I enjoy it. Full stop
But you don't need me to tell you that there is a lot that's screwed up about our relationship to alcohol, societally. Alcohol consumption is linked to two million A&E admissions a year. Having a drink makes it easier to socialise, but it also makes it way easier to do stupid things. Everyone knows this but there's a tendency to talk about problematic drinking as if that only means drinking that leads to teenagers being sick in the street and not the drinking we don't see.
Supermarkets make noises about encouraging responsible drinking, and then put on deals like Â£10 for 20 cans of lager. And I'm a sucker for a bargain. And once those 20 cans are in your fridge, it's easy to drink another one, even though it's a week night.
It was an interesting month. There were no big revelations, no 'oh my god I am looking at life through the bottom of a glass' moments.
But this is the culture in which I drink. And the culture within which I was uneasily aware I was drinking more than I really wanted to, those cans on the sofa becoming a near-nightly occurrence.
I had all of these sorts of thoughts in mind when I signed up. It would be good for my health. I wanted to know that I could do it - that I could walk away from alcohol for 30 days.
As October actually grew closer I began to worry. And slightly regret telling everybody loudly and at length that I had signed up. I'd done it so that people would know I wouldn't be boozing it up, but it meant there was no backing out. I started paying more attention to how much I was drinking an realising it was a lot. I was taking away a big part of my social life for a month, what would that be like?
Now it's over I can tell you: both much easier and much harder than I had expected.
The biggest test of my willpower came a week in, when I found myself at a hotel where I was given a free bottle of wine (I took it home to drink in November) and had the opportunity to have free drinks. I am not sure I have ever turned down free drinks before. They combine two of my favourite things - free stuff and drinks. But I did it. I drank the alcohol-free fruit punch instead of the wine.
It was an interesting month. There were no big revelations, no 'oh my god I am looking at life through the bottom of a glass' moments. But I had plenty of time to think about things.
The biggest thing I learned, and quite quickly, was that I have no desire to give up drinking. Everything that I say above about how much and why I like drinking is true, but that is much more in focus now. I don't want to drink crappy lager sitting on my sofa on a Wednesday evening. I've decided to stop drinking on work nights and to spend my money on decent wine, real ales, good single malts, cocktails, gin. Basically, to appreciate drinking rather than doing it because it's something to do. Even when I am drinking to excess.
Something else I noticed in the first couple of weeks that really surprised me was how much stuff I blame on booze that, actually, is just me. I'm clumsy, and forgetful, and I misspeak a lot when I'm tired. It's not drinking that's stopping me getting more exercise or writing that novel or learning another language - it's my own laziness.
The plus side of this is knowing that I can socialise, and dance in public, and talk to strangers, stone cold sober. Just not for as long - I found myself in bed earlier than usual on lots of weekends in October. I like socialising but I'm also introverted and it can get exhausting. Alcohol lets me power though that - without it, I gave in to the part of me that wanted to go home and have a bath. But I still went out.
I realised I had developed a pretty much unconscious belief that pretty much everything is better with a drink. The cinema, comedy, meals... And that's not necessarily true. If something needs a drink to be funny it was probably a waste of time and money to go and see it - that time would be better spent just in the bar with friends. Or going for a walk.
Everyone talks about the health benefits. So I felt like a terrible person for answering in the negative every time someone asked me if I was feeling any. It didn't help that for the first two weeks of October I had a really bad cold, so I wasn't sleeping well, so I wasn't seeing the improved sleep that people so often talk about when not drinking. I did notice that in the last week or so - another reason for knocking it on the head during the week.
But my skin is no clearer. I don't feel any healthier. It's made no difference to my complexion or fitness.
I thought I might lose weight - it wasn't a goal but I know how many calories there are in booze so it seemed likely that cutting them out would have some effect - but I haven't seen any difference in how my clothes fitted. I think I just replaced the booze calories with calories from cakes and chocolate. Certainly when eating out my tactic was to spend the money I would have spent on wine or beer on dessert.
I didn't go out clubbing during October. I went out for meals. I went to a couple of bars, but not anywhere near as many as usual. I sat with friends while they drank and it was surprisingly easy. The hardest moment in any restaurant or bar was at the beginning, when I would usually order a drink. I found myself wanting one, a lot. But once that passed the evening became about catching up with my friend and not about Not Drinking.
Doing it for charity made it a lot easier, as well. I didn't face much pressure to drink - people wanted to be supportive. And it meant that when I felt tempted, I had a strong reason not to give in to that temptation.
But did I drink on Friday night, once October was over? Yes. I had a glass of wine and felt tipsy, which was sort of amazing - my tolerance had been very high and it was a rush to be giggly and flushed after one glass.
And then I went out and had more drinks, and had a great evening. And woke up on Saturday with the inevitable hangover. I'd been so focused on thinking about what it was like not to drink, I'd forgotten about those. It was the final piece of confirmation that not drinking during the week is the way forward - I never want to work while feeling like that.
So all in all, I'm glad I did it. I raised money for charity, I discovered that I do in fact possess some willpower (sometimes I wonder), and it made me think about what I'm drinking and why. Will I do it again next year? Ask me in 11 months...
Obligatory fundraising plug. Should you want to sponsor me, you can do that here.