It’s that time of the year again – the one time when people bombard me with question after question about how to stay alcohol-free and ask how I’ve managed to do it for years. Where are the best alcohol-free bars? What do you drink instead? Where in London can you buy non-alcoholic beers? Yep – it looks like everyone has decided to give #DryJanurary a go. And as great as that is, there is still a lot of negativity out there pushed towards those who don’t drink all year round.

It’s Not Negative – Regardless of popular opinion.

I’ve written quite a lot in the past about my experiences of what it’s like to give up alcohol, and generally they have always all been positive. Earlier today, however, I read an article from The Pool entitled ‘The Loneliness of the Long-Term Teetotaller’. Being an avid reader of The Pool, I assumed that the title was a play on words or had an ironic twist. What I didn’t expect was to go on to read an article with the clear message that if you give up alcohol then loneliness penned with awkwardness in social situations is the only outcome. It went on to point out that friends will treat you differently, and essentially it’s only you who is holding yourself back so you might as well drink anyway. I finished reading the article feeling patronised and insulted, as someone who doesn’t actually have a choice when it comes to alcohol, I couldn’t believe how negatively the article portrayed not drinking. Not to mention there is a part in there where a colleague essentially spikes her drink, though little is made of this fact.

Aware that it was someone’s own experience, yet also aware that The Pool had universalised that opinion by posting and sharing it, I circulated the article to my friends and colleagues, many of whom are drinkers to see what the general consensus was. None of the feedback I got was positive and everyone had the same thing to say. That the beginning of the article was great as the writer talks about not bowing to peer pressure, but as it continues you realise that its sole intent is to focus on the negatives of not drinking, which is re-iterated at the end when the writer suddenly throws away what she called “empowerment” and in her words “became a drinker”.  The article ends with the conclusion that alcohol really isn’t a big deal and essentially we should just get over it. That’s fine, it was a personal choice for her to start drinking, but what has been completely overlooked is the fact that it’s not a choice for everyone and that glorifying drinking culture in an article about being teetotal is degrading to those who don’t drink. Personally, I feel that not drinking certainly isn’t negative or lonely as the title of that piece suggests.

It’s Actually Pretty Great

Of course, there are going to be negatives, and there will always be people who don’t understand why you have given up something which the general public adopts as part of life. I won’t deny that nights out are a thing of the past, first dates are awful and you can sometimes feel like you are missing out. However, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives, however much you may wish to deny it.

You won’t be lonely, in fact, you’ll feel very connected with your friends. You will just bond over long chats and fun activities as opposed to drunken ramblings and bad dancing. You won’t stop being invited to things and people tend to respect your choice. You will save loads of money (trust me on this) and be able to buy things or go to places that otherwise would have made your purse strings cry out in pain. You won’t have hangovers anymore so you will be more productive, even if productivity for you is re-watching the entire series of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Brooklyn Nine Nine in one day. You will lose weight without trying, and your general health will become better. You will have more energy, your hair and skin will be healthier and you will feel great.

More than anything, though, when you give up alcohol you will start to know yourself a bit better. This I will put down as my personal experience, I became more confident and became not afraid to ask for what I wanted. I understand that everyone’s experience with alcohol is different, some people won’t want to give it up fully and that’s fine. But if you are thinking about giving it up (even if it’s just for this month), please don’t let a negatively biased article, such as the one on The Pool, sway you. Make your own choice and do what works for you.