About half a year ago I thought to myself, I don’t actually enjoy drinking anymore. I wasn’t an alcoholic or using alcohol to drown my sorrows, I just lost interest in getting drunk, not to mention the hangovers. When I first heard that hangovers get worse as you got older, I assumed they would just last longer. And they do. But I never thought that every hangover would leave me with this convincing feeling of having been poisoned. It’s normal to wake up with a pounding head and say to yourself, I’m never drinking again. It’s another thing to go away and ask yourself – like, really ask yourself – is this actually worth it?
So, why do people drink?
Forgetting Your Troubles
Being drunk helps you to forget about any worries that you have. When you’re drunk you don’t care – or at least, you care a lot less – about problems at home, work or in your relationships. Although if you end up relying on alcohol as a means of escape, then this may just create more trouble for you.
Drinking makes it easier to feel comfortable in social situations. It also makes you more likely to forget how terrible you are at ‘dancing’ and you don’t give a shit what your legs and arms end up doing. Maybe this is why the British are such heavy drinkers. We’re kind of known to be quite repressed and reserved when sober. There is also a high level of binge drinking in Finland, where people are stereotyped as being shy and introverted.
I guess I had pretty much relied on alcohol as a social lubricant. There came a point, though, when I realised it wasn’t necessary. Being drunk didn’t actually make me more sociable than being sober. It does help with dancing though, as well as saying and doing stupid shit – no doubt about it.
Working in the city can be stressful. After five days of grinding away in an office, meeting deadlines and commuting on awkwardly cramped buses and trains, you just want to unwind. Drinking does exactly that. For me personally, I just stopped enjoying the feeling of being drunk. It was no longer that relaxing or fun; at least, not enough to justify how I would feel the next day.
“I just can’t be dealing with hangovers anymore”
I can’t stand waking up feeling ill, exhausted and unable to do anything the day after drinking. But what was worse than that horrible, shitty feeling in my body the next morning was how I felt mentally. I would wake up with far more anxiety and a general negative way of thinking. Sometimes I would feel this way when I was drunk as well, instead of feeling buzzed or merry like I used to. Hangover anxiety is a real thing. And while people with depression may use alcohol to self-medicate, it can make the condition worse.
The problem is, the UK is a binge-drinking nation. Brits are infamous for travelling to cheap European cities, getting wasted and behaving badly. However, whilst a survey from the Financial Times found that young people are the worst binge-drinkers, it also showed that more young people are giving up drinking; a fifth of under-25s are now teetotal. It’s not clear what’s driving this trend. Maybe it’s because following a ‘clean’ and healthy lifestyle is a bit of a social media obsession. ‘Mindful drinking’ is on the rise, with more bars and pubs now offering a range of non-alcoholic drinks. 5 million people signed up to Dry January this year, which might be due to people in general being more concerned about their physical and mental health.
Other than your personal health, one of the biggest benefits of cutting down on drinking, or even quitting altogether, is the amount of cash you’ll save. If you live in London, it’s pretty standard to pay £5 or more for a pint. On a night out, that’s really going to add up. You want to get as drunk as possible on as tight a budget as you can, but this is still costly.
If you want to say goodbye to alcohol, it may be difficult in the summer as it’s the time for day drinking and festivals. So be realistic. Maybe you don’t succeed at going teetotal, but still, putting the effort into drinking mindfully can be a step in the right direction. Also, maybe festivals can be an exception. A festival is a better excuse to get drunk than a typical night on the town.