Why must we always have an excuse when we’re not drinking alcohol? We often say we’re on a diet, designated driver or have children to look after the next day. But what if you just don’t want to drink? Should you have to give a reason?
For my part, the regular drinking days are over. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I have a small glass of wine, or a Bailey’s at Christmas. I really enjoy a drink on those rare occasions. That’s because I have chosen to have one as opposed to feeling as if I should. So why do people find the need to take such an interest in our drinking habits?
There can so much pressure to drink in social settings. Here’s why I think we should stop giving non-drinkers such a hard time.
I’ve never been much of a drinker. When I was at university I didn’t go out that often and when I did I wouldn’t drink excessively, if at all. Consequently, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I always felt I should excuse my choices. We were students, and drinking is what students do, right? Fortunately (and perhaps surprisingly), my friends never pressured me. They soon learned that I would have a drink now and then if I felt like it.
Weirdly, I find there’s less acceptance of this choice now that I’m older. Somehow there seem to be even more reasons to drink these days. In my experience, when someone offers me a drink and I decline, they’ll insist on giving their excuses for having one. People often seem to assume that I’ll be judging them when they choose to drink and I don’t.
You only have to spend a few minutes scrolling on social media before you happen upon some alcohol-related meme. They usually give an amusing, validating excuse for booze. It’s wine o’clock. It’s the weekend. You’ve made it through Monday. The list goes on…
According to a lot of these memes, simply being a parent warrants a lot of drinking. With this stuff posted everywhere, it can seem alien to think of someone relaxing without a drink. I’m not against this camaraderie, but I’m all for making a choice and owning it.
Peer pressure can still be prevalent among adults, with more stresses piled on top of us as we grow older. Careers, marriage, kids – our culture insinuates that alcohol is an important factor in coping with modern life.
If you decide not to join in, you can feel just as left out at 38 years old as at 18. Just that now it’s got a name: FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). As a mother who doesn’t get out that much, I recognise the need to feel a part of something. If anything, it is stronger than ever.
But why is it alcohol that decides if we’re in the club or out of it? We wouldn’t try and persuade a vegetarian to eat meat. People choose not to drink for many reasons. Personally, I just have no desire to. But others could be protecting an early pregnancy, suffering an illness or even managing addiction. They might just be trying to look after their health, like so many people recently who’ve given up sugar. After all, alcohol is associated with some serious conditions. Liver disease, heart disease and certain cancers have all been linked to alcohol use.
So how can we deal with these pressures? I find facing it head-on is the best way. There are many occasions when I could easily pretend there’s vodka in my orange juice. But for me, honesty makes things less complicated.
If reducing alcohol is a permanent choice then it makes sense to be truthful so you needn’t bother explaining next time. It may well depend on the setting though. If at a wedding for example, it’s easier to play ‘designated driver’ to avoid the questioning. But with the usual crowd of family and friends, it’s much easier to be upfront about your choice.
It seems I’m not alone in my choice to ditch regular drinking. A report by The Telegraph shows that teetotalism is on the rise. Out of those interviewed, 56.9% said they’d had a drink that week, compared to 64.2% in 2005. Twenty-one per cent of the population don’t drink at all, and the remaining population is drinking much less. This follows years of binge drinking among younger adults – and we’ve all seen those pictures.
This change is having a big knock-on effect. This year saw the introduction of the UK’s first alcohol-free festival, organised by Club Soda. This ‘mindful drinking movement’ has a vision of “a world where nobody has to feel out of place if they’re not drinking.” The website is full of sobriety support and advice for reducing your intake. There are even courses and events listed on the site to take your efforts up a notch, without sacrificing your social life.
Cheers to Healthy Choices
If you’re thinking about reducing your alcohol intake, it doesn’t have to be boring. Non-alcoholic cocktails are on the up, and you can create delicious versions at home. Soft drinks with a more luxury feel can be found in your local supermarket. These are all great no-alcohol choices, and they’re becoming more mainstream.
When it comes to sobriety, be confident. You should be able to make your decision without judgement or pressure from those around you. We should all feel comfortable when socialising whether we’re drinking or not.
Here’s to being healthy and happy – whatever that looks like for you.