I’ve been sober for about 2.5 years and I still find the whole experience of telling someone I don’t drink incredibly awkward. It usually goes something like this:
Them: Do you want a beer or a glass of wine?
Me: No thanks.
Them: You sure?
Me: Yeah, I don’t drink.
Record scratch. All eyes on me. Look of sheer mortification and confusion, followed by a long pause that makes me wonder if I’m meant to elaborate or not.
Alcohol is the only drug (and yes it is a drug) that people look at you strangely for not using.
Could you imagine the same reaction from people if I said I don’t do coke or smoke cigarettes? And yet when someone violates this one cultural norm it is seen as such an oddity that it can temporarily suck the life out of the room and make things weird.
I suggest we stop doing that to each other.
For the record, I don’t think everyone should stop drinking alcohol. It’s been around for thousands of years. Who am I to begrudge mankind its small pleasures?
But here’s the thing that does need to change — stop making sobriety weird.
Sobriety is Trending
People choose sobriety for a variety of reasons: fitness goals, religion, being broke, and the big, scary recovery from alcohol addiction.
Slowly, but surely, the culture surrounding alcohol is starting to shift which bodes well for me and my fellow teetotalers.
A recent study conducted by University College London found that “the proportion of 16- to 24-year-olds who do not drink alcohol had increased from 18% in 2005 to 29% in 2015.”
Even among those who still drink, the amount of consumption is decreasing. The same study cites that in 2005, 43% of young people reported drinking above the recommended limits. That number fell to 28% by 2015.
This trend extends to university campuses where 1 in 5 students in the UK reports abstaining from alcohol completely. It’s important not to let that overshadow the fact that the rest of the students (79%) still believe that getting drunk is part of college life, but I digress.