Alcohol and antibiotics

Club Soda member Vicky had to cut out booze for 7 days when taking some strong antibiotics. Here she tells us how that was and what she discovered.


Alcohol and antibiotics – one must go…

I am a drinker. Not an alcoholic, though there are times that I’ve wondered, but I like to drink. It isn’t unusual for me to get home from work, where I have a pretty stressful job, and have a g n’ t or two while cooking then half a bottle of wine with dinner, and this is most nights. It’s also not unusual for me to finish that bottle or have a few glasses of port before bed too. When I’m out with friends I’ll drink strong craft ale at the same pace as the boys, so that can be five or six pints in an evening. I drink well over the recommended intake for men let alone women, and I resent being told that my social drinking is a bad thing.

But the WORST thing has happened. I have a nasty abscess on my gum and am undergoing root canal, and I’ve been put on some pretty heavy antibiotics. I can’t drink for the seven days that I’m taking them and for at least 48 hours after or I’ll be violently sick and it could damage my liver. My dentist, bless him, knows I’m a piss head and tried penicillin first but it wasn’t aggressive enough. So here we are.

I’m rather shocked at how distressed this has made me. The thought of not drinking for this long has actually upset me, and the fact that I’m upset has shaken me. Do I have a drink problem after all? I’ve known for five days that I needed to take these pills but I put it off because I wanted to drink on Easter Saturday and Sunday. Is that normal? I’m not sure anymore.

I’m hoping that, with the help of Club Soda, I can use this nine days as a chance to re-evaluate my relationship with alcohol and have new experiences, rather than just get through it with gritted teeth, counting down the days until I can booze again.

Day 1 – Discovering Erdinger alcohol-free beer

So, it’s Easter Monday, I’m off to my mum’s for lunch. This would usually entail a Guinness on arrival, red wine with lunch and then a few more beers but today I have a selection of non-alcoholic drinks and a face like thunder. Very much in at the deep end!

So, day 1 is done. And I’m feeling good. Feeling a little bloated after too many fizzy fake beers, but other than during the standard family arguments I didn’t crave the booze at all. I like that I know that I’ll wake up tomorrow without a hangover, I feel a bit smug that my husband had a red wine induced headache earlier, but I’m apprehensive about tomorrow night when I get from a stressed day I won’t be able to have a gin or a vodka.

For info, the non-alcoholic drinks I had today were:

Cobra zero (Morrisons) – weak tasting, slightly smokey, not really very nice.

Koppaberg – mixed fruit (Morrisons) a bit like a fizzy fruit squash, fairly sweet but not discernibly different from the ‘real’ thing.

Erdinger alcohol free (Tesco) – very nice. If I didn’t know I’d probably not guess that this was 0%. I’ll definitely have this again.

Day 2 – Work stress without gin

The first day back at work after a bank holiday is always a hard slog, and as I’ve got court in the morning, and I got caught in the rain, it would be the norm to crack open a bottle of red as soon as I get in, and take half an hour to chill. In fact, it wouldn’t be unusual for me to pick up a can of pre-mixed pink gin and tonic from M&S and drink that on the train home. But today I didn’t. I had another cigarette instead (okay, one thing at a time!) and when I got home I made a cup of camomile tea to drink while I cooked! My husband came home about half an hour later carrying bottles of alcohol free Erdinger, so I had one of those with dinner. I didn’t even put wine in my pasta sauce. I feel terribly virtuous.

I’m doing well, but I’m going to bed now and I’m getting crabby. I miss not having that red wine buzz, and I always have it the night before an important court case, having fooled myself into thinking it will help me sleep better if I have a few drinks, or that my submissions are more erudite and inspired if I drink whilst writing them. Well, I’ve just written my subs and they are brilliant, and what’s more I’ll wake up at 5.30am tomorrow and get my train to Nottingham without a hangover for once! The only difficulty I see is, if it goes badly, not grabbing that can of gin and tonic for the train journey home…

Day 3 – Where is this going?

I didn’t sleep well, but I often don’t the night before court. When I did get up at 5.40am I wasn’t sluggish or hungover, which was very nice and somewhat unusual. My day ended up very long, and I finally left court at 3.30pm, having arrived at 10am. I made the 4pm train, and with a two hour train journey ahead of me, I’d usually have a pre-mixed drink on the train, especially when, as today, court goes well. But I didn’t. I had a casual look to see if the station shop did AF [alcohol-free] beers but of course they didn’t, so I got an orange juice and a pasty instead.

Once home, I had a cup of tea, and with dinner I really did fancy a glass of red wine but made do with elderflower and sparkling water.

I’m conscious that this abstinence is enforced, but lying here in bed I realise that after three days I don’t actually miss the booze as much as I thought I would. I don’t feel deprived and I don’t feel I’m missing out. I do still fancy that glass of red but I’ll get over it. I don’t see myself giving up completely but I’m beginning to think that it would be daft to go back to the old ways once this 9 days is over. That cup of tea when I got home was lovely. Why not have that instead of the wine most nights? I wanted to treat myself to a drink after a good day at court, but once on the train I totally forgot about it. I think I’ve convinced myself that different occasions or scenarios mean I ‘deserve’ a drink, but it is just an excuse. Maybe drinking Fridays and Saturdays only is the answer? But then again, I suspect that will lead to other weekdays, with flimsy excuses created to justify the drinking.

It’s something to reflect on. Where do I want this to take me?

Day 4 – Feeling better, but sleeping less

I’m still not sleeping very well, but its noticeably easier to get up in the mornings. I’ve less nausea, and am generally much more sprightly than before. A very long day at work resulted in leaving just before 8pm, and with the 10 minutes to spare at the station I had another cigarette and actually wasn’t even tempted to go to M&S for a gin and tonic. On getting home I thought only fleetingly about the red wine before actually thinking that a cold AF Erdinger would be nice with my dinner. And it was!

So now I’m in bed and I’m thinking that this evening was good, that maybe this isn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and for the first time I’m not thinking “I can’t wait until I can drink again”. I’m just thinking that maybe I should drink AF beers more if they are nice, and as I’m working near Bottle Dog tomorrow I’m going to pop in and see if they have any Nanny State, as I still haven’t tried it. Maybe AF beers are going to be part of my life now, and being pissed or hung over isn’t?

Day 5 – Bored…

I’m bored now. Another stupidly long day in court, got home at 6 and I really wanted a drink. A lovely gin and tonic, or a vodka with ginger, a craft beer, a red wine…anything! But I didn’t. My rather awesome husband made me “something that tastes like booze” which ended up as a premium tonic water with a dash of elderflower and a squeeze of lemon, and to be honest I’m not sure it tasted any less lovely for the lack of gin. Another AF Erdinger with dinner and all was okay. But I am worrying about tomorrow. We’ve not been out all week, mainly because of my being so tired, but tomorrow could be an acid test, as after the football we are going to meet in a pub. This will be my first visit to a pub since my little holiday from drinking, and I’m just not sure how hard it will be. I’m suggesting we meet in a BrewDog so I can hopefully get a Nanny State (I didn’t get to Bottle Dog today because I was so knackered) but if they haven’t got any it’s going to be hard to resist the call of a Punk IPA. But resist I must!

Day 6 – Family are a trigger!

An interesting day. Exhaustion prevented me from going to the football, and therefore I didn’t make it to the pub, so the not drinking should have been easy. I had a nice day chilling at home, with a few cups of tea, and then a blazing row with my mother set me back, and I grabbed the gin. Partly to calm me down, which of course doesn’t work, but mainly because I was angry and feeling self destructive. It tasted good, but really no better than the AF drink of last night. Still angry I popped onto the Club Soda page and I confessed my lapse. I didn’t know what response I’d get but I didn’t expect the understanding and support I got, or the words of wisdom. Don’t drink when upset or angry. If you’re going to drink it should be when you’re already having a good time, or something like that. I calmed down, and figured I’d lay off the spirits but get myself a beer.

Well something seems to have clicked in my head, because I’ve a fridge full of lovely craft beers… And I’ve pulled out an AF Erdinger. I’m not entirely sure why, but I think this could be a real turning point. The gin has established that I’m not going to be sick despite the meds, which means that this AF beer is being drunk through choice, not necessity.

It tasted good. And although I’ve been on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster today, and I’ve had one drink, I’m not going to have a hangover tomorrow. But I will have to make another pub decision. Right now I don’t know what I’m going to do.

Day 7 – Back to normal?

Well, I’m drinking again. Due to a mix up with my meds I stopped taking them yesterday and though I’m not supposed to drink until tomorrow I’m off to football and so I made a decision to see if I can drink in moderation. Drinking in moderation was always my aim, I never wanted to abstain completely, and I think it may be trickier to do that rather than give up completely.

So I went to the pub and had one pint. And then after the game I had another pint with a meal.

It was okay. I didn’t get that feeling of joy I expected after my first Guinness in a week. I didn’t feel that I’d missed something in my week off. It was just a drink, and not a big deal. My post-match drink was a fruity Koppaberg, and it really wasn’t that much different to the non-alcoholic Koppaberg. When I got home, I had a sparkling raspberry cordial, which was much more satisfying. So only two drinks in a day I think is fairly restrained.

What have I learnt in this week?

I’ve learnt that I’ve been drinking for the sake of it, out of habit. I’ve learnt that waking up without a hangover is great, and that I should do more of it. I’ve learnt that I am able to drink a pint without chugging it and immediately having a second, although that one I’m going to need to monitor.

And how am I going to change things? I think the main thing is with regard to my drinking at home. I’m going to cut that right down. No more bottles of wine with dinner, no more necking gin when upset, and if I get home and want a beer I think I’ll still try reaching for that AF Erdinger, as it’s actually quite nice.

I’m off to Brussels next weekend. The main point is to drink beer, but the Belgian way of drinking beer is to sip and savour, not down as fast as possible and get pissed. I’m going to be more Belgian in future.

I won’t blog anymore. I’m going to watch my habits carefully to make sure they don’t return. I don’t want them to. Before this week started I couldn’t remember the last day I either didn’t drink or have a hangover, and that’s certainly not healthy, for mind, body or soul.

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