My time as the office TW*T did not last long. After the lottery in which I won the right to choose my office hours ahead of my colleagues and picked Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays so that I could continue to WFH on Mondays and Fridays/have a few sneaky long weekends, I was ostracised by everyone who had hoped for the same. Which really was everyone else. It was bad. WhatsApp confirmed that all the messages I sent to George, my office bestie, were being received and read but not replied to. Then came an email from Bella the boss, just to me this time, titled WTF.
She wrote that my deciding to be a TW*T had caused a small revolt. Sarah had written to her saying that if she had to work Mondays or Fridays, she would be looking for a new job, due to the difficulty of working a week without four consecutive days off. She underlined the fact that she was a parent. She still did not mention that she had accidentally moved to Edinburgh.
“So,” Bella continued. “While I know you won the office lottery fair and square, I’m asking you to take one for the team and consider WTF?” By which she meant Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. “Though actually, Monday, Wednesday and Friday would be even more useful.”
I ignored the email until she sent a second one. “Actually, Trudy, this petrol crisis would make it more valuable than ever if you could be flexible with your hours, since you live closest to the office and could even walk in if you had to. I’ll make it up to you. Please, please, pleeeeeease.”
Of course I caved. It still meant that I would have two WFH days a week, even if I was saying “goodbye” to the possibility of Thursday nights on the town or long Friday lunches. No one ever wants to do lunch on a Tuesday, do they?
The blow was softened by the fact that October was not going to be a party month for me in any case. My biggest PR client is still #Yne, the vegan root-based non-alcoholic beverage brand. Naturally, I had already planned a number of initiatives to promote #Yne during Sober October, including doing my best to take a month off alcohol myself.
Saskia, proprietor of #Yne and social-media influencer, was delighted that I would be taking the Sober October challenge. She promised that I would see myriad benefits. Better sleep, clearer skin, weight loss… Goodness knows I could use all of those. She also promised that I would be freed from the tyranny of “hangxiety”.
“You know what I mean,” she said. “It’s the worst bit of being hungover: worrying about what you might have said or done while you were under the influence. That’s ‘hangxiety’. But the morning after a sober night out, you can remember everything.”
Which was great in theory, so long as not drinking actually correlated with not saying or doing the wrong thing in the first place. I wasn’t sure I actually needed to be drunk to put my foot in my mouth. Sometimes I had good reason to forget.
If I’m honest, it was promise of weight loss that convinced me I should give Sober October a try. With my 50th birthday looming on the horizon, it felt like a “now or never” moment to regain something resembling a waistline
“Go for it, Trudy,” Saskia said when I told her. “It’s never too late to be your best self.”
I thanked Saskia for the “inspo” and assured her that I was ready to lay off the booze for 31 days. Until… Within an hour of my sending the email back to Bella, agreeing I would WTF so that Sarah could be a TW*T, George responded to the WhatsApps that had gone ignored.
“Drinks tonight?” he asked.
It was 30 September. I knew what Saskia would have said. “The best time to give up alcohol was last year. The second best time is now.” But I had agreed to Sober October and that didn’t start until midnight. Time for a last hurrah?
I think I might have still been drunk as I faced 1 October and my first alcohol-free Friday evening since the beginning of the pandemic. I gamely opened a bottle of #Yne, beetroot flavour, resolutely non-alcoholic, and poured it into a wine glass for the obligatory Insta shot. I raised the glass and shot a selfie. “Cheers to a Sober October! #Yne #zeroalcohol #healthyliving #soberoctober”.
It wasn’t long before I noticed the first strange effect of going alcohol-free. While I was pretty au fait with posting on Instagram on behalf of my clients, my personal account was fairly naff: mostly pictures of the sunset over Clapham Common. My best effort got 12 likes. But my first day of Sober October selfie was a hit. There were comments from people I didn’t know – they must have been following the Sober October hashtag – and they were all very positive about the challenge ahead. I spent the evening scrolling through posts on Instagram, lending my own encouragement to other people who were planning a month without drink. It was all surprisingly uplifting.
At around 7pm, George sent a message.
“I don’t know what we drank last night but I still feel like a cat used my neck as a litter basket. I’m going to do Sober October with you. We can totally still have a social life without alcohol, right? Can you get me some samples of #Yne?”
Of course I could. I had a three-month supply of the stuff in the cupboard under the stairs.
“Parsnip, beetroot or swede?” I asked.
“Swede?” George wrote back. “I’ll stick with fizzy water.”
The following morning, I felt very different to my usual Saturday self. The sun was shining through the window yet I didn’t automatically hide my head beneath a pillow. Instead, I actually felt like getting up and making the most of the weather. Was this how I used to feel, before having a nightly glass of wine became as automatic as cleaning my teeth in the morning? Could I keep it up for another 30 days?