family and friends are impressed.
But there are little pleasures in life that I miss too much to give up completely: red wine with a Sunday roast, the bottle that helps party conversation flow, popping corks that herald a special celebration. If and when the passport arrives, we are off to Morocco. As a Muslim country, it’s a good destination, I hope, for putting my new drinking habits to the test.