L'Chaim! Time not to detox

By Simon Round, January 13, 2012

January is traditionally the month when the nation attempts to clear its collective hangover and contemplates abstaining from drink for a little while.

This year, the government has got involved. It has launched an alcohol awareness campaign and is now advising that we all abstain from drinking for at least two days a week.

This obviously does not apply to me - after all, I have been aware of alcohol for some time. And being Jewish, I have never reached the point where I could maintain my drinking for more than five consecutive days. My Ashkenazi DNA dictates that, after four days of drinking, a glass or two of wine with dinner, my resolve collapses and I hit the Diet Coke.

That is not to say I don't try hard. At Freshers' Week at university, all those years ago, I realised that most people who hadn't attended a Jewish secondary school "went out for a pint" at the weekend. And I quickly woke up to the fact that this meant drinking more than "a pint". It also meant waking up the following morning feeling rather ill.

At first, I didn't take to the new lifestyle. I quite liked that buzz from the first drink, which I had only previously experienced during kiddush, but I wasn't so sure about the lying-flat-out-in-a-puddle-watching-the-sky-spinning-around-very-fast bit.

I'd only experienced that buzz at kiddush

However, I realised that, for much of the population (including my new university friends), drinking large amounts of alcohol without falling over was equated with manliness rather than the risk of cirrhosis. So I persevered with the drinking. I put in punishing hours of training, often in my own time, until I was able to hold my own at the bar with friends and colleagues. I even started to enjoy it.

Of course, the party could not last. Inevitably, as I reached my 30s, the atavistic pull of coffee and cake had lured me back into the patisserie - I still partook in a little of the dark stuff every now and then but it tended to be a rich chocolate torte.

However, like other Jewish stereotypes, I was also neurotic about my health. And I began to pay attention to medical research that indicated that moderate drinkers enjoyed better heart health later in life than teetotallers and even had a higher life expectancy.

I modified my behaviour, forcing myself to make regular visits to the drinks cabinet. I also began to realise that the government should be putting out a separate message for the Jewish community. The rest of the country may be at risk of liver failure, type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease as the mass orgy of binge drinking continues but, equally, we Jews are risking our own health by not drinking enough.

So, as your unofficial and unelected health spokesman, I appeal to you to include at least two days of drinking into your weekly schedule. Women should aim to drink one to two units on these days, while men should aim for three to four. I realise that the social pressure to drink lattes may undermine your willpower but if you have the determination to succeed then you, too, will enjoy that intoxicating feeling of, er, being intoxicated.

Last updated: 12:36pm, January 13 2012