There is no better social lubricant than alcohol. In Australia and the UK, social interactions seem to involve, and revolve around, downing booze. We catch up for with our mates at the pub and BBQs on the weekend involve sharing a few cases of beer amongst friends. Friday drinks with our colleagues kick off the weekend, and dinner parties are always more fun with a few bottles of wine.
So when I decided to give up alcohol for two months to coincide with a health and fitness kick, there was a fair bit of explaining to do whenever I went out with my friends. My requests for soda water whenever they were buying rounds were met with incredulity and an unyielding demand to “order a proper bloody drink”. They would indignantly insist that they would not be seen buying a soft drink and ask “what the hell is wrong with you?” In fact, my friends seemed to have an issue with it more than I did since I wasn’t at all missing alcohol (well, OK, maybe on the odd occasion).
Why is it socially unacceptable in our culture to not drink booze? It seems that there are not even really any legitimate excuses any more when you can still apparently safely consume one or two in moderation, even if you’re driving or pregnant. Having the flu is no excuse either, as people will tell you to drink up because alcohol will kill all those nasty bugs for you, and didn’t you know it’s all a load of crap what they say about taking booze and antibiotics together being a no-no? It seems the only semi-acceptable excuse for abstaining is religion, and that’s just bound to spark off a totally separate discussion.
Most people have many fun and amusing memories from getting tipsy or completely plastered, which could involve walking into stationary objects or dropping mobile phones into toilets, or just having tongues loosened and inhibitions lowered in endless rounds of “I Have Never” or naked Twister. But many people will also know of the dangerous effects of alcohol. It can turn mild-mannered people into aggressive and violent lunatics who love starting fights, or encourage people to endanger their lives and the lives of others by driving under the influence. It increases the incidence of domestic violence, and the risk of death or serious injury from swimming at the beach late at night or leaping off balconies into swimming pools. Then there are the adverse health impacts of excess consumption such as cirrhosis of the liver, and even just the calorific intake of eight pints of beer and a dodgy late night kebab.
I’m happy to admit that I enjoy the feeling of being slightly out of control of my faculties when I’m a little inebriated. I love the warm glow that it gives me, how it makes me forget about the stresses of the day, and how it makes me feel more connected to the people around me. I also like how it allows me to tell someone how much I love or hate them with the get-out clause of being drunk, which automatically allows me to take it back again when I’m sober.
But when I think about it, it’s quite pathetic that I can’t do all of the things above – feel connected, de-stress, or tell someone honestly how I feel – when I’m sober and face the consequences without needing an excuse. Especially when I weigh up the health factors and the risk of walking out in front of a bus in a drunken haze, is it really worth endangering myself in such a way for a couple of hours of hilarity and feel-good fun?
There is something not quite right when one has to justify to their friends why they’re going hard on the mineral water instead of the cocktails. Let’s all take a chill pill and congratulate someone for not drinking. Next time one of your friends tells you they’re not drinking, don’t grill them on the reasons. Just show them some support and commend them for looking after themselves.
* Image courtesty of stock.xchange