The Mission: Can Nicholas Barber Give Up Drink For A Month? Liquor everywhere and not a drop to drink

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Day 1 If I accomplish the Mission, this will be the first day of a month without alcohol. In the evening I turn down two offers of beers at a rock concert, and tell a friend that I'm on the wagon. She asks why. "The question is, why should I drink?" I reply. "Why is abstinence viewed as an aberration that requires a reason? Are we all shackled so mindlessly to a convention? I lived happily enough without intoxicating liquor for 17 years. I want to ensure that my life isn't dependent on it now." Or words to that effect. My friend seems genuinely concerned. "What is it you're unhappy about?" she says, "the way you feel or the way you look?"

Day 2 My girlfriend cooks a mushroom ragout. She mentions, after my first mouthful, that the recipe contains half a bottle of white wine - I'd forgotten to tell her about my Mission. If we're being strict about it, I've failed already, but what could I do? If I'd been strict about it at the time, I'd have had a bowl of ragout on my head.

Day 4 Can't believe it. At a restaurant with my family, I have a spoonful of my mum's ice cream - and it's alcoholic! I kid you not: day four, and I've lapsed from temperance twice - with none of the benefits.

Day 6 Fridays and Saturdays are the worst. This Saturday, I'm in a Mexican restaurant where the waiter promises "the best margaritas in London". Stifling a sob, I have a non-alcoholic cocktail, which is not markedly different from a carton of Five Alive. When I arrive back home, I drink several glasses of water before bed. Force of habit.

Day 8 God, they drink a lot on EastEnders, don't they? They're never out of that pub.

Day 13 No longer have any physical cravings for alcohol by myself, but watching other people quaffing induces a pang. Very close to giving up the drought at a wedding, thanks to the bride's suggestion that I simply lie in this article. Luckily, she doesn't keep up the pressure and I enjoy the occasion just as much as I would have on alcohol. Bailey's ice cream is served, but you don't catch me out that way a second time.

Day 20 At a dinner party, I have the odd sensation that I'm the one who's drunk while everyone else is staying sober. I feel detached from the others and their conversation, as if I'm seeing and hearing them through a fog. By 9.30, I'm exhausted and yawning.

Day 24 A friend guzzles a dozen lagers while watching Manchester United on a pub TV. He's a much heavier drinker than I am anyway, and his periodic dryings-out are dramatic. "The air smells sweeter, the sun shines brighter," he rhapsodises. But I'm a lightweight at the best of times, so the benefits are negligible. I suppose I'm saving money, but it doesn't feel like it when I'm at the bar paying for someone else's pint and my mineral water. I suppose I'm cutting calories, too, but I keep deciding I'm therefore "allowed" more crisps, so I haven't lost any weight. Still, you don't have to go to the bottle bank as often.

Day 31 Mission accomplished. I have my first drink since I signed the pledge. And God, what an anticlimax.

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