A few insights about drinking

sobriety checkpoint

photo credit: McBLG97

As you may know, this is not my first stint of temporary insanity teetotalism.  Recently I gave up alcohol for one year.  It’s amazing the responses this statement elicits: occasional admiration, but usually disbelief, bordering on disgust, with a few visits into the territory of naked hostility.  But if you think about it, why should people care? This question has led me to have a few insights into the whole drinking phenomenon:

Insight #1

If you’re not drinking, you’d better well have a good excuse unless you want to be harangued for the entire evening.  “I don’t want to” will not suffice.  A few good ones which will usually quieten the interrogative drinker are:

– “I’m driving” (although you’d better make sure you actually are driving, as otherwise sod’s law dictates that your friends will bump into you on the night bus and you will end stuck in an elaborate story about being a bus driver)

– “I’m pregnant” (not the best excuse if you’re not pregnant, or a man – best not to say this unless you actually are pregnant, or are completely sure you will not know these people in nine months)

– “It gives me an upset stomach” – even the most persistent drinker will probably drop the subject, for fear of finding out intimate details of your bowels.

– “I’m a recovering alcoholic” – interestingly enough, if you don’t provide one of the above excuses, people will often assume this.  I was once at a do where I declined champagne in favour of Shloer, and a certain present party brazenly enquired whether I had a ‘problem’ with alcohol.  This interested me – if it were any other drug, the one *not* using would not be considered to have a problem.  If I decline a cigarette, smokers do not assume I have a problem with smoking.  If I decline cocaine, they do not assume I am a crackhead while they happily work their way through the next line (or whatever cocaine users do).

–  “I can’t, I’ve given up for charity” – in my case, this is true.  But unfortunately this can often elicit the same response as “I don’t want to” (i.e. you’re insane, whatever for, why not do something easier such as running a marathon(!!))

Interestingly, drinkers never have to justify why they imbibe a drink which, if it were discovered today, would probably be categorised as a class A drug.

Insight #2

Most drinkers are addicted to alcohol, to some extent.  Which is hardly surprising.  Alcohol is a highly addictive drug, hijacking pleasure centres in the brain in much the same way as illegal substances.  Most drinkers (including myself) find it testing to give up alcohol  for a long period of time.  Most drinkers have at one time or another drunk so much it’s made them ill.  Most drinkers would never consider going to a social occasion without drinking (unless they had one of the excuses above).  Finally, most drinkers would panic and feel extreme deprivation if they could never drink again. These are all addictive patterns.

You hear this dependency chatter everywhere.  Feeling stressed? ‘God I need a drink.’  A bit early in the day? ‘Is it wine-o-clock yet?’  Got a big presentation tomorrow? ‘I’d better stay in, I need a clear head’ – apparently going out and not drinking is a sheer impossibility for some.

Granted, there are some people (such as my other half) who can take or leave it; who drink mainly out of societal pressure; who will quite often start one and leave the rest of it.  But the majority of drinkers display addictive behaviours to some extent.

Insight #3

Alcohol is the only drug that kids are actively encouraged to try.  Responsible parents think (perhaps rightly) that a small wine with dinner or a sip of Dad’s beer will remove alcohol’s alluring mystery.  They are right to think that children grow up in a world saturated with alcohol, and that a life of teetotalism is very unlikely to hold much sway.  But it’s hard to imagine children being encouraged to have the odd cigarette to encourage ‘responsible’ smoking.

These are just a few of the things that struck me once I distanced myself from the drinking culture.  I’m sure there will be more to come over the next 730 days.

If you disagree with any of these or have any further comments you’d like to add, please feel free to comment below.

Incidentally, today is Day 1 of my two year adventure off the booze. 

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12 thoughts on “A few insights about drinking

  1. This is a great post. I laugh because I don’t drink–occasionally I will crave a glass of whatever, which I will pour, taste, and then not want. I will cook with spirits on occasion, and I have no quarrel with them, but when out to happy hour at prior jobs, it was always a major inquest. I started drinking grapefruit juice with a fruit garnish and a swizzle stick in a scotch glass. And throwing back a ton of them. People were amazed that I could drink so much and still be standing. Superpowers:)

  2. The trick to doing less of anything is to cut out everything but what you really have a craving for. Smoking, food, drinks, whatever. After a while, the ones you have to have will be less and less. I’m down to three or four drinks a week from having many many more.

  3. There is not an obligation to explain anything. Case closed. It is only important to make peace with yourself and your reasons. Look forward to follow your blog:)

    • Hi Traveller,
      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! 🙂 I completely agree, there shouldn’t be any reason – unfortunately society can be quite pressuring (especially in the UK) so it’s sometimes easier said than done. I do agree though – this post was more tongue in cheek than anything 🙂

  4. teetotalfor2: I agree also with you. I DID feel an obligation to explain for a long time. I have found that our need to explain is often rooted in shame from our own experience with alcohol and that drinkers are not able to approach someone where alcohol is not part of the equation. Have you noticed how alcohol/drinking culture is “present” in social interactions, even when people are actually not holding a drink in their hand? Thanks!

    • I totally agree – drinking culture is totally prevalent in almost every social itneraction, even if just psychologically. I’ve really noticed while being teetotal that not drinking is just not ‘the done thing’ – I think that will change one day though. Thanks again 🙂

  5. Thanks for stopping by my blog. “Never complain, never explain” is a mantra I keep in mind. Agreeing with Traveller, although those asking might not agree, there really is no obligation to explain. Love your project.

  6. Terrific insight. I use the “I’m dieting” excuse. My friends tell me to let them know when I’m drinking again so we can get together. What if I stop permanently? No more get-togethers with friends? I must admit, the thought of stopping forever provokes great anxiety, just as you said. Teetotalling during the week is my current goal. Baby steps.

    • Good luck with your goal of teetotalling during the week. I think if you try getting together with your friends and not drinking it will go better than you think – I recently went on a ‘boozy’ weekend with old university pals and it didn’t bother me at all not drinking, just being in that environment made me very uninhibited! I do know what you mean about the anxiety – if you think about not having something ever again, it becomes almost like forbidden fruit. Thank you for stopping by and commenting 🙂

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