Drinking and having fun have been culturally intertwined since man discovered how to ferment alcohol. Romans ate and drank so excessively together that they created the Vomitarium - an actual room to be sick in. Social occasions seem to run more smoothly with a drop of alcohol to lubricate proceedings, and hosts are often judged by their ability to provide a never - ending supply. We know key social celebrations in many cultures are built around wine and song - we raise toasts and the beginnings and ends of life. Alcohol companies spend billions on ads showing us beautiful people laughing and drinking together and how much you can drink is often directly linked to status. It is no surprise that we struggle to see where fun stops and alcohol starts.
Yet the fun has a downside that is well documented in healthcare journals. Alcohol is a factor in xxx deaths as well as contributing to major diseases, innumerable breakups and family misery. Over 50,000 each year seek help from their GP for their drinking in the UK.
Even though we know about the downsides, we still love the drink. One reason why life can feel more fun with a glass in our hand is that alcohol reduces our inhibitions. It makes us feel funnier and more confident, it helps take the edge off anxiety and steel the nerves. Which is fine if you can take it or leave it, but for many of us, moderation is not an option on our menu. One of the reasons many people continue to drink too much is that they think that the drink-free version of themselves will shine less brightly and be less fun. In practice the reverse is true but some re-framing is required.
However, if you fear fun-loss, here are 5 reasons why drinking less won’t feel like a bad call:
Yes for those few minutes at the beginning of an evening when you get the buzz, alcohol can feel like the fun starter. But booze-filled nights tend to follow the same pattern. They start with giddy positivity, before lurching into shouting but not listening and repeating yourself. Then it doesn't take much to accelerate into arguments, over-reactions and even violence, before the stagger begins into clubs and cabs, being sick on buses and in laybys. Followed by 24 hour hours of toxicity and self loathing. Is all this worth that 30 mins of fun?
When you overdo it, you can often end up not being able to remember what happened the night before (or worse wishing you couldn’t remember...). Going out and staying sober means you can remember the good stuff and tiptoe around the rest without getting your shoes dirty.
Ask then when they are sober and very few people expect to drink-drive or get into a fight. But alcohol changes our choices and rarely for the better. Alcohol increases your likelihood of risk-taking and affects your judgement around those risks. Whilst things can go wrong at any time, there is a correlation between the people in A&E on a Saturday night and excessive drinking. Anyone visiting the Emergency room on a weekend evening with a genuine medical condition is often confronted with hoards of incoherent, abusive refugees from the local drinking establishments.
Alcohol is a toxin. We know this and drink it anyway. But excess alcohol poisons your body, and leaves you able to do nothing but lie on the sofa, moan and eat toast. Going to work on a hangover is too horrific to think about. Being sober means saying goodbye to the headaches, the sweats and the smell of booze coming out of your pores. Nothing boring about that. The crushing anxiety and guilt that follows a hard night, is your body’s response to having a depressant forced on it. Over the course of the following day, the craving begins (all addictive substances create cravings which can only be satisfied by their creators) which also manifests itself as anxiety. The best intentions of the morning after start to ebb away quickly when the sense that a drink will make things feel better really ramps up. Which it does - for a while. The cruel irony is that the need to drink is driven by the behaviour of yesterday, and non-drinkers don’t experience this.
The fact is that you don’t need alcohol to be fun. You are fun anyway. Without booze, you might not be as loud, or as pushy, or as dominant, but that might be a good thing. Alcohol is so mixed up with the good times that we struggle to see what it brings to the party. And the answer is chaos.
If you can see the upside in being sober, you are more likely to embrace them. Culture has told us for so long that we are better and brighter squiffy than sober, but the stats don’t lie. Booze might be a party starter, but it rarely provides a glossy finish. The confidence you sought from alcohol was probably born of the desire to not embarrass or make a fool of yourself. And how did that turn out?! Life is interesting enough, don’t let alcohol tell you that it is the fun when actually the fun is in each and every one of us
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