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We need to change the way we view alcohol consumption

For a couple of months now I have not been drinking alcohol as I am being tested for a medical condition. Being someone who enjoyed a glass of wine in the evening, or socially with friends, it has been rather tedious to say the least. However, even more dull than actually having to give up alcohol has been the stigma attached to it. Everyone seems to understand giving up for few weeks for charity or jumping on the band wagon of ‘dry January’, but the concept of giving up completely seems to make you untrustworthy or strange, in some people’s eyes.

At a recent function I declined a drink and almost immediately everyone stopped their conversations and began the Spanish inquisition. “Are you pregnant?”, “I didn’t know you had a problem with alcohol”, “What charity are you doing it for?” In hindsight, I should have set up a just giving page and raked in the cash for a charity of my choice, but I wasn’t that quick thinking. I was like a rabbit in headlights, which didn’t help the situation and just seemed to give people time to make up their own minds.

What gives people the right to question why a person is not drinking? For example, if the reason I had given up was that I had a problem with alcohol, how unsupportive and distasteful would it have been to turn round and ask me outright (I should just point out here that this was a group of acquaintances rather than close personal friends)? Why did I now feel I had to stand there and explain my medical situation to a bunch of people whom I had only met a few times? If I had declined an orange juice or a glass of water, no-one would have even batted an eye lid. It would seem we now live in a society where, not only is drinking copious amounts on a daily basis socially acceptable, but not drinking it for an ‘accepted’ reason brands you as an outcast.

Since I have not been drinking I have missed out on invites from friends, their line being “well you aren’t drinking I didn’t think you would have much fun”. Alcohol isn’t some magic fun juice, why would the lack of this affect my ability to have a good time? In actual fact, I dare say I could have a good time and go on to get up early the next day and enjoy a myriad of fun, with a clear head, whilst my peers were festering in bed or in search of the perfect hangover meal. Don’t get me wrong, I cannot wait to be able to relax with a glass of wine if I choose to or partake of a cocktail or two this coming summer, but if medical results dictate I can’t, I am not looking forward to a lifetime of embarrassing questions every time I turn down a drink.

I have gained an insight into this ‘abnormal’ social situation and perhaps, as I have not done so by choice, I am slightly bitter. However, if I do ever get to enjoy a glass of wine again and encounter someone who would rather not, I will certainly not chastise then for their choice. Next time you are faced with someone who is tee-total, give them a break and don’t exclude or embarrass them, they may think something you do is weird, but the difference is you are not being forced to tell them about it or explain yourself.

Everyone could learn a thing or two about themselves by cutting out the booze. For instance, I have found I am much more productive in the evening now. Rather than plonking myself down in front of the TV with a glass of wine, I can have dinner then carry on being productive. I find it easier to haul myself out of bed every day of the week and exercise, fully hydrated and with no fuzzy head. On nights I was having a glass of wine I was consuming more calories than was healthy, not only through the alcohol itself but the snacks it made me crave. Now I make much healthier choices and rarely eat past 8pm.

Giving up alcohol, although I thought it would be difficult, has been surprisingly easy and has fuelled positive change. So I offer you a challenge; give up alcohol, run your own experiment and write about your experiences. Share them on your blog, your social media, share it with your friends and colleagues and see if we can’t get a handful of people to change their perceptions of tee-totallers.

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