Change, Health

You’re not drinking?

April 4, 2017
you're not drinking

Dining out recently with family; drink orders were taken and I chose water over wine. The response was a surprise to my mother-in-law.
“Are you not well?” she asked with concern.

I was well, but had decided not to drink.

People assume if you decline alcohol, you’re either sick or pregnant. There has to be a valid reason.

Drinking is generally a team sport; it’s better done in a group than alone. A shared drinking experience helps to dispel any associated guilt and opting out means you’ve let the team down.

12 reasons alcohol seems ok
  1. Legal; governments given it the green light
  2. Praised in the bible; “Go eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do”
  3. Widely available; supermarkets, restaurants, bars/pubs, liquor outlets and entertainment events – multiple outlets and long opening hours.
  4. Brand engagement; products are appealingly packaged and promoted openly to a target demographic. Negative publicity is negated with tactical PR and marketing, to ensure customers continue to purchase.
  5. Our parents drank (and drank); we grew up with alcohol in our homes, we don’t know life without it.  
  6. Our friends drink; it’s how we connect with our peers
  7. Symbolic of celebration; served at most private functions or social gatherings
  8. Not seen as a drug; there’s less stigma attached to drinking, compared to other illegal drugs
  9. Tastes good; wine tasting is an acceptable pastime and skill
  10. Self-medicator; a legal and acceptable substitute for medication or therapy
  11. Glamorised in media; dictated on TV and movies as a normal part of socialising ie; chat with a friend over a glass of wine
  12. Part of our economy; New Zealand is a major producer and exporter of alcohol, from award winning wines to craft beers and malted whiskeys.


So what’s the problem?

Alcohol is a widely accepted and significant part of our economy and social system. Yet we know it causes social and economic problems. 

Researchers in UK found that alcohol is the most harmful drug, ahead of heroin and cocaine; scoring most highly with the harm it does to society and others.

We leave the term “alcohol abuse” to the minority of people we deem to be alcoholics. So if drinking is a normal part of our culture, how do we determine when it’s becoming a problem?

Alcohol’s unattractive side

Let’s imagine (or remember) a time when we were a non-drinker at a party:

First drinks are fine; people come out of their shell and conversation flows. Several hours in, the atmosphere can change; sometimes more fun, sometimes not. Arguments may be easily fueled, as emotions arise and people’s behaviour changes.

Is it just easier to have a drink and feel part of the group?

As a non-drinker you feel detached from the group.  Drinking keeps you stimulated and without it, communication takes effort. Energy reserves are lower and you may feel “done” with the night.

Like smokers, drinkers congregate; discussions become louder, laughter boisterous and emotions heightened. As intoxication levels increase, communication becomes more awkward; words are slurred, stance difficult, faces bloated and red. As emotions surface, so to does physical affection; not so easy for the non-drinker to reciprocate, without the stimulus of alcohol.

Normal conversation no longer attainable; the drinker and non-drinker are on different playing fields. As the sober one, you feel like a bore, with a desire to retreat home early.

Is it just easier to have a drink and feel part of the group?

Decide for yourself

Despite fickle opinions on whether moderate alcohol consumption is safe; we should make our own judgement.

Next time you drink, notice how your body feels. Probably good at first, but does it make you feel light-headed, a little dizzy? When you wake up in the morning, how do you feel?

Decide for yourself whether it feels right or not.

Alcohol consumption is a culture that we pass on to our children, who role model us when they see us drinking

I’ve always been a light drinker, until recently when I decided to stop completely. It took a few months to break the habit of drinking about 2-4 glasses a week. Alcohol addiction seems to occur even at a modest level; it’s so habitual we probably don’t realise why we’re doing it.

Is alcohol serving you well?

It’s not about judging whether people drink too much; that’s up to the individual to decide.

But can we ask ourselves why we’re drinking:

  • Out of habit? An association with people or occasions
  • To fit in with the crowd and give us a sense of belonging?
  • To give us confidence in social situations?
  • To help deal with stress?

Is alcohol a good thing to have in my life?

  • What benefits does it bring? Enjoyment, stress relief?
  • Is the benefit worth any associated costs ie to health, relationships, finances?
  • How do I feel physically and mentally during and after drinking, am I ok with this?
  • How do I feel about the quantity I’m drinking, is it too much or ok?

What does my intuition tell me?

Not knowing a culture without alcohol

Born in the early 70’s, alcohol has always been in my life. A liquor cabinet and beer crate were commonplace in most homes; we watched our parents drink and began exploring alcohol in our teens.

Alcohol consumption is a culture that we pass on to our children, who role model us when they see us drinking.

Smoking was equally as popular in the 70’s, until the discovery it was causing lung cancer and associated illnesses. The smell also made it socially less acceptable. And with the backup of government legislation, the anti-smoking era began.

Alcohol is a choice, not a culture

Is alcohol the new smoking? Will stronger anti-alcohol campaigns emerge in the future; aimed at stigmatising and completely eliminating drinking from society?

A world with no alcohol – boring?

How do we change a culture that’s accepted, yet creates social and personal problems we choose to ignore?

In Western countries, why is drinking more the norm than not? And what about Indian, Asian and Polynesian cultures whose social networks are alcohol-free? Do they have less social problems as a consequence?

What would a world without alcohol be like? Boring? Would socialising be harder; no more dancing on the tables and letting the hair down? If no one drank alcohol, would everyone be on the same level? Things may be more subdued, but would people begin to communicate differently?

Once we’re comfortable with the open and transparent feeling of non-drinking, we may discover that fun can be had, just by being us.

Alcohol is a choice, not a culture

I welcome your views and feedback.

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Encouraging people to make choices that work for them as individuals, rather than following everyone else. Helping people help themselves.

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