Mental Health

Deciding Not To Drink

Something has been playing on my mind lately. After years of drinking, I’ve started to wonder whether I would be happier without it.

During my time at University, I suffered greatly from hangovers but not in the physical sense, but emotionally. The anxiety that alcohol has caused me drove me to exhaustion and I knew in my heart that alcohol wasn’t for me, but I continued anyway. 3 Years later, we’ve been through a pandemic. One where socialising hasn’t been possible and where night-life has been postponed for a year and a half. And I haven’t missed the alcohol.

I miss the nights out, being with my friends, dancing, singing and having fun. But I don’t miss the extortionate prices, the headache, the bleary eyes, the tears, the morning after, the anxiety. So, I’m trying something. I’m going to change my relationship with alcohol.

Drinking Culture

One of the biggest barriers that I have found when reconsidering my relationship with alcohol was the social aspect of drinking. Why is it that in the UK, we can’t seem to enjoy alcohol unless it’s excessive? Visit any town centre on a Saturday night in Britain and you’ll be met with hundreds of drunk party goers stumbling into the local takeaways and trying to call cabs.

And if you don’t drink? Peer pressure is involved, drinking games, the feeling of being left out, or worst of all; being the designated babysitter. And I guess it comes down to: if you can’t beat them, join them.

And I’m not here to sit on my high horse and question why we enjoy drinking until we black out, because I did it multiple times a week for years. It’s fun to feel funny. To lose your inhibitions. To finally feel confident. Those nights out at University were some of the only things I looked forward to because I could forget about my studying and hang out with my friends. We’d often spend full days in town, preparing for the night ahead and then all of the following day ordering food together discussing events from the night before.

Drinking is social, it’s how you make friends. Imagine beginning University and deciding not to drink on your Freshers week. I envy those who have the self-confidence to do so, but for me, I just wanted to fit in and to do that, you drink.

It’s therefore unsurprising that in the UK, we have one of the worst cultures of binge drinking in Europe. Alcohol Change have stated that:

[The UK] is consistently among the highest for binge drinking. This reflects the fact that, on average, drinking in the UK tends to involve more drunkenness than elsewhere.

Alcohol Change

For me, the key is that phrase ‘more drunkenness’. It appears that many Brits appear unable to have a single glass of their favourite tipple without pushing the limits. The problem with drink culture and wanting to stop then lies with the fear of being left out from society and being seen as ‘boring’.

Even at the weekend, the scenes at the Euro’s 2020 final and the aftermath shocked the majority of the nation to the core because we’ve been forced to face the reality of it. When we drink, we drink too much. Some become obnoxious, many become violent. All of us know that it’s gone too far, yet, our first port of call for a social is always the pub.

My own relationship with alcohol is heavily influenced by the culture of the country and now, I’m trying to change that.

Facing the Facts

The truth of the matter is that I’ve always struggled with my relationship alcohol. I don’t particularly like the taste of it. I drink to get drunk. My mental health always suffers. So when I decided the other day to have a lemonade in the pub rather than a cocktail, a thought occurred to me: I could spend less money, enjoy my evening and not be hungover the next day! What a revelation!

In all seriousness, the worry that I caused myself, thinking that my friends would think differently of me or would think I was old or boring was real. I think of myself as quite a self-confident person, with a great understanding of my own self-worth. But this sent me into a panic.

Luckily, I took the plunge and decided I shouldn’t care. The amount of strength it has taken me to realise that I actually don’t enjoy drinking has been surprising. I didn’t realise how much of myself I put into alcohol. How much of my social life revolved around it. It has also been interesting viewing my own relationship with alcohol in a different light, as I’ve never even considered it before.

I didn’t feel as though there was anything wrong with my alcohol consumption because everyone else was doing it too. But being forced out of the habit due to lockdown has meant I’ve done a complete 180 on my view of alcohol.

El Fin

I don’t think there’s any great piece of wisdom that comes with this post (is there with any?) But I felt it was important to share. If you like, you can also take a moment to consider your own relationship with alcohol. Has it changed over lockdown? Are you happy with the amount you drink? Do you wish you drank more?

I’m always keen to hear what other people think, the journeys that you’re going through that are parallel to mind. Building this community has been so fun and I can’t wait to hear what you’ve got to say!