Why I gave up alcohol

posted in: Uncategorized | 60

A brave friend of mine recently blogged about why she didn’t have children. Or rather how she deals with people who challenge her very personal decision.

It got me thinking about how anyone who stands against the norm is often questioned and regarded as a bit odd. To be honest I have quite a few friends who find the fact that I make or knit my own clothes something of a surprise. Why ever would you do that? they wonder. But they rarely feel uncomfortable or threatened.

On the other hand when I decided to give up booze for good I got a whole range of surprising reactions.

I don’t know how to describe being alcohol-free or a non-drinker without it sounding judgmental. Teetotal, on the wagon, don’t drink, abstemious, stopped drinking last year, prefer not to …. it all sounds defensive and somewhat peculiar. One can make excuses or come out. I have said general things like “no thanks, big meeting tomorrow!” or “I’m driving”, and have even tried holding a glass of wine which I never touch.  In the end I have decided to come out and tell people that I am over it, which may seem a bit strong and unnecessarily final and definitive, but my friends have adapted and stopped offering me drinks.

So I thought I would set out my reasons in a short blog post and invite your responses. I know this is seriously off-topic for me, which I don’t do it very often, but it might strike a chord with anyone who is “different” for whatever reason.

  • I was never a big drinker, so that’s the first one out of the window. Many assume abstinence is what you do when you are an alcoholic. In fact you are, according to Alcoholics Anonymous, still an alcoholic even when you haven’t partaken for years.
  • I like alcohol. I enjoy the taste of wine, especially with food. I prefer red to white, and I am not keen on fizzy drinks including champagne, never took to gin, vodka or whisky, but I have nothing against the stuff per se.
  • I am not refraining from drink for religious reasons.

I don’t fear or hate alcohol. My kids and my Mum all like to have a drink, but as these photographs demonstrate we are not a very boozy family. We will offer you alcohol when you come round to visit us. But when we make a tea or pour a glass of water for ourselves we get an aghast reaction.

“Aren’t you drinking? What? Good God – why ever not? Go on! Have one! It will do you good! ”

I stopped drinking for six good reasons.

Health

I adopt a healthy lifestyle. I want to live into old age and to be fit in my 80s. This is a strong motivator for me. I go to the gym and eat healthy food.  Not drinking alcohol supports these choices, not drinking helps me stay slim. After a boozy night I would experience a strong desire for sweet or fried things. Crisps and salty nuts are the perfect accompaniment with a glass of wine, but pair less well with tea, juice or water. I have no idea if this is psychological or physiological. But I find it much easier to stick to a healthy diet if I avoid wine altogether.

I may be prejudiced and judgemental but drinkers sometimes have a puffy, reddened and lined appearance. Those that don’t drink often have better skin.

I felt ill the next day

I suppose this is the main one. Most of us get a hangover if we have more than one glass – although I know quite a few people who do not suffer from any aftereffects – but feeling unwell later doesn’t seem to be a big deterrent. But not only has my headache/feeling sick feeling intensified as I have aged, in addition I cannot afford to be under the weather at work. I want to feel lively and energetic, not queasy and bad tempered. So it had to stop.

Regret

Alcohol helps get a party going – no doubt about it. Reducing inhibitions and loosening the tongue can encourage sociability, laughter and fun. Unfortunately alcohol can loosen the tongue too much. I have, on occasion, said stupid or hurtful things when drunk. Which I regret.

An act of solidarity with my husband

Nick gave up alcohol a few years ago because he felt he had had enough. He was drinking heavily. It had become a habit and he wanted to be free of it. For a while, although he abstained, I would drink at social events, when people came round and at dinner parties.

A friend told me she had learned Hebrew and converted to Judaism on marriage. I thought if she could do that, the least I could do for my husband was to join him on the wagon. Giving up the booze was just a little sacrifice I could make, to stand by his side.

Cost

British families spend about £11.40 on alcohol and cigarettes each week. This is down from nearly £20 per week at the beginning of the century, implying I am not alone. In fact 20 per cent of young people are completely alcohol-free.

Social reasons

Like other drugs alcohol is harmful in large quantities. Yet it is such an intrinsic part of our culture that “having a drink” means alcohol.  At work (we sell homes) we always laugh at the cliched images of new home owners drinking champagne before they have even unpacked.

being alcohol free
Cheers, baby

Why is “having a drink” such an unchallenged part of our lives? Let’s “meet in the bar for a drink”, let’s “celebrate your exam success”, let’s go on a pub crawl because you were made redundant. Shall we leave money in our will so everyone can get drunk after the service? Shall we toast the Queen, the Chairman, or the happy couple? Or the sad couple who sit in the pub “drowning their sorrows”? What about the divorced man going on a binge, people boasting about how many drinks they had, or how sick they were, or how they can’t remember what they did last night, or how they ended up in Sudbury? I hear students talking about Jager bombs, young lovers drinking ever more ludicrous cocktails or drinks that involve salt, dares, lime, downing in one, lighting things up and so on.

Khalo on drinking
Frida Khalo

The alcohol craze may be  a bit of a con. We are encouraged to drink to celebrate success, to deal with sadness and to make every social activity to go with a swing. Weddings, funerals, birthdays. retirements, naming boats – whatever it is we have been conditioned to believe it needs alcohol to help it along.

What do you think?

 

 

 

60 Responses

  1. Great post. I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. I stopped drinking alcohol a few years ago for health reasons and have definitely felt better for it. But I do get tired of the questions and insistence by people to “just have one.” I’m never judgemental or superior but many people still get defensive, even though my decision has nothing to do with them. Everybody is responsible for their own actions in life. Take it. Judy.

  2. I stopped eating animal products, oils, coconut, avocado (!) and even nuts after a major heart attack. Try explaining to someone that I just trying to clean out my arteries and maybe prevent another heart attack and that I am following a specific diet…..oh well. As for booze, I just say that I don’t drink and I say it very firmly. I have been saying that successfully for 29 years now.

    Best of luck to your husband and good for you for supporting him!

  3. Thanks for your off topic post. I like a little alcohol but feel it has pervaded too many aspects of life in the U.K.. It seems to rule us. I see many older women drinking excessively and it does them no favours. I feel we are disingenuous in our acceptance of alcohol but not other stimulants. A society with less alcohol would be a gentler one and I would welcome that.

  4. Oh wow, where to start with that question? And why are people pressuring others to drink alcohol? Why can’t people accept ‘no thanks, I’ll have a mineral water’? It’s just not anyone’s business but yours, Kate, so why do you need to explain your choice to anyone?

    Dry February or FebFast is a big thing amongst my friends and it always surprises me how many are ‘on the wagon’ for that month AND talk about how much better they feel. (And how many days are left.) How much alcohol do these people regularly drink? I can’t join in those conversations because (mostly) I drink so infrequently.

    My parents didn’t drink alcohol but my much older brother and sister did, to excess and were, for many years of their lives, alcoholic. I understand why they did it and what impact it has had on their lives. And mine. But it would never be my choice.

    We live in Australia, which has a strong drinking culture. We also have fabulous wines! My husband and I have friends who are serious wine buffs and there is no way I’m going to miss out on tasting a wine I might never get to experience otherwise (although the $800 Grange was under par, what a bummer). My husband usually has a thimbleful and I have a glass. Alcohol has never been a big part of my life but my husband had a misspent youth which involved drinking to excess (so I am told), but now he could care less. The thing is, there is never EVER any pressure to drink. Ever.

    On the flip side, when I was in Italy in July we drank wine every night with dinner. The winery and vineyard is on the neighbouring property. And the wine was excellent. So why not? I enjoyed the location, the friendships, the food, and the local wines.

    Anyone for a tea?

  5. Hi Kate
    Great article. I am a contrarian by nature so it suits me not to be a drinker. So I can cope with the societal pressure that encourages us to drink given any opportunity. More importantly drink does nothing for me!
    Olu

  6. Oh my goodness where to start. I do not drink for one reason it makes me giddy and sick. When I was younger and wanted to be one of the crowd I would drink and suffer the consequences but as I got older I thought better of it. I came from a drinking family of Celtic/Germanic roots who could drink themselves sober so they did not share the same impediment as I did and would just shrug thinking I was judging them. I know that a number of people in my circle still assume I am a recovering alcoholic and that is why I don’t drink. Others think that my involvement with the Salvation Army is the reason even though I am only a volunteer not a soldier. It doesn’t bother me at all as I make my own decisions and everyone else can do what they want. So good on you if that’s what you want to do stick to your guns.

  7. Well done on speaking up for us non drinkers. I gave up drinking 10 years ago. My main reasons were;

    a) I didn’t really like it and always had to get pissed to get over the taste
    b) I usually ended up being the designated driver in my family which caused a row.
    c) My husband drank too much and I didn’t like the way it changed his personally. Thinking maybe I was horrible when I’d had a few as well.

    I occasionally have a small sherry at Christmas but otherwise I don’t bother at all. And people try and pressure me into having one and think I’m odd but I don’t care. If I’m in a pub, I often order tea. It’s liberating. Like giving up fags or chocolate. I’m happy for everyone else to get stuck in. But I don’t need a drink or two to get up on a table and dance. I’ll do it anyway.

    • I feel very similar to you Clare. Maybe “giving things up” for Lent, or just to exercise self control, has a pleasure of its own. And so glad you don’t need a drink to get up on the tables!!

  8. we had a pub when I was growing up, and from the age of 12 I helped out….it does give you a different perspective on alcohol, and while I used enjoy a drink – I drink rarely now (and I was never a ‘big drinker). I find if I drink in the evening after 9 I sleep so badly and then feel groggy the next day – so it feels like I am losing a day which I dont find worth it! I do find the increasing tolerance of drunken behavior worrying, as if I drive home late on a saturday night through town (I live in a student town) invariably people are walking out in front of cars with and without shoes, and then in courts, people give the excuse of ‘being out of their head’ on either drink or drugs…..so I am unsure where personal responsibility comes into it………..and finally the next person that tells me ‘its part of our culture’ ….(mmm drunken irish how lovely, ignore joyce beckett yeats keating etc)…well I think I said enough!

    • It is interesting that drink gets associated with culture; Kerry mentions it big in Australia and of course in the UK we see lots of young people in a real mess on a Friday or Saturday night. Our local area is strongly Muslim and I find it refreshing that the men sit together with coffee and talk. There are many things I dislike about Islam but they seem to have a nice (albeit male dominated) social culture around nice food, soft drinks and coffee/tea.

  9. I love this. I too don’t drink, I also sew, knit and so far don’t have children. I’ve never received negative comments about the most of these things, but for a lot of people it is incomprehensible that I am happy not to drink.

  10. Lesley El-Banawy

    Good Morning,
    I look at all of your posts so I was a little surprised today to see such a different topic. However quite glad actually as it is quite refreshing to read as I have experienced similar reactions. I believe they are because we live in a drink alcohol culture and when we stop it forces the other person to look at their self which they don’t want to do so they naturally are on the attack. I was never a heavy drinker but regularly drank champagne and occasional wine. But I noticed that as I approached my sixties I was having headaches I had put on weight and I was also tired. I have a busy lifestyle still so in March of this year I decided to have a lifestyle change part of which was going alcohol free and recording everything I ate. That was six months ago I have lost 25lbs and feel good I am vegetarian anyway so I have a reasonable healthy lifestyle. Results are other than weight loss less headaches more energy better sleep and general wellbeing. However I get the same reactions from people as you do, they are usually people who are overweight and drink copious amounts of alcohol.
    It makes me more determined.
    But I must share this with you
    I met a friend or at least I thought so the other day they said hi are you alright I said yes why ….they said you have lost so much weight…you used to be pretty when you were fatter you are not anymore.
    That beats it all don’t you think. Incidentally they drink and I will be polite are extra large..

    • Well done with your weight loss and lifestyle changes Lesley. I can be hard to change our habits as we age. And I agree with you about sleeping better – and that is priceless.

  11. Oh go you! I am not a big drinker and never was. I can do without and mostly do. I drink so little I don’t feel the need to give up but I have a 13 year old boy and I am aware that I need to show him how much you can do without alcohol before he gets into the age group of drinking. He notices I don’t drink very often. He noticed how his Dad (we are separated) drinks every night. He asks me about the alcohol I have in the cupboard from my travel days. I like to be very honest with drugs and alcohol (and sex) with him. Australians are renown for their drinking and believe me it is warranted. I see young people drinking themselves stupid, wasting their money and destroying their health and it really worries me. The violence that comes from alcohol abuse is everywhere. I was always curious why people would be sitting in a pub all day when it would be such great weather and I just never got it. My thing is seeing live music and we had (still have such) bad public transport when I was young I decided it was best for me to not drink and drive myself home. I have always hating smoking but nobody has a cigarette and beats their wife or abuses their children, yet this happens with alcohol. I commend you. You don’t have to explain to anyone.

    • What an interesting reflection Summerflies – thank you for commenting. The thing is alcohol seems to go equally well with beautiful summer weather, and cold evenings in a pub by a fire. I think being good role models for our children is important.

  12. Great post. You can go off-piste as much as you like (I’m sure there is a pun in there somewhere!).

    I suspect if you correlated minimal/non drinking with quality of life it would be pretty close to 1. For all the reasons you list (other than non drinking spouse) I drink minimally and always have done. As you say it’s peoples’ reactions that are interesting/irritating. I was once told at work by a manager it would limit my career as I would be seen as puritanical, I’m always encouraged to drink more than I want and sometimes there is the general feeling that somehow I’m spoiling the party. I care not and friends with that sort of approach are allowed to slip away. But isn’t that the great thing about being older, I feel less and less the need to conform and fit in.

    • Yes. I had not mentioned this work thing. I work with many men and sometimes I have to get business from them, or work with them and often we have a lunch or rarely a dinner to attend. If I am one to one with a man who clearly wants a drink and says “join me” I always used have one or two glasses. I was prepared to get a little drunk in order to ingratiate myself. Now I would make an excuse like “only at weekends” or “I don’t fancy one”, but I would encourage him to take a drink if he wanted one. Many people are happy to have a daily glass or two in their lives and I really don’t want to be “puritanical”, but I do think – like smoking – the tide may be turning a bit.

  13. Anne Frances

    My grandfather (before the first world war) was the policeman’s son when the police cells were attached to the police house. He knew all the drunks in town. He never ever drank alcohol himself! As a young “diplomatic wife” I saw a lot of alcohol consumed and made a rule never to drink alcohol on my own. But when I was living on my own during the week my family encouraged me to have one small glass of wine with my evening meal. They said (quite correctly) it would make me sit down and relax while I ate, rather than standing up with food in one hand getting on with something else with the other, which they thought was not good for me. Now I know that alcohol is one of the triggers of my chronic tendency to gastritis (a result of a slightly unusual anatomy) so I am even more cautious. I respect and understand your reasons for not drinking at all, but I think that an occasional small (and I mean smaller than the restaurant standard small, which seems large to me) glass of good wine with a good meal is one of the great pleasures of life which I am not willing to forgo.
    Anne

    • My Mum drinks daily and if someone will get one for her she has one at lunch time too. It is one of the few pleasures she has left in life and she really enjoys it without a hangover. But she is already very unsteady on her feet and being a little tipsy can contribute to her falling over. Her choice is to drink. It makes her happier, more relaxed, takes a little bit of pain away and allows her to join in on social occasions. In fact she is one of the people who is always trying to get Nick and I too have a drink (she thinks we are a bit uptight I think). It does increase the risk of her falling which could result in hospitalisation etc. But everyone has to do what is right for them.

  14. It’s complex isn’t it? Most of us would not encourage a designated driver to drink yet it seems different to coax someone who declines alcohol especially if we know them to have enjoyed a drink in the past, like chivving someone on a diet for being to restrictive when ordering a meal. Much of this is due to conditioning and how we socialise in groups and people do get defensive,as if one is being judged for perhaps choosing to buy by a bottle instead of a glass.

    I’ve never been a big drinker and when I go out I’m usually driving. I do enjoy wine at home but am choosing it less often because I seem to have less tolerance, half a bottle has a lingering adverse affect the following day so the disadvantages outweigh any former good feelings. Under these circumstances I find it really easy to abstain, sort of like aversion therapy.

    If I were you I’d make it easier for the listener and Mutter something about health, people are usually too polite and afraid of gory detail to ask intrusive questions.

  15. Appreciate your thoughtful post. I admire that you seem to live life intentionally. You put thought into what you wear, how you sew and apparently into your health. You are right about alcohol. The bad almost always out weighs the good. Your stated points about what led you to the decision were spot on. You have, as usual, inspired me.

  16. When my sister developed breast cancer at age 47 and I believe my paternal grandmother may have died from it in her early 50s I decided to minimise what was already a rare tipple. I got flak from my husband ( a doctor ! ) and felt judged by a friend ( a nurse !! ) but I persist . Alcohol is one of the few risk factors for breast cancer we can modify and since I don’t really like the taste then I am persisting. Alcohol kills more people than ice and other drugs. Thanks for the discussion.

  17. I’m with you on not drinking. I gave up drinking anything at all when I was pregnant with my first child 27 years ago and have almost never had anything to drink since. I get migraines so easily that it is just not worth it to me to have half a glass of wine and end up with what is in effect a horrible hangover (this is what a migraine feels like) while still feeling a bit tipsy. I do feel some social pressure to drink but generally ignore it. I will join in by having soda water or iced tea so I have a glass in my hand. Here in the US, I think the social pressure is much greater on men than on women to drink.

    • I have to admit when I was first pregnant I was still smoking and while I gave up the fags soon after I carried on drinking during my three pregnancies. I don’t think it necessarily harms the baby in moderation. There is a view today that if you are pregnant every one can be judgemental about your intakes and I don’t like that. Everyone has to make their own decision, either way.

  18. I just tell people I’d rather eat my calories than drink them.

  19. I find societies acceptance of this drug so depressing – even though others know I don’t drink much there is a constant pressure for me to drink. I am very strong willed and have no problem saying no, so it is not an issue for me, but hard for many to say no. What really gets me is all the story telling around alcohol like its a badge of honour. My son is 15 and just starting to drink, again this badge of honour with the crowd and it is so bad for teenagers. I would love more debate like this, calling alcohol out for what it is, a drug that causes so many deaths and so much ill health. Thank you for writing the post.

  20. I’m actually a HEAVY drinker. I really just wanted to thank you for being so objective and clear. You did not sound judgemental at all, which is really sweet. In fact this was really enlightening.

    Thanks again for a thoughtful (and thought provoking) post! It was great to understand the other side.

    • Hi LG – thanks so much for restoring a bit of balance to this discussion! If hard drinking is part of your lifestyle and you enjoy it – why not? It’s your life, time, money. Sometimes my kids get legless and bounce back the next day – I can’t say I worry too much about it.

      • Haha welllll I didn’t mean to endorse it as a lifestyle choice – Drinking + sewing does lead to a lot of seam ripping 🙂

  21. I gave up alcohol more than a decade ago for many of the same reasons you’ve listed and I feel better for it. When asked at a social event if I want a drink I follow my son’s example and reply, “No thanks, I’ve had enough.” It’s true and no one ever challenges that response!

    • Yes! My husband says the same. I am not sure I have had enough. Maybe when I am old and frail I will go back to the odd glass of really good quality wine – who knows?

  22. In my maternal family history, we are either teetotalers or alcoholics. My paternal side is a bit more puratanical. I have numerous allergen reactions, esp. wheat and barley (auto-immune).
    I may have about ten drinks a year. No one pressures me nor do I feel gulity for drinking water or ?. I bring alternative drinks if we are going to a party. If I don’t, people ( especially family) try to make something healthy for me which is awkward and usually not something I can drink/eat anyway. I bring my alternative drink/food if I think there won’t be items that are safe for me. Mostly people allow me to choose.
    I am also not in a work situation where there tends to be more pressure to conform.

  23. Good grief! I thought pressurising people to partake had died a death. I don’t drink often or a lot, partly for the health reason you cite, and partly because, though I love the taste of almost all the alcoholic concoctions I’ve tried so far and quite enjoy the initial relaxing effect, I have never liked the had too much effects. I know people who say they enjoy feeling completely wasted or out of it. This is a mystery to me and always was. I don’t feel judgemental about other people’s choices, but can’t put myself in that place. The use of some form of drug to pass into a different mental place seems to be common to many societies, not just ours in the 21st century.

    • Thanks for providing some useful historical perspective Jay. Yes, I have been so drunk the room has been spinning, and I have been very sick (mainly as a young person!!), and found it rather frightening.

  24. Given a choice of wine or a few grams of cashmere, yarn wins everytime 😉

  25. I have never been a drinker. Once every summer I would drink a gin and tonic made by my dear father-in-law and now that he is gone I have not had spirits at all in years. After a hot day working in the garden I enjoy half a glass of beer with lunch and then a nap. I have never had a problem saying ‘no thank you’ to offers of drinks, even back in my university days. I suppose to feel I was part of the group I would order a tonic with lime and I still will do that when meeting friends for drinks. I like the taste of tonic and it feels festive to sip from a straw. I am often asked why I don’t drink and the simple response is because I don’t fancy it. People often turn down sweets or spicy food or any number of things that they don’t enjoy eating but for some reason when you turn down alcohol people are so curious as to the tawdry reason why. For some of it is for the very uninteresting reason of just not caring for it. My husband is also very moderate and enjoys the occasional glass of interesting beer. And a small sherry on Christmas is a tradition we share.

  26. Interesting, Kate, to read your story. I drink a sip of wine in church, and a sip of champagne if forced, but that’s it. Part of the reason is being contrarian (how it started): You’re told all the time as a child not to drink, and then it’s suddenly not only ok, but you’re even pressured to have a glass? Really? I was too contrary to accept that at age 14 and still am! Two, as a child, I hated what alcohol did to people. Even if they didn’t behave bad per se I found the change itself – funnier, louder, cozier – totally off-putting. Third, I hate what alcohol does to me. I’ve never been drunk, but I did have half a drink on occasion and felt “something” take hold of me, of my body. No way. Fourth, I don’t like the taste of the popular drinks, and I’m not going to organize myself 1/4 of an extra special drink at a party. Fifth, I met my husband at age 24, and he had had his fill already then and decided to quit. So we don’t even think about drinking 364 days of the year. Last is a point I think may be true, although as a non drinker I’ve only observed this: that in social or celebratory context people feel too inhibited to let loose, and so they drink to help with this. I’m fairly reticent, but I will dance on a table at the right occasion with no help from alcohol needed or wanted 😊. Thank you for the interesting blog, I love reading others’ comments on this!

    • I always think the comments are by far the best part of this blog, although I am nervous to discuss anything other than fashion, clothes and knitting! As a child I always found inebriated older men scary – they would grab and try to kiss me etc – so I have had hugely negative associations with drunkenness my whole life. My father was a very light drinker and provided a much better role model.

  27. I do not like the taste of it! That is a good enough reason, but I see no reason
    why I need to justify not drinking to ANYONE! Frankly, the “why/because” is no
    one’s business but my own and that goes for any other challenge that
    is put to you. That’s just the way it is.
    peggyk

  28. Hi Kate, thank you for your post.
    I would never have drank once however a wine or two, even three on my nights have become a habitual for me whilst cooking dinner. It’s the norm so to speak. Colleagues do it. My partner does it. I too value my health wellbeing and hate the groggy tired feeling the next day, snappy and not giving my 100% to my work. I have stopped drinking wine at night many times. Then felt the pressure of “oh its only one drink with dinner”
    All of what you posted is me. I allow myself to fall victim to the culture and pressure to have a few red wines with dinner is a great accompaniment. Pod cast by Rachel Hart taking a break has been if great value to me in my journey to cease my dinner habit.
    Your blog is of great value also its a reminder that we can make choices and take control and its a positive outcome. Thank you 🙂

  29. I came from a non drinking rather than an anti alcohol drinking family, as a young adult did a fair bit of drinking and then decided to start trying to get pregnant and quit and just never picked it up again. I think I feel better and I am sure I am able to be kinder sober. For many years I worked in a fairly hard drinking culture and was never urged to have alcohol after an initial no thanks – perhaps the assumption was that I was dealing with an addiction? So for the last 3+ decades I have been a “champagne at weddings” drinker. Thank goodness, the last thing I need is more empty calories.

    Love the Frida quote…..see all the little sorrows bobbing around in the drink?

    ceci

  30. While I have an assortment of sad/unpleasant reasons from my past that make me not want to drink, I’m ‘lucky’ that I can’t drink now because of an interaction with my medication. There were a few people that kept bugging me about it, with “what’s the worst that could happen?” being their refrain. After many tactful responses, I finally reached my breaking point. I gave them a fairly graphic blow by blow description of what happens during a liver biopsy. They never ‘encouraged’ me to ‘just have one’ ever again. 🙂

  31. I really appreciate this post, and would like to thank all the very considerate replies as well. I was a social drinker and stopped because my spouse was unable to control his drinking. A friend is the child of violent alcoholics, and he gets CRAPPED on for not drinking. I explained his reasons to a mutual friend, who was just hideously rude about it, as if having an abusive disease in your family wasn’t a good reason.

    I do miss the taste of bourbon, but I don’t miss the side-effects. You get old enough, you get to know how much alcohol can ruin lives. It doesn’t taste THAT good.

  32. Beautifully put and obviously from the heart.

    I have never tasted bourbon SJ but I understand its a bit like whiskey. Heard a great podcast on Criminal about Pappy’s aged bourbon – it was very interesting.

  33. What a fascinating topic and certainly, one I never expected.
    Coincidentally, at 56, I have also given up alcohol for many of the reasons you cite. Your comment to Uta about unwanted physical attention resulting from over-consumption hit home for me, as I have a phobic fear of New’s Eve sloppy, winey embraces due to over exposure growing up. A drunk man repulses me and raises every hackle if he tries to approach me or engage me in conversation. In addition, I fear the connection between alcohol and several diseases related to aging including Alzheimers which is very prevalent in my maternal line.
    Interestingly, most have accepted my various methods for declining an alcoholic drink. However, my husband who is also trying to decrease his consumption, is facing a greater challenge. His business and client base focuses on social gatherings. It is predominantly male and the pressure to drink and be one of the group is intense. He doesn’t like it, I don’t like the after effects on him and as he ages, it takes longer to recover. All very good reasons to stop, and yet, the pursuit of business seems to require joining in. I have asked him what tactics alcoholics employ, as certainly, there must be many of them in his line of work, however, he really feels that being part of the group is a key aspect to his success. It is definitely a work in progress for him while I feel I have turned the corner on this challenge. I love wine and champagne, but I can easily see myself only having a celebratory glass, very occasionally, going forward.

    • I haven’t really spelled it out but dirty old men, with beery/winey/whisky breath, combined with pipe, cigar or cigarette smells, often tried to kiss or cuddle me as a child, and the association is horrible, even today. The smell; the sloppy salivary wetness; the over firm embrace; the close up misty eyes; these men were disgusting and trying to take advantage of a polite young girl. The alcoholic loss of self control enabled their predatory behaviour.

      • Isn’t it funny how we never quite get over the things that scarred us a youngsters no matter how much we rationalize, go to therapy or try to ignore. It has been many years since I was forced to endure unwanted attention and still, the thought of it makes my skin crawl and gives me a queasy stomach. Alcohol was definitely a factor in these attentions.

      • I sense I’m having a visceral reaction to this description. Repulsive! I’m so sorry you had to endure it.

  34. Great post Kate! I gave up drinking at 26 and haven’t regretted it for a minute! I have had the odd drink here and there, but just don’t enjoy it (except Tasmanian sloe gin!). I get all the same reactions as you’ve had, and have come to know a lot of secrets about people when they’re drunk and I’m not. I have found that if I say no to alcohol I may not be offered water, which is my preference. So strange. I find it concerning that people need alcohol to enjoy themselves, and always say that I can get quite giddy on water. I’m pleased that I am not alone.

  35. Hi Kate,

    Great post. I haven’t given up drinking (just come back from an incredibly boozy few days on Islay!), I just don’t drink very much any more! It seems to me that beer is seen as some kind of “elixir of masculinity” and the more you drink the more of a man you are. Indeed on a night out last year I found myself having to defend why I was only having a drink every other round and not keeping pace with the pints. The days when I used to drink 5-10 pints of an evening seem a distant memory and I feel all the better for it. Prefer a glass of red these days anyway!!

  36. Hello Kate, I’ve enjoyed reading your post and all the comments below it.
    I like a G&T and a good glass of wine when I am out but happy to stop at one or two. I find that having young children just doesn’t go with the morning after feeling!
    Luckily my other half is the same. He used to DJ with late nights and drinking but was happy when he gave it all up.
    We don’t drink at home anymore unless we have visitors as it was the thing to do if I wanted to cut down on the grocery bill. I’m entering my late 40’s and as you have mentioned, want to stay healthy as long as possible. If I do drink it upsets my sleep and it really shows in my face the next morning!

  37. Having been married to an alcoholic professional for 21 years, the verbal abuse finally got to me and I left. For years I was chided for not wanting to drink more and more to “catch up” with his level of drinking and to be more the life of the party and say things I would regret in the morning. He is still drinking and insulting people and will never stop. Alcohol gave him permission to abuse and accuse and just be stupid. I will have an occasional drink after a hard day of bridal challenges but ice tea and diet Pepsi usually are the first choice. We do live in a society where booze is expected for all gatherings and yoiu are marked as a weird-o if you don’t partake…stick to your guns, Kate, saving money and restoring health means everything!

  38. I had a spell between last December and April when I was medically unable to drink alcohol. My main problem during that time was that most alcohol free drinks were too sweet – or there was a very limited choice. Not terribly driver or non drinker friendly. Since then I have found my tolerance for alcohol much lower – not only in its inebriating qualities but it upsets my system harder and for longer than before. I was pretty horrified at some peoples reactions to my refusal of alcohol. A non specific medical muttering works far better for me than trying to justify my decision any other way. But why should we need to?
    Thanks for a thought provoking post.

  39. What an interesting post and comments. I don’t drink much; I just don’t think of it unless I’m out of the house, generally at a family gathering. However, your list of reasons for abstaining is compelling. I’m appalled that people can’t take “no thank you” for an answer. Thank you for another mouthful post.

  40. i drink very very occasionally now, and you are right -I always feel that i have to justify why I am not drinking. I hadn’t noticed that before. I will however partake of a cocktail!

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