Coming out as a non-drinker to friends can be a sobering experience
Every New Year, I find myself questioning whether abstaining from booze for 31 days is an activity worthy of fanfare. It can’t be that hard, can it?
Three months ago, I decided to cut out booze completely, with none of the martyr mentality that goes along with January abstinence.
I’m not a recovering alcoholic. I simply don’t enjoy the feeling of being drunk, despite having liked it very much in my early 20s.
I haven’t curtailed my social life to facilitate being teetotal and I don’t tell people I don’t drink unless I’m asked.
While some friends have nodded appreciatively while muttering “fair play” and saying they wish they had the willpower to do it, I’m mostly met with raised eyebrows, confusion, and incredulity.
I asked my friends how they really felt about teetotallers, and it was eye-opening. “I’d think they were boring and not up for a good time. It’s a lifestyle choice different to mine that I’d find hard to accept,” said one.
Other comments included “hard work if they don’t embrace the social spirit of things”, “boring”, “uptight control freaks”, “my heart sinks if I’m at a dinner party and find the person next to me doesn’t drink”, and my personal favourite: “Very strange and not to be trusted.”
There was judgement from the other side of the fence, too.
The few occasional and non-drinkers I asked (I had trouble finding fellow teetotallers among my friends) said that “[people] get drunk to fight depression”, “binge-drinking is trashy”, and perhaps, most worryingly, “those who drink and smoke regularly are the ones who get promotions”.
Is drinking really woven so deeply into our social fabric that the choice not to do it is holding people back?
Perhaps, then, the reason “going dry” is seen as such a challenge isn’t the abstinence itself, but the fear of how the abstainer will be perceived by their peers.
Contrary to popular belief, I wouldn’t rather be at home spiralising a cucumber and sneering at my housemates’ bottles of wine.
Likewise, not all drinkers are incoherent, vomiting yobs who only drink to run away from their problems.