There’s probably very few people left (especially in my generation - GenZ!) that prefer a brew over booze… guilty! Across society, alcohol is a commonality - something we can all relate to. Whether it’s something to get us bubbly and chatty ready for a social event, or something we bond with our friends over at the pub, it’s seen as a key element of having fun.
For those of us who don’t drink, it’s often met with a raised eyebrow or an enthusiastic ‘come on, have one!’, because it really is so normalised. A common misconception, a bit too common for my liking, is that alcohol is needed to enjoy any social event, or to let loose and have fun.
Oh, by the way - Cara here, Social and Media Manager at Beingwell.
I used to love a drink - and I’ll still indulge in a nice glass of wine on Christmas Eve, and I’m definitely not afraid of a tropical cocktail on the odd Saturday night out.
However, after thinking long and hard about my experience with alcohol, I decided it’s not something I would like to do very often. And unfortunately - that has been proven quite difficult with the societal pressures around alcohol!
I had my few shameful alcoholic stories - just like the rest of us I’m sure! Yes, we’ve all been there. Hugging the toilet bowl and regretting every last drop of sangria we’ve inhaled that evening.
That’s not really what bothered me, though maybe it should have! We all make those mistakes, and learn from them, right? So from then on, I learned what my line was with alcohol and made sure I wouldn’t cross it, so I could still enjoy a drink without taking things too far (or to the point of ruining the night with an unfortunate added charge to the taxi ride home).
Something that I really enjoyed about drinking alcohol was the confidence it gave me - in a good way, don’t fret. I could talk to anybody, and I wasn’t internally criticising every word that came out of my mouth.
I suffer with anxiety, and so my inner dialogue is a constant stream of self-deprecating thoughts, judgement and a whole lot of worries.
When I was drinking however, this just disappeared like it was never even there to begin with.
It was brilliant! I made lots of friends, had interesting conversations and didn’t hate myself.
That was, until the next morning.
Oh yes, the hangxiety - something we’re probably all familiar with to some extent, but let me explain the concept in case you’re unsure.
This statement in The Guardian sums it up very nicely:
You may feel you deserve an alcoholic beverage after toughing it out all month – but have you forgotten what it feels like to wake up haunted by worries about what you said or did the night before? These post-drinking feelings of guilt and stress have come to be known colloquially as “hangxiety”.
I would wake up after a pleasant evening of drinking with the fear that I’ve made an absolute fool of myself. To the point where, as someone who already suffers with severe anxiety, I didn’t want to leave my bed - let alone the house!
I’d be paralysed for days. Hiding under my duvet trying to ignore the feelings of shame and guilt that I’d spoken or shared too much whilst under the influence.
Looking back, I’m pretty sure anyone I did interact with either a) didn’t mind my chit-chat, b) had forgotten all about it, or c) were too drunk to even realise I was talking! But in that moment of hangxiety, nothing can convince me that I’m not the world’s biggest idiot.
It’s a horrible, horrible feeling. But weighing it up next to that sack of confidence I gained when drinking, I kept doing it to myself - until enough was enough.
I put my theory to the test and went out with friends and decided to drive - the only seemingly valid excuse considering it wasn’t met with funny looks from peers.
As everyone else had had a drink or two, I felt quite confident anyway knowing that I wasn’t going to wake up feeling completely and utterly embarrassed of myself. Turns out, the ‘fake it till you make it’ approach really can work!
I found I had convinced myself I needed alcohol to have fun, or be fun - someone who can talk to anyone about anything. Oh, how wrong I was.
Enough of me, anyway.
If you’re someone who can relate to my story even a little bit, try weighing up the pros and cons of drinking for you personally. We all know alcohol isn’t a healthy option, and can be quite damaging to not only our physical health but our mental health too.
Understandably, it’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘I’ll have one’, and 4 drinks later your back hugging your old pal, the toilet.
So, here’s some things I’d like to remind you of:
You do not have to drink to have fun. When we drink alcohol to bring out the extrovert in us, all we're doing is using a substance to bring out what's already there. We don't need the substance for that, but we might need to dig deep to pull the banter, dance moves and good chat out. Rather than pour yourself a wine, try to channel your inner extrovert (in your way) while getting ready for a do.
You do not need to make up excuses as to why you’re not drinking. Following on from the above point, if someone makes you feel bad or guilty for not drinking, or tries to pressure you into having a drink, that is not okay. And you do not have to stay in that environment. You don’t need to lie about why you’re not drinking, or even give an excuse if you don’t want to! ‘No thanks’ should be more than enough, and if it’s not - you may want to consider who you’re spending your time with!
Quick tip: I always like to drive whenever I go out and know there’s going to be alcohol, especially if I’m making the conscious choice not to drink. I don’t use it as an excuse anymore, but it means if I am pressured into drinking, I feel uncomfortable, or I’m straight up just not having a good time, I can go whenever I want. I don’t have to feel like I need to stay to the end or wait for a train, taxi or lift home.
There are plenty of non-alcoholic options available. If you’re anything like me, you might be rolling your eyes at this one. I would never opt for a mocktail over a cocktail. But actually, when I realised a drink can be enjoyable without making you a bit tipsy, I found there are so many lovely alternatives. Here’s a recipe from Beingwell’s Life Coach Grace McMahon - and former cocktail bar manager - for a delicious mocktail for you to try this autumn:
2oz apple juice
1oz lemon juice
1oz black tea
0.5oz maple syrup
Fresh shaved nutmeg
Serves 1, but double, triple, quadruple quantities for guests too!
Brew the black tea, add a pinch of cinnamon here to help it dissolve. While it’s cooling, add the apple and lemon juice to a tin or pitcher (if making more than one), and the maple syrup. Now add the black tea and ice to shake (or stir). Sprinkle another pinch of cinnamon, serve in a short glass with ice and shaved nutmeg over the top for a festively fragrant garnish.
Final note: There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of if you would rather not drink alcohol or if you would. Balance is key here - if you enjoy it, have it! Be aware of your boundaries, and don’t be afraid to enforce them. You know when enough is enough. There is no requirement for you to drink. And trust me, there’s nothing better than warming up with a nice warm cuppa and a biscuit - no alcoholic beverage comes close in my opinion!