It’s my anniversary today. Not a personal one; more of a choice professional milestone. Nothing related to writing either – although I’ve been blogging for almost seven years, I’m not quite at that birthday yet (the 9th of April, in case you’re passing a Hallmark outlet in the near future). No; today, in fact, marks exactly a year since I started logging precisely what I drank into the Alcodroid recording app. Every alcoholic drink, each specific volume, every cost and price – for an entire year. So, what have I discovered?
Well, it certainly slows down the fun, I can tell you. Within a few months, logging beers became drudgingly automatic; the ritual of adding name, abv, volume and price into the colourless matrix. It’s like Untappd, only without the orange and yellow-laced joie de vivre. Aside from that, it also meant that I would need my smartphone with me every time I had a drink – but of course, like everyone else these days, it’s the last thing I check at night, and the first thing I reach for in the morning.*
Still, I persevered – determined to see whether I was drinking too much, what that would mean financially, and so forth. After writing about my first month on Alcodroid, would those patterns continue? Would it lead me to re-think my approach to the – arbitrary and merely suggested – guidelines of 21 units of alcohol per week? How many days over the 365 would I not drink at all? What would I do with myself then? And was there an app to record that, as well? [BoreDroid: You will remain turgid of mind until 16:00 tomorrow (Countdown, Channel 4)]
So, here’s my year in the drink…
Total Days in AlcoDroid Log
Yes, I made it through an entire year without spilling anything on my phone, managing to remember to add everything I thought I had missed, and without dropping it once. That, in itself, is a remarkable occurrence.
Maximum Daily Consumption
31 Dec 2013 > 16.77 units
Oof. New Year’s Eve. I suppose it would figure to be the drunkerest I’ve been over the past twelve months. I remember drinking an entire bottle of BrewDog AB:04 with my dinner, for goodness sake. And also a bottle of Tripel Karmeliet at 2:30am. Almost seventeen units in one go. The next day, as you can imagine, was a write-off.
Maximum 7-Day Consumption
07 Jul 2013 (56.26 units/week) 268% of (21 unit) goal
What happened this week? Thanks to the Calendar of Shame on my Google account; the Edinburgh Independent Beer Festival, Brodies Haggis Basher, Natural Selection 2013 Launch, the Scottish Real Ale Festival, and the European Beer Bloggers’ Conference – all in Edinburgh, all within one smackdown of a week. And – this is the honest truth – I took it easy that week. Seriously – I don’t actually remember being drunk.
Maximum 30-Day Consumption
06 Sep 2013 (34.24 units/week) 163% of goal
The month from the 6th of September didn’t seem too crazy, to me – I mean, I went up to Fraserburgh and brewed with BrewDog; I went to Crete for two weeks. Ohh…Mikkeller Beer Geek Vanilla Shake. Cretan Tsikoudia. That’ll do it. Imperial Stout ice-cream floats and free firewater with every dessert. Hmm.
Maximum Blood Alcohol
31 Dec 2013 (178mg/100ml)
If you discount the time I mistakely added a pint of whisky instead of a 25ml nip, my maximum blood alcohol level was on that New Year’s Eve, at over twice the legal driving limit. Obviously, not something I would ever contemplate. That time I added the 565ml whisky, by the way, Alcodroid lit up, announcing a BAC of 3,664mg/100ml, and that it would be illegal for me to drive for the next ten days.
Overall Average Consumption
25.40 units/week (121% of goal)
This, I think, is the key statistic. Taking the ‘guidelines’ of 21 units a week and the entire drinking year into account, I missed the 21/week ‘goal’ – finishing with 25 units a week on average. Not a massive overshoot, really – 4 units is a couple of pints. But it’s over the recommended levels, right there in black and white.
Average Consumption Per Drinking Day
According to AlcoDroid, any time you have a drink (at least one) that becomes a ‘drinking day’. On average, each time I reach for the sauce, I consume over 5 units. There used to be a time when the recommendations would be so many units per day (three to four, for example, according to the NHS). These daily targets started to be downplayed after people ‘saved up’ their units for the weekend – although a) I’m not sure this ever really happened and b) due to mid-week launches and tap takeovers, I actually drink less at weekends.
Total No-Alcohol Days
31.59% (115 days)
This one is interesting – even with all the doom and gloom of the other categories, I’m still leaving my liver alone almost a third of the time. I guess that means I must either be a ‘binge drinker’ or a ‘craft beer fan’.
I know, it surprised me, too
1320.60 units (752 drinks)
So, here’s the sharp-end of the whole exercise. In total, over my drinking year, I got through 752 ‘drinks’ (meaning anything from a warming pinch of Glenkinchie to a bomber of imperial stout or a multi-spirited cocktail). In total, they all added up to 1,320.60 units of alcohol. It sounds a lot, and yet at the same time, it means nothing. How many elephants would that kill? How many 2p’s would it shine up?
Even I can do that maths. Over the course of an entire year, drinking every possible type of beverage, it all works out at – almost exactly – £1 per unit. There’s the firmest indication that ‘craft beer fans’, beer writers, connoisseurs, beer geeks – whatever term you want to use to describe me (and I’ve heard most of them) – we are not affected by the proposal of 50p a unit Minimum Pricing. Not that I ever thought I would be, of course. I guess I’m not a problem drinker – even though I exceed the Government’s ‘guidelines’ on drinking.
So, that’s it. I guess it is – if you’ll pardon the pun – fairly sobering stuff. Spending over a grand on alcohol in a year. Consuming over 750 alcoholic drinks. Knocking off almost seventeen units on New Year’s Eve. But you know what? I’m not abnormal; I’m not excessive. I can honestly remember only three or four bad hangovers over that time. During that July week with all the festivals, where I got through 56 units in a week – which is astonishing – I wasn’t drunk once. This is the ‘hidden danger’ I face – accumulation. Trying, and writing about, new things means the units creep up as I go.
It’s not bingeing, so much as exploring. I know that sounds trite – but I had almost 32% of the year as alcohol-free days, pretty much as is the recommendation. And speaking of the r-word, when the concept of ‘limits’ and ‘units’ were proposed in 1984, ‘safe limits’ for men were listed as 18 ‘standard drinks’, with 9 for women (a standard drink equating to one unit). ‘Too much’ alcohol was decsribed as 56 standard drinks for men, and 35 for women. Fifty-six units a week! Since downspun to 21, that’s some decline in thirty years.
I truly believe I drink in moderation – there are people I know that put away far more. But I don’t think you can go through an exercise such as this and not have it affect you. Despite not being a ‘problem drinker’, these numbers are concerning when you look at them. Using AlcoDroid has made me think more about what I drink – it has made me think twice about having one beer of an evening; leaving it as a ‘no-alcohol day’ instead. When I’m out, and entering the units, if I see myself approaching a level I now know (from experience) will lead to a hangover, I step back, and slow down.
This proves, to me, that I have self-control and responsibility. And, therefore, that although I drink too much to the Government’s current guidelines, I am aware of the most important factor of all.