A few months ago, I decided to take up a challenge. An alcohol-free challenge, to be precise. Now, I’m not normally a big drinker (though I was for about my first year out of high school, but that’s a story for another time), nor is anyone in my family, so my reasons for giving up booze weren’t particularly urgent ones. More than anything, I suppose I was just curious to see just how hard it would be to give up something I didn’t think I was particularly attached to, to see how big a role it really played in my life.
So, I signed up for Hello Sunday Morning, an initiative that aims to change our drinking culture by encouraging people to pledge to go alcohol-less for a specified period of time. I chose three months, as I thought this would be tooootally do-able. “I don’t even drink very often anyway, so how hard could it be?”, I thought. Well, in some ways I was very right and in some ways I was very wrong. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt since becoming a short-term teetotaller.
1. So many social events are driven by alcohol. I was well aware that “Let’s catch up on Friday night” often really meant “Let’s go somewhere and spend all our money getting drunk!”, but I hadn’t realised just how many occasions called for a bevvie. High tea? With champagne, of course. Out for dinner? Would you like a matching wine with that? You’re having a baby? Let’s get pissed!
2. There is no such thing as a socially acceptable non-alcoholic alternative. Lemon lime and bitters is about as close as it gets (the amount of bitters in one totally doesn’t count, right?) but really, you can only really get through one on a night out before you get that furry-mouthed sugar-overloaded feeling (why do they always come in such massive glasses?!) Where are the mocktails, people? And why is it not okay for there to be mocktails? Surely there are other people out there who feel the same? Who want to go out of an evening and sip a refreshing beverage in a pretty, dressed-up glass but not get drunk..? What about the Muslim and Bahai and other religious communities that don’t drink? WHERE ARE THE MOCKTAILS?!
3. People are uncomfortable when you turn down a drink. “Oh, are you driving?” “No, just not drinking tonight.” They don’t know what to do. They will ask you again, and again, and again. “Are you sure you don’t want a chardonnay?” “Yeah, I’m still going on the gigantor lemon lime and bitters you thrust at me an hour ago when you declared, ‘Well you have to drink something’”.
4. People expect you to judge them. They will probably pay you back-handed compliments or casually throw in a joke about how awkward it is getting drunk around a sober person. But I don’t judge you. I really don’t. I’m not a born-again teetotaller, I’m not here to preach to you about how “I can see the light” or how much better your life would be if only you didn’t drink. Your body, your life, your choices. Seriously!
5. Social situations can be more awkward without that liquid confidence boost. I’mma be honest with this one; you can have just as much fun as your drinkin’ pals, but you’re probably going to have to work a bit harder at it (especially if you’re as socially anxious as I am).
6. Sunday mornings are great, and they’re especially great with a clear head and fresh eyes. But sometimes late party nights turn out great too (with or without alcohol). In fact, I can feel just as seedy after an alcohol-free late night as I can after a couple of bevs, so for me it’s a matter of moderation of alcohol and of late nights. Our current drinking patterns are doing us harm and we need to reassess how we, as individuals as well as collectively, view alcohol as an ‘all-or-nothing’ necessity to a night out.
7. You don’t have to choose sides, or stick with one once you’ve chosen. Unless you want to. As I said before, your body, your life, your choice. Just try not to be a dick about it (excuse my French), wherever you sit along the drinking spectrum.
So there you go, a collection of my feels during my three month alcoholic hiatus. I’m not sure if I’ll continue as a complete teetotaller or whether I’ll succumb to a glass of vino here, a cocktail there… But even if I do start drinking again, I’m determined that it will be in a more moderate, mindful way. Why don’t you give Hello Sunday Morning, or Ocsober, or Dry July, or some other initiative a go and see how your attitude towards drinking changes?