Hugh's story: "I have learnt that I can do things I thought were impossible several months ago"

January 2021 | 8 minutes

In this blog, Hugh tells his story about his lockdown drinking, and how using the Try Dry app helped him cut down.

Drinking has been part of my life since I was a teenager in the 70s. It was part of the fabric surrounding me… it was part of growing up… it was just what you did. You went to the pub to have a few, you went to dinner parties to get drunk and you went to parties to get ‘bladdered’!

Before lockdown I would probably have described my drinking as ‘moderate’ – but I drank most days. During lockdown this increased to heavy drinking every day – two pints of strong real ale and a whole bottle of 14% red wine every day of lockdown.

I knew I had a growing habit. I would promise myself I was not going to have a drink that night but would somehow end up drinking. Afterwards I really hated myself and felt like I’d been weak – but it was easy to explain away: lockdown and work stress, worry about the future of my children, the sun is out so let’s celebrate with a drink. It seemed to me like everyone was drinking more, because what else was there to do? I always told myself I could cut down tomorrow.

It was my children who made me realise I was drinking too much. All in their 20s and ‘locked in’ with us at home, I was drinking in front of them every night. They made the odd comment and discussions ensued… but I was still in some denial.

"It seemed to me like everyone was drinking more, because what else was there to do? I always told myself I could cut down tomorrow."

It was quite by random that I came across the Try Dry app in mid-September, prompted by a questionnaire I had filled in online. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of apps, but this has really helped me cut down. It really appeals to my sense of earning badges as rewards and it’s very visual. It plots my units of alcohol per day or week on a graph. It tracks the money I have saved AND the calories not consumed. It helps me see where I am during the week. It rewards different types of goals which you can set yourself. The great thing about setting the goals yourself is you can play to your strengths. You are in charge of what you feel capable of in terms of reducing how much you’re drinking.

Before the app, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a drink for three days in a row! Now, with the app, it’s a challenge which is rewarded. OK, so the reward is just a badge BUT the bigger reward is that my wife and I do it together and are supporting each other to have more dry days. Previously, we would both vouch to have a dry day, for one of us to break it… which gave the other ‘permission’ to break it too! Now we stick to it and we’re getting healthier together.

"For me, it’s all about taking things in steps. Short term I will be thinking about every unit I measure out. Medium term I hope to reduce even further and spend some weeks dry. Long term I hope to get to the point where drinking sensibly is second nature."

I have learnt about myself during this process. I have learnt that I do have self-discipline, that I can do things I thought were impossible several months ago. I can go to the ‘19th hole’ after a tough round of golf and NOT have a beer – what spurs me on in that situation is proving this to my golfing buddies. Being open about this with friends and work colleagues has really helped me – telling them about the app and what I am trying to achieve. By telling people I am committing to more people. Maybe that’s the reason why I am writing this – to futureproof my continuing alcohol reduction by committing to all of you reading this?

For me, it’s really important to understand yourself when cutting down. Someone told me recently, “The best thing you can do is to take a month off drinking, after that your whole perspective around alcohol will change.” It’s up to you whether that will work for you! For me, it’s all about taking things in steps. Short term I will be thinking about every unit I measure out. Medium term I hope to reduce even further and spend some weeks dry – maybe take on a Dry January! Long term I hope to get to the point where drinking sensibly is second nature. I hope never to return to what was happening in lockdown – unplanned, unmetered, unthinking drinking. But I will carry on with the app, come what may… I need the badges!