Welcome to my meanderings about life without alcohol and why I’ve found that the past few months without it have been a positive thing for my mental wellbeing re: my anxiety and awareness of the prevalence of assault in modern society. All the fun things….
Since taking medication, I’ve been unable to drink alcohol. There is a giant label on my medication boxes that say ‘DO NOT CONSUME ALCOHOL WHEN TAKING THIS’, or words to that effect.
“Oh my gawd, how do you have fun?!” some may say. Not that anyone has actually said that, I should add, but there is often the perception that when you’re on a night out, alcohol is a necessity for you to enjoy it. The thing I’ve realised over the past few months is that actually, it isn’t.
There have been 4 occasions thus far where I have been ‘the t-total one’. I’m not going to lie, the first non-alcoholic night out I had was a bit rubbish. It was campaigns week. I didn’t want to be there at all, but the nature of that week was such that you could feel like “well they’re doing it so that means I have to too” (not the case, in hindsight). But every other occasion where I’ve been ‘the one who’s not drinking’ have been, shock horror, just as fun as if I had been drinking.
The prime example of this was when I was home over Easter, and went out one night for a friend’s 22nd birthday. It was, without question, one of the best nights out I’ve had by far, and that wasn’t just because I was wearing sensible shoes rather than the towering high heels which not only get taken out for the occasional wedding or fancy event where ‘social convention’ gets the better of me.
I enjoyed that night out because I can remember it all. That’s not to say I’ve ever actually forgotten large chunks of a night out. I guess a better way of phrasing it would be to say that I wasn’t having that hazy feeling that alcohol tends to be accompanied with that makes you stop caring about things as much, or which in my case, makes me feel like I’m not completely in control because my brain isn’t thinking straight.
My friends, to put it bluntly, are flipping gorgeous, and alongside being lovely and friendly to people, it is almost guaranteed that at some point during the night we (well, they) will end up chatting to guys who decide to plonk themselves down on the seats next to us. Given my history with a certain (seemingly) intoxicated male stranger, I don’t think I would be blamed for feeling slightly uneasy in these situations.
Well, on said night out, in the second bar of the evening (side note: not being able to drink and going to one of the best cocktail bars out there is the one major downside of the t-total lifestyle), some guys came and started chatting. In the past this has made me feel uncomfortable. It’s a mixture of me being a generally awkward person, the niggling feeling of ‘well you were attacked once….’ and also the fear that it could happen to my friends, because I would never want them to go through the mental torment and fear that I did. So normally I’m defensive. This time I wasn’t though, and I put that down to the one difference this night and all other previous nights out have had – my lack of alcohol consumption.
A while ago, I shared a piece written by Caitlyn Moran, and I think something that she said sums up why I was far more relaxed on a t-total night out.
“Try to imagine, for a moment, what it’s like to live on a planet where half the people on it are just…bigger than you. We are smaller, and softer, and we cannot run as fast as men. We know you can grab us, and we would struggle to get away. We know if you hit us, we’ll go down. We know if you decide to kill us, there’s not much we can do.”
There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. There are women who would win in a fight against a man. But for many women that isn’t the case, like me.
Men are strong. They are bigger than most women and, as I have learnt, can take control of you against your will. When drinking alcohol, I am implicitly aware that any ability I may have to fight back is diminished. I struggled to fight back in the past when I was sober…imagine if I had been drunk.
That’s not to say I think that’s what all men are like. I think the chances of my (or any of my friends) being attacked are statistically quite slim. But it seems that it’s still quietly there in a nook in my brain, a defensive reflex telling me to be on my guard at all times and which alcohol appears to heighten.
I think I cope better when I’m sober. I think I’m a nicer person. Intoxicated Spoh can be a bit unstable (I’ll normally cry at some point). Whilst it’s quite likely I’ll be able to drink alcohol again some day (medication isn’t necessary forever), I’ve realised when it comes to looking after my mental wellbeing, to reducing that anxious state that I often find myself in, getting absolutely bladdered probably isn’t the best thing.
P.S. If anyone knows of anywhere that does decent mocktails I will forever be in your debt. So far the only place I’ve found is Jamie’s Italian (see picture).