As we say goodbye to what people have variously called a ‘strange’ year or a ‘challenging’ year or a ‘unique’ year, I have been pondering one very important question; how many beers did I drink?
I’m a chronic journaller. I take note of everything: what I ate, how much I weigh, where I went, who I spoke to, how much money I spent and on what. And at the bottom of the page for each day there’s a little entry where I note how many beers I had. Sometimes, for obvious reasons, I have to estimate this.
Oh gods, I think. It must have been at least six or seven. And then I start to count up the ones I remember and I get to ten and just leave it there. Ten is shorthand for ‘I had a big night and I don’t remember getting home.’
I once went for a general check-up with my local GP. This was back in Sydney, about ten years ago. I had to fill out a form indicating if I had any family history of this, that and the other thing, and all the sorts of questions that doctors ask you but then never refer back to. One question asked how many alcoholic units I drank each week.
Anyone who has looked at an alcoholic unit knows that the maths is hard (especially for someone who doesn’t know their times tables). A standard beer is not a standard drink, which seems just stupid to me. A Coopers green is something like 1.3 alcoholic units or something, so working out how many that is in a day is difficult, let alone in a week.
Anyway, I endeavoured to answer as truthfully as I could. At the time, I was probably having two to three longnecks or a six-pack of stubbies each night. Using some bistro maths, I figured that six beers was probably about eight units, multiplied by seven, to give… Hang on, I have to use my calculator for this…
Okay, 56 units. May as well round it up to 60 to take into account Fridays and Saturdays.
So under the question: How many alcoholic units do you drink each week, I dutifully wrote: 60.
My GP and I had a nice old chat and she scanned over my form while we were talking. No family history of heart disease or any other chronic illness, not currently taking any medications, no major surgeries in the past, no….
Her eye alighted on that number – 60 – and I swear to the gods her heart stopped. She looked up at me. She looked at the form again. She looked up at me.
“You know this is a problem, right?” she said.
For those of you playing along at home, the Australian Department of Health recommends “no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.” So to say that I’m waaaaay out of the DOH’s league is an understatement.
Recently – possibly as part of my renewed interest in maths – I wondered just how many beers I have in a year. I know I buy a few cases every month, and then when I’m working on a novel, I go to the pub for “one beer one thousand words”. There was a brief period during lockdown when they banned booze here in the region of the Philippines where I am, although I had a significant stash and managed to ride it out. At one point, though, I did stop drinking out of despair. It didn’t seem to achieve anything, having my usual four beers every night, so I stopped drinking for a week and immediately lost 2 kilos.
Anyway, let’s say I have around four a night. Sometimes it’s less on a Monday or Tuesday. Often a few more on a Friday or Saturday. But let’s say it averages out to 4 a day. Actually, that doesn’t take into account parties, birthdays, Christmas, Zoom calls with my family… Okay, let’s say 5 a day or 35 a week. In fact, let’s just round that up to 40 a week for good measure. So what is that in a year?
I don’t know if you know your 52 times tables, so Imma just gonna tell you.
That’s 2080 beers a year.
If I’m only drinking at home, that’s about 72,800 Philippine pesos.
Or $1962 Australian dollars.
Originally, I ended my post here with a cheeky ‘cheers’ and a general feeling of ‘how awesome am I for not wasting money on something dumb?’. You could even say I was gloating. I was a bit proud of myself.
But I’ve spent the past three days horizontal, dealing with crippling food poisoning and generally wondering if I’ll actually make it out alive.
Today, on the first day of 2021, I’m finally starting to feel okay again. And my first commitment to myself is to bring that number down. When I wrote this post, I was riding on the high of the beer wave, looking down at all before me through the golden glow of a beer bottle.
But the past few days, I’ve been alternately staring at a cracked white ceiling or a pocelain bowl and I’m starting to wonder if, maybe, just perhaps, there’s the merest chance that 2000 beers is a century or two too many.
I don’t want to do anything crazy like commit to a dry January. But I haven’t restocked my beer fridge and I’m in no hurry to do so. The next few days at least are gonna be beer free.
If 2020 taught us something, it’s that we can do anything. So I’m going to work at drinking like a normal human being instead of like a Valkyrie. It’s time that my yearly consumption was less than the number of the year. That’s an achievable goal.
I hope all your 2021 goals are not only achievable, but bring you joy, inspiration, and good health.