There is no end to the advantages of being sober and an added bonus is that I think that it’ll only get easier. Occasionally I hear people say they’re stressing about how to explain themselves in a situation where they’d normally drink. I can relate to this because stopping drinking was so HUGE to me and I did wonder if I’d be met with a bunch of chins on the floor in response to me saying no to alcohol. Turns out no one cared much whether I had alcohol or something else, but I can absolutely see why we get a little worked up over it. When we quit, it’s pretty much a whole new world, so no wonder we’re a little anxious about the reaction. Many of the books relating to recovery and sobriety I’ve been reading have sections on how to handle this and some give a list of suggestions for what you can reply or how to explain why you’re not drinking.
I can safely say that I think drinking was almost part of my identity, just like smoking (although since two years back I vape) – a friend from uni once said she couldn’t imagine me as a non-smoker. Out with friends when the bartender might ask if it’s a regular or large glass, someone might have said “large for Anna obviously”. It was just expected of me to drink like a sailor and smoke like a chimney because I always did. So it’s not just removing your security blanket, it’s also hoping people won’t point and laugh at you when you’re standing there all bare. Personally, there’s nothing I hate more than being the centre of attention – I don’t particularly enjoy being noticed so even changing my hair I find uncomfortable as I feel awkward if people notice. So then with this HUMONGOUS change, I did at first think that social gatherings would feel like that nightmare where you’re up on stage in front of a packed theatre and everyone you know and discovering you’re butt naked. The feeling of being exposed is of course fairly logical in that without any booze we are truly ourselves. Perhaps there’s some trace of fear of rejection too? Luckily I quickly discovered it was almost the other way around. Not only did people not disapprove, almost everyone has been impressed. What about that, eh! And more often than not, a few drinks in, someone will approach me and confide that they too actually want to go sober.
The tide is turning on booze. I genuinely believe this. There is no doubt in my mind that my great grandchildren will gawp at alcohol commercials the way we gawp now at tobacco commercials from the 60s. No doubt whatsoever. A recent study showed that a much larger percentage of the age group 16-25 claim to be non-drinkers compared with only 20 years ago. OK, there’s all sorts of other crap young people put into their bodies but one thing at a time and at this present time it would appear that alcohol is slowly but surely losing its street cred. It’s no longer all that cool to drink. Only the other day I saw a post from the Facebook group for my area of London that was encouraging people to shop local and had a list of where you can get various Christmas must-haves from. Yes, it listed a wine merchant’s but it also had a specific entry for “dry drinkers” and that, my friends, made me smile from ear to ear! It wasn’t there like that sad corner of the supermarket that has “free from” products, it was just there alongside and given as much space as the other festive staples like turkeys and wrapping paper. It wasn’t there as an consolation prize for those who “can’t drink alcohol” but as a perfectly good option amongst all the others. Being a non-drinker doesn’t at all mean we become social pariahs like I suspect many of us fear. Well I did anyway – hell, I feared being home alone and not drinking so to even contemplate out socially was mind boggling for me back then. But here we are now and as far as I can see, being a non-drinker isn’t just acceptable, it’s becoming more and more common and something we’re starting to think of as BADASS! And quite right too.
Well, I for one have yet to encounter anyone feeling sorry for me. In fact, a lot of people seem to feel a little intimidated and without me asking about their habits begin to give a long list of reasons why they enjoy drinking – almost like they’re a little embarrassed of their choices and feel an urge to defend them. OK, so I didn’t exactly drink normal amounts and perhaps the reactions I get are therefore all my family and friends drawing a collective sigh of relief, but even so – even people who don’t know me and therefore have never witnessed me guzzle, will invariable comment “oh, good for you!” when I say I don’t drink. It’s 2018 and my impression of the world is that not drinking is almost entirely seen as a really great thing. That’s the response I’ve had anyway.
When I first stopped – actually, I still sometimes get a little insecure about it – I was quite worried that my husband would miss “fun Anna”. Like many other people I shed all inhibitions when I’m drunk and of course this does mean that I’m more likely to be crazier and sillier when I’m hammered. And you only need to listen in sober to a conversation between two giggling drunk people to know that some things are only funny when you’re sloshed. Yes – we did go out more. Yes – we did laugh the next day more often about how funny this thing or that from last night was. Yes – I was wilder in a whole bunch of ways. I still worry about that sometimes. Yet deep down I know that hubby is nothing but thrilled that I stopped drinking. Things ARE different. I can’t sit here and tell you that it’s the same as before because it isn’t. I’m not the same. Things are better. I’m better. No, hubby no longer has a wife who is often more than a little tipsy when he gets home in the evening and ready to let loose on any given day of the week, but he has one who’s up for going to the gym with him or a run. A wife who has done the things she needed to do and isn’t too muddled up from hangovers to even arrange for the groceries. I’m still ME. And that’s who he fell in love with – me. So he has more of the person he fell in love with (this is good AND bad I guess!) because I’m never that dumbed down drunk version of me.
So I’ve come to believe there are just no real downsides to not drinking in this day and age. But then we watched a recent episode of First Dates and a cute couple called Lee and Abbi. Their date was really sweet and they clearly hit it off. Lee was obviously taken by Abbi who came across as super smart, really funny, a little quirky, charming and interesting. Oh, and she’s a really beautiful woman too. But Lee, who likes a good night out, was concerned that Abbi doesn’t drink and therefore decided against another date.
“Did he just turn her down because she’s not a drinker?” I asked hubby in disbelief.
“Yeah,” hubby replied.
I actually went a little cold.
“If I had stopped drinking before we met, would that have put you off me?” I asked, suddenly needy and insecure and once again feeling that worry I did in the beginning that the non-drinking would turn me into a bore.
“Well – look at her! She’s wonderful and that bloke turned her down because she prefers a cup of tea and staying in!”
“Yes, because he’s a twat. I’m not a twat, am I?”
Still, it made me feel a bit sad that twatty Lee had turned down lovely Abbi because of such an insane reason, but it turns out Lee did come to his senses. After the end of filming he contacted her and asked her for a chance after all and they ended up dating.
Clearly non-drinking can be a little awkward, after all. When I still drank I would have dismissed any non-drinker as a self righteous boredom zone and done my best to avoid them, but I was a heavy drinker who already knew deep down that I had a massive drinking problem. I did NOT need another mirror held up to me – I already knew. But I do wonder if this is how regular drinker feel too? That we feel a bit threatened and annoyed when someone’s made a really healthy choice? Like when someone exercises a lot and we feel a little inadequate because we feel like we’re not doing enough? Oh, I don’t know. It is still perhaps a little unusual to stay away from alcohol but as I said, I really do believe alcohol is on its way out. I think it’s entirely possible that even in my lifetime there’ll be a day when it’s as frowned upon as smoking is now.
Enough rambling on from me for now but do let me know what you think. Were you worried it’d be awkward to tell people you’re no longer drinking?
Today I’m not going to drink.