On the dance floor, my friend David asks if I would like a drink. I tell him I’m not drinking, much. He looks horrified. “What here? So you’ve got two more drinks left for how many hours?”
But despite the fact that I’m still pretty sober, it’s still fun dancing and flirting and chatting. I don’t leave until 3am and I keep to my target of three G&Ts. Single G&Ts are the way forward. In the morning I feel completely fine. No screaming headache, no party remorse, no worries about my liver.
The next drinking challenge involves a night out with a close friend. She likes a drink and it’s her birthday, plus she’s just found out her husband has been having an affair. Won’t I seem a bit heartless if I tell her I’m not drinking? I ask Stephen. “You can tell her you have an important meeting.” I don’t think she’ll buy it, I say. “Then just be honest. Tell how you felt last time you overdid it. She probably won’t notice you’re drinking less.”
We meet in one of our favourite bars. It’s a Monday night, but since I’m freelance and her tolerance is “through the roof” as she tells me sipping her martini, this is hardly an impediment. My friend wants to know what I’ve learnt from my drink coach. I explain I’ve learnt not to drink past my tipping point, which is the point when you get pissed. “It sounds boring,” she says. “I like to think I’ve elevated drinking to an art form. I take great pleasure in knowing about wine and mixing the perfect cocktail.” She shows me a photo of the ‘perfect’ dirty martini she mixed for herself the day she found out about the affair. It’s sitting on her son’s guitar, twinkling in the sunlight. It does look beautiful, the perfect delicious dirty martini for a broken heart.
“Oh my God, for all my talk of tolerance. I’m smashed,” she says and we’ve only had one drink. When she goes to the loo I ask the waitress what size my Champagne measure is. It’s 175ml, that’s nearly two units. My friend’s martini contained two doubles (4 units!). I’ll never drink a martini again, I think wistfully, but I’ve become a different kind of drinks nerd. One who counts alcohol units like I used to count calories. Somehow I don’t think there’s a way back.