Over Christmas and New Year, a huge amount of alcohol is consumed, as everybody gets in the festive spirit. As somebody that isn’t sipping prosecco at festive parties, I really do stand out like a sore thumb. I tend to order mocktails when I’m out; usually a cucumber, mint, and elderflower cooler goes down pretty nicely. Firstly, because they’re super fucking tasty, and secondly, people presume it’s a cocktail and doesn’t bombard me with questions.
Naturally, people twig I’m not drinking, whether it’s when I’m ordering at the bar or they ask what I’m drinking. Surprisingly, it’s a really hot topic, especially for people that I’ve only just met who want to ask personal questions.
Here are a few phrases I hear a lot since giving up drinking, some welcome, some not.
1. “Why don’t you drink?”
No, I’m not pregnant. No, I’m not driving. No, I’m not ill. No, I’m not hungover. No, I’m not religious.
I believe you shouldn’t ask someone why they don’t drink – it’s none of your business and I don’t owe you anything. Turns out, I’m the only person in the world that feels this way. People want to know why you don’t drink and some will pressure you. I’ve learned that those that mind, don’t matter and those that matter, don’t mind.
Casey Tommy actually sums this up beautifully on Thought Catalog:
“You’ll have some people tell you how unbelievable proud they are of you, and you’ll have some people tell you they don’t think you can give up alcohol. You’ll even come across those fine human beings that might try and test your tenacity by attempting to trick you into drinking. What other people say or think doesn’t really matter, but ultimately, whether you want to teetotal your little heart out or lush yourself into oblivion, it’s your choice.”
2. “You don’t want a shot, do you?”
Everybody double-checks I’m not going to suddenly change my mind and get involved with shots. You’ll be surprised to hear, this doesn’t actually irritate me at all. Perhaps because I used to hate the taste of shots, and now I’m quietly relieved when I chime in with “I don’t drink alcohol!”.
3. “Are you going to drink at Christmas/your wedding?”
Believe me, there was nothing I loved more than enjoying a glass of prosecco in the sunshine with my friends after a long week. I would never have classed myself as an alcoholic or label my drinking behaviour as a problem; I was just what you’d expect from your average mid-20’s British girl.
I’m a happily engaged graduate, rocking a pretty successful career, and have the best friends & family I could ever ask for. But after a summer of partying, I question if my chronic anxiety fuelled by alcohol was really worth it.
I gave up drinking to banish my anxiety forever, to avoid blacking out precious memories and so I never have to experience a hangover again. These are all pretty good reasons, in my opinion. The changes to my lifestyle mean that I’m achieving this each and every day. To drink on special occasions seems like to worst time to break.
4. “You were so much fun when you were drunk!”
Were you laughing with me or at me? I’m confident that me arguing with the kebab man or falling off a stool when drunk was hilarious for you, but not so much for me. The time you genuinely thought we were having fun together, was probably (hopefully, at least) a result of our friendship, not because of alcohol.
I recently read a life-changing book This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life: Volume 1 written by the author, Annie Grace. This Naked Mind is packed with surprising insight into the reasons we drink, it opened my eyes to the startling role of alcohol in our culture. Annie Grace brilliantly weaves psychological, neurological, cultural, social, and industry factors with her extraordinarily candid journey. It’s impossible to put down once you begin reading.
One chapter discusses how we associate positive experiences, such as laughing with our friends, with alcohol through association. If we experience these situations without alcohol, we would be having an equally good time but our minds are tricked into associating alcohol with having fun. Does that make sense? Annie explains it better, so I definitely recommend giving This Naked Mind a read, whether you drink regularly, occasionally or you’re abstinent from alcohol, like me.
5. “Are you NEVER going to drink again?”
Wow! “Never” seems like a pretty big commitment. I’m not drinking today and I’m happy in my decision. I’ll take each day as it comes. Perhaps I’ll abstain for the rest of my life, maybe not. Don’t sound so horrified.
6. “You don’t drink? What do you do for fun then?”
Sorry but is drinking the only thing you do that gives you joy? If that’s the case then you probably have an extremely boring life, not to mention, you’ve got an alcohol problem. Never imply a sober person has a bland life. Let’s see who’s boring when it’s a Sunday morning… There’s more to life than working and partying.
Unsurprisingly, I’ve acquired plenty of free time because I’m not out drinking or hugging a toilet with a hangover. I’m using my time way more productively to make myself a better person. I’m growing my blog, learning Arabic, getting fit and hopefully beginning my Master’s in the New Year. I save so much money from no ordering prosecco and cocktails, so I can treat myself to a little retail therapy once in a while, too.
I don’t judge anyone for drinking so I would really appreciate it if people didn’t judge me for choosing not to.
7. “We didn’t invite you because you don’t drink”
8. I’m so proud of you” 💖
This gives me a little fuzzy feeling inside. Thank you, thank you, thank you.