Yesterday was Day 39 of my year of living sober.
It was a Monday.
For most of the day I was thinking about how much alcohol is in orange juice.
It might seem a bit strange but I found out over the weekend that even something as seemingly benign as a glass of OJ may contain approximately .5% alcohol. Since the yeasts and bacteria that work on the sweet citrus juice thrive under slightly warmer temperatures, this percentage can be even higher if the OJ is left out of the fridge.
Perhaps the fructose rich breakfast drinks don’t have to be labelled as .5% alcohol since this is the same amount set (by American food officials; I haven’t been able to successfully google the Australian legal standards) as the limit for ‘non-alcoholic’ drinks which can be sold in supermarkets, grocery stores and 7-11′s et al.
My discovery about alcohol in OJ on the weekend coincided with my realisation the ‘alcohol-free’ beer I occasionally drink actually has .5% alcohol too. My father-in-law (who gave up drinking years ago) sometimes buys a six-pack of the Birrell ‘near beer’ made by Coopers and I took to it when I did a month-off booze a couple of years ago.
Soon I became a fan of Birell, using it to replace my ‘normal’ beer.
Over the last 39 days I’ve probably had about 8 stubbies of what I’d allowed myself to believe was alcohol-free. But it wasn’t. Not completely. Now I feel a bit like an alcoholic who’s accidentally bitten into a liqueur filled chocolate. I feel dirty. When I found out (or faced up to) the facts about Birell my first impulse was to spit all that .5% ‘near beer’ out. But I didn’t—I couldn’t.
Being on my Year Of Living Sober, and having taken a personal pledge (no swearing on a Bible or anything resembling a ceremony involved) not to drink alcohol for 365 days, I was disappointed finding out I hadn’t been as ‘pure’ as I thought I had. But before I self-sabotaged my YOLS I had to think this whole thing through a bit more.
Why give up on my social experiment of not drinking alcohol just because some may have slipped in there? Besides, isn’t there some alcohol in some food? What about fruit-cake? In the lead up to Christmas I’ve had a couple of mince-pies at the local bakery. Did they have trace elements of booze in them too?
“Get a hold of your obsessively compulsive self, Mitchell!” I thought. “Don’t throw the strawberry’s out with the Cointreau.”
Anyway, I decided, what I’ve committed to is refraining from beer, wine, spirits and any ‘normal’ alcoholic beverage, in order to break my habit of nightly drinking. Rum balls weren’t my problem. My problem was habitually drinking full-strength beer and full-strength wine.
I’m not worried about cough lollies.
From the little research I’ve done online it seems alcohol is also produced by yeast fermenting the sugar in flour during bread baking. And, at 35% alcohol volume, the vanilla essence in our pantry is more alcoholic than some whiskeys.
Even banana’s become ‘alcoholic’ if left in the school bag too long.
What’s more supposedly the body can process .5% drinks as quickly as it absorbs them. It’s no wonder I’ve felt no effects from the Birell. Also, since alcohol occurs naturally in the body, I can’t very well escape it completely.
What this all boils down to is I am continuing my Year Of Living Sober, safe in the knowledge I haven’t yet had a single ‘drink’. This ambiguity around what actually constitutes an alcoholic drink might also be the catalyst for me to put up a new page on this blog, citing the alcohol content of various products in case anyone else wants to know where the line in the sand is for drink/not-a-drink.
If you swallow enough, even mouthwash can get you drunk. Luckily, though I brush my teeth (semi-regularly) I don’t often gurgle anymore.
Guess, that’s one less temptation!
Little Booze Joke 39:
Jack Daniels walks into a bar and the barman says, “Sorry Jack, we don’t serve you here.”