I think we live in a topsy-turvy world, where it is seen as more normal to want to drink yourself into oblivion than it is to lead a healthy, alcohol-free life in which you are in control of your body and mind. On a daily basis, we are surrounded by messages of endorsement for a seriously mind-altering substance – one that is responsible for the deaths of 3.3 million people worldwide every year. We are bombarded by a collective validation for this addictive drug, the consumption of which is a causal factor in more than two hundred disease and injury conditions.
And bizarrely, we often find that when we choose to opt out of the merry-go-round of alcohol misuse, we are considered to be boring, ill or someone to pity. It is not always the case, of course, but there exists a great deal of stigma and hypocrisy when it comes to the way people in the West approach the issue of drinking and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, sobriety.
Until I ended up in hospital because of the amount of booze I consumed one night in April 2011, I lived a life that I would describe as one of a binge drinker. On many occasions I despised myself because of something I had said or done when under the influence; there were too many times when I lay alone in the dark considering suicide as a result of the depressive effects of alcohol. But I never regarded myself as someone to feel sorry for – I wasn’t a victim. I was simply unaware that my life would be vastly improved if I omitted alcohol from it. I couldn’t see the wood for the trees – there was no clarity, no understanding that I was, in reality, creating all of the problems in my life because I got drunk so frequently.
I firmly believe in an alcohol-free life now. It’s a way of being that has brought me nothing but positives, and one that has simultaneously eradicated much of the crap that dragged me down so relentlessly for years. I remember a boy at my secondary school who used to wear a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan, ‘Drinking won’t solve my problems. But it will give me lots of interesting new ones’. Oh the wit! That carefree and innocent perspective of this substance that most people share in their teens was one that I most definitely held – although one that very gradually became replaced with a great deal of wariness and, eventually, fear.
Many people will remain forever in denial that they actually have a problem with alcohol. For every regret-filled morning when with head throbbing, promises will be made to never drink again, there will be an untold number of nights of throwing caution to the wind and an abject refusal to accept that it is not really ok to be drinking to the point of blacking out. And on and on the negative cycle will turn, never to be broken.
But equally, many people are, I believe, now beginning to question this alcohol-fuelled existence as normal. They are pondering whether life without hangovers and booze-induced problems in their relationships and at work might be better, easier. I believe there is a wave building, a revolt against the mass acceptance we have all grown up with, of binge drinking and its place in society as an inherent element of everyday life.
Christmas and New Year’s Eve are times of the year when alcohol features even more prominently than usual – it can feel isolating and challenging to be a non-drinker in the midst of such widespread festive applause for booze. But there are far more people than many would imagine who are happily getting on with things minus any alcohol, and who aren’t missing it that much, if at all. I am one of those people. I couldn’t be happier than right now, free from the shackles that held me prisoner for so long and which turned me into someone I wasn’t – a loud, overbearing and self-centred person with a shallow existence and a multitude of regrets keeping me awake at night.
The more people who continue to turn their backs on booze, the more normal the teetotaller will become. I hope that in 2015 we will witness a big increase in the number of non-drinkers proudly emerging, and that as an expanding group in society we can make the case heard even louder for a life that’s lived in control, healthily and happily.
Happy New Year! Lucy x