A recent topic of conversation on Soberistas.com has been about the embarrassment that some people feel regarding ‘coming out’ as a teetotaller, and it’s something that I have been thinking about over the last few days as a result. We live in a society that is heavily weighted in favour of alcohol as our preferred drug of choice, but also one that shuns those who are not ‘able to handle it.’ Those referred to as ‘alcoholics’ are often pitied, excluded and frowned upon for their apparent weakness and inherent inability to just have a drink with the rest of us and not cause trouble, for themselves or for us.
It is similar for those who are overweight; we as a society tend to consider them at fault for not being able to just put the lid on the biscuit tin. It is fine for ‘us’ to indulge in pizzas and cakes, chips and pasties because we know where to draw the line, but for those who continue to gorge themselves and who are subsequently obese, well, they have no one to blame but themselves.
Jason Vale, in his book ‘Kick the Drink…Easily!’ (of which everyone at Soberistas is now very familiar!), makes the point that other drinkers are the drinks industry’s best advertisers. Even a drinker who is on a short sabbatical due to antibiotics or pregnancy gets it in the ear as to why they are turning down an alcoholic beverage – ‘Oh you poor thing, never mind – only nine months and then we can go out and get hammered again,’ or ‘Oh no, how long have you got to take them for? Ooh, two weeks without a beer – nightmare!’
Why? Why has it become so abhorrent to society in general that some of us may choose to live our lives fully present? Is it so ridiculous that to some, their weekend may not revolve around stupidity, embarrassment, falling over, hangovers and a multitude of regrettable incidents?
I remember how I viewed those who abstained from booze when I was a drinker. Killjoys, frumpy, boring, party poopers; I would not have wanted to spend my time at a party or in the pub with a teetotaller, simply because their presence would have highlighted my weakness, my addiction. I gravitated towards those who were equally happy getting sloshed and whose idea of fun was staggering around and talking rubbish.
Perhaps it is the case that for heavy drinkers who are out to get pissed, teetotallers are their idea of the party guest from hell. But would we, as teetotallers, want to endure their company anyway? Listening to a boring, self-interested drunken idiot is my idea of hell – drunk people do not make good company to those who are with it enough to notice what they are talking about, and drunk people love being with other drunk people simply because it helps them to justify their own excessive drinking. And, of course, they are on the same wavelength; that is a very short, immature and inane one.
It is perhaps unrealistic to imagine that people who are stone cold sober and those who are absolutely out of it can get along together and have a merry old time. But then again, who would want to hang out with a heroin addict who had just shot up a load of top whack smack? But there are plenty of people who drink alcohol who do not get completely off their heads and I do think for them, it is inconsequential whether or not the person they are talking to is sober or not. And given the choice of the version of me drunk or sober, I know which one I would prefer to talk to (and it wouldn’t be the one who was slurring her words, wobbling about and flirting outrageously with every bloke in the room).
For every person who is brave enough to pour away their last bottle of wine and come to the healthy and happy choice to be sober, one more step is taken towards making teetotal living more normal, more acceptable; for every person who is strong enough to take a sober stand in this alcohol-fuelled society that we inhabit, we are building a viable alternative to the standard idea of ‘a good time.’ One day, in the not-too-distant future, I hope that it will be considered rather odd to head off to the pub on a Saturday night, spend a ton of money on a liquid that will annihilate your short-term memory, act in ways that you would never act when sober, and then as a result, waste your entire Sunday in bed with a hangover.