How healthy is your relationship with booze? For many of us, this is a difficult question to answer truthfully. We lie to ourselves and others.

I decided to recalibrate my relationship with drink just after my 52nd birthday in March. Why? Well, I’d noticed creeping consumption due to lockdown and that, yet again, solitary drinking had become my favourite hobby, strongest skill and quite possibly, an Olympic discipline.

Luckily, my micro Sober Sabbatical was aided by taking up Annie Grace’s challenge in The Alcohol Experiment: 30 Days to Take Control, Cut Down or Give Up For Good. I also had form. I’d stopped drinking for most of 2013 so I knew I could do it if I put my mind to it.

Nine years ago I fell in love with calm sobriety. I was creatively prolific without alcohol but after a while began to pine for the thinking/drinking sessions I’d always enjoyed with musicians, writers, artists and old mates. Over time I allowed wine and beer (never spirits, thank goodness) back into my life.

This time round I wasn’t just thinking of alcohol’s effect on my liver, mind and skin. I was also thinking of the empty calories I was necking. Boy, do they linger on your belly when you’re over 50.

Reading Annie Grace’s book helped me stick to my booze-free month. The book is packed with facts, humour, compassion and experience. You can find out more about Annie Grace and her books here

Alcohol has always been my drug of choice. There are countless happy memories in the Cusack vault associated with booze but I can’t and won’t forget the times I’ve made a fool of myself, puked up, cried my eyes out and been filled with self-loathing.

Alcohol is a calorific, carcinogenic, expensive depressant and within days of ceasing drinking this spring, I felt the weight of anxiety lift from my chest. I could breathe deeply once again.

A week or so into my Alcohol Experiment I visited one of my regular haunts, The Delaval Arms in Seaton Sluice. When bar staffer Laura smiled and pointed towards my favourite stout, I whispered, “I’m not drinking.” Laura replied, “Cool ! Neither am I at the moment” and went on to list breweries and brands of Alcohol Free wine and beer for me to try plus folk to follow on Instagram. All very helpful. Thank you, Laura.

Delaval Arms, Seaton Sluice. First pub in Northumberland

As a result of our chat I discovered The Alcohol Free Drinks Company and was impressed by their stock as well as the honesty of founder Andy Mee. He admits on the website to drinking too much during the pandemic and as a result believes he made “some bad choices.”

Happily, Andy made two good choices for himself. He gave up drink just over a year ago and started the business. As well as offering a prompt and efficient mail order service (says this happy customer), Andy’s busy most weeks running events like the Alcohol Free Bar at Ripon Beer Festival over May Bank Holiday with Hannah, his business partner in The Alcohol Free Events Company.

The future’s bright for Andy. I understand he’s planning “something very exciting” this summer so why not follow him on Instagram , Facebook or LinkedIn?

I’ve got more to say about drinking Andy’s beers, sobriety, The Delaval Arms and about Alcohol Free (AF) drinks in general. I’ll save my thoughts and beer reviews for the next blog. I hope you’ll return to this website to read it.

Andy, Hannah and some top notch AF drinkies