A Totally Teetotal Twenty Twenty-Two

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Writing for the Leither is a mysterious thing. Us writers know an approximate publication date, but have no idea of what the other writers will cover. For instance, I’m wondering whether earlier in this issue you may have read about Sally Fraser’s first year anniversary of kicking the booze. Maybe Sally has written about something else, but I know from the powers of social media that she’s been alcohol-free for a year and celebrated with a Coke and takeaway.

For it was Sally’s post-lockdown column mentioning her relationship with alcohol that got me thinking about having another booze-free year. Old-time readers may recall this very column a decade ago, about having 2012 off alcohol. It was a very good year, and resulted in long-term behaviour change.

I dug out the article, it started:

“A year off alcohol. Imagine that. I did, and am in the middle of it. After the launch of my Healthy Living Yearbook last December, I decided it was time to trim down both my waistline and socialising expenses. I was feeling frugal and in need of a good challenge for 2012.

Regular imbibing of ethanol is a peculiarly Scottish attribute. Pretty much every social occasion I have the pleasure of attending is accompanied by the presence of wine. By not drinking at any occasion, I’ve really noticed how prolific and pivotal the presence of alcoholic beverage is.”

No one could foresee a global pandemic pausing all socialising and events, but I know I wasn’t alone when I found my booze intake increasing over lockdown. So thanks to Sally’s article, and the fact it’s 10 years on. I decided to have another ‘dry’ year. I put ‘dry’ in quotation marks, as it’s been anything but. In fact, I’m currently awash with herbal tea. I am anything but dry, I am well-hydrated.

It’s easy not drinking this time around. Not only am I a decade older (nearly 50! eek!), but have also developed a rather enthusiastic gardening habit. In addition, bars and restaurants are catering more to those who eschew alcohol. My teetotal twenty twelve article was a moan about the lack of soft options in Leith bars and restaurants.

Edinburgh’s port is slowly changing its stripes and even fine dining restaurants have a selection of alcohol-free options. Weirdly, fancy restaurants used to be the worst, the waiters giving you dirty looks if you didn’t opt for the profit-making wine list.

I congratulate the kids who are drinking less and less booze. Perhaps because it’s so expensive, perhaps because many influencers abstain, perhaps because young folk find it boring. Anyhow, I am happy to follow them on this one.

And, where influencers go the hospitality industry follow.

There is more support for the ‘sober curious’, instead of feeling like an outlier not drinking has become more mainstream. When there’s support, it’s easier to achieve your goals. So I’d like to share my top resources with you.

Club Soda (ww.joinclubsoda.com) helps you live well by being more mindful about drinking. Whether you want to cut down, take a break, or stop drinking altogether.

The Alcohol Change app Try Dry: Get virtual confetti for every dry day, and collect badges for fun. Incentivisation at its best.

The Unexpected Joys of Being Sober by Catherine Gray. I love this book, it was an outlier when I first read it but is now a best seller. Which goes to show how many people are thinking about not drinking. Gray has followed up with Sunshine Warm Sober an upbeat play on ‘stone cold sober’.

Part of becoming a soberista is acknowledging that alcohol is not working for you. And at the moment I’m proud to not be like our Prime Minister - for me, not only is it personal, but political too. Break free of social norms and enjoy every morning.

And finally, the book that transformed how I looked at personal choice: Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol by H. ‘We live in a world obsessed with drinking. We drink at work events, lunches, book clubs and weddings. Yet no one ever questions alcohol’s ubiquity. In fact, the only thing ever questioned is why people don’t drink. It is a qualifier for belonging’.

Rather than focussing on what’s missing, consider the positives. Clear skin, more energy, less tummy, better mood and memory, and that’s only the beginning. It doesn’t make difficulties disappear, but it can change how you cope with setbacks.

If you are struggling with alcohol try talking to someone, or seek professional help. Surround yourself with people who prefer cups of tea, and recognise ‘trouble’ spots. Your family and close friends may not be able to offer the best support. Some people find it challenging that you want to reject the foundation on which their social life is lubricated.

For me, getting through Friday evenings was the trickiest. So I started a new weekend habit with a bath and a book, listening to the radio. Sheer bliss…

Today there is an abundance of what is termed Quit Lit, so get reading, get thinking, get drinking less.

I dare you.

Next issue: I will be taste testing 0% abv drinks and which 0% red wine is actually drinkable. ■

Twitter: @tracygriffen

Info: getfitandenjoyit.com, drinkaware.co.uk

Holly Whitaker’s manifesto

The only thing ever questioned is why people don’t drink, it’s a qualifier for belonging

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