Stoptober has been and gone and I hope those that embarked on abstaining from alcohol for a month were able to successfully complete the challenge. I’m now approaching a year without booze. My last drink was a luke-warm pint at a concert on November 25, 2016. I’d been considering going dry for a while and decided that a real test would be during December, with all the festive get-togethers and a family wedding thrown in for good measure.
Initially it was quite daunting. Most western cultures glamourise alcohol. If you think of advertising it tends to depict having a drink as being cool/sophisticated/sociable/attractive. Getting drunk on your 18th or 21st birthday is a rite of passage and a sign you’re an adult. As a teenager you drink to fit in at parties, as an adult you socialise over drinks. So it’s fair to say you become conditioned by society to consume alcohol.
Yet it was actually easier than I thought. There was the standard questioning to overcome on my first nights out post decision: “Why aren’t you drinking?” “Are you OK? Is something wrong?” but thankfully as people have accepted my decision any interrogation has disappeared.
That decision was reached for a number of reasons. I had a tendency to binge drink and could on occasions lead to patchy memories and next day worry and anxiety – things I didn’t need in life. Hangovers were hard to shake off the older I got, meaning my time was wasted. And having always been health-conscious I was concerned about the effects of overdoing it.
My office Christmas party in December last year proved to be the event that convinced me I’d made the right decision. No booze and home by midnight – having had a great night – I woke early the next day feeling fresh and went out for a two hour game of football with my then 3 year old boy. Rewind six months and following one too many at our office summer party, I arrived back home in the early hours, felt rough the next day and spent most of it nursing a hangover on the couch – a day wasted.
What’s also made the decision easier is the amount of decent alcohol-free beers now entering the market. With 21% of the UK adult population now non-drinkers according to recent statistics, the major brewing companies have seen opportunities by targeting this growing market (and to offset the losses of declining sales of traditional beer). If you need any proof, take a look at the expanding alcohol-free section next time you’re in a large supermarket. My personal favourites are Heineken’s 0.0%, Brewdog’s Nanny State, the independent Fitbeer, and Sainsbury’s own-label Czech offering.
Such drinks in their stylish bottles definitely help a ‘non-drinker’ blend in on a night in a pub. I certainly don’t want to consume sugar-packed fizzy drinks all night. And going out really doesn’t have to stop without booze – fears of ‘I’ll be boring without a drink’ soon dissipate when you realise that those under the influence do repeat themselves continuously…
I’m not knocking anyone who drinks and I’ll never try and convert anyone to join me on the alcohol-free stuff (and nor will I state I’ll never drink again). However, right now I think I’ve made the right choice. Without booze I’m less lethargic, more productive, weekends seemingly last longer and I feel more content with life.
For those that are considering going dry, I would recommend having a look at the One Year No Beer Facebook group. Here you’ll find people either embarking on 30, 90 or 365 days without booze, as well as hearing stories and advice from those now booze-free.
Coming soon: The best pubs and bars in Wimbledon catering for non-drinkers