Is The Party Over - Are We All Going Sober?
The Debrief: Daisy Buchanan has tried to do a sober month before... the only difference is this time round everyone else is joining in. Are we all ditching the booze?
This time last year, I was preparing to quit booze for a bit and Go Sober For October. I didn’t ask anyone to sponsor me, because once you start demanding money for not doing something it can get out of hand. (‘I haven’t touched my laundry basket for three weeks! Gizza fiver!’) I donated the cash I saved to a charity I support, and I made some close friends aware of the fact that I would be on the lime and sodas for the forseeable and they weren’t to tempt me with the phrase ‘Shall we just get a bottle?’
Most were not pleased. ‘It’s a good thing to do, well done, but, um, you will drink tonight, won’t you? See, there’s an offer on rosé!’ was the nicest response I got. I didn’t want to be smug, I just wanted to give my body a bit of a break, but everyone heard it as a coded message of judgement. ‘You are a big pisshead! And you don’t even want to know what these crisps are doing to your arteries!’
In spite of this, I gave sobriety another go six weeks ago. The main reason was vanity. If I don’t drink alcohol I lose weight, without having to do anything else at all. With a wedding coming up, and a dress with a zip that wouldn’t meet in the middle, I decided that I didn’t mind being a social pariah for a bit if it made me feel more confident on the big day. More importantly, I struggle with anxiety.
Alcohol is the greatest short-term fix in the world, but it does sometimes make my heart race and leave me feeling as though the world is ending. Also, you can’t be hungover when you’re banging out 16 Geordie Shore pieces a week to pay for all the beige buffet food, and spending every spare moment having conversations with your mum about creative things to do with Ikea glassware and a glue gun.
So I braced myself for the taunts, and knew that every time I walked into a pub and ordered a Virgin Mary, I might hear my friends mutter, ‘Here comes boring old Daisy, fun sponge, thief of joy, purveyor of kale chat.’ But in the last year, something has shifted. I’d start to apologise for my sobriety, and be interrupted with a ‘Me too!’ Or a wistful, ‘I’d really like to do that.’
Was it because I’m now an old lady of 30, and have fewer friends with a fondness for cherry Lambos? I checked in with my little sister Livvy, 25, who reported the same thing. She’s about to have her second Sober October and everyone she knows is much more into the idea second time around. So what’s changed?
More than ever, we’re being encouraged to consider the link between what we put into our bodies and how it makes us feel
I think there’s something significant in the way we’ve all started taking our health much more seriously. This time last year, ‘wellness’ was synonymous in my mind with ‘girls in Fulham with £80 blow drys taking a picture of some leaves on a plate’. Three hundred and sixty five days later, there’s no part of my body that I haven’t tried to anoint with coconut oil.
Jamie Oliver, who more or less became famous as the patron saint of roast potatoes, is now on a crusade with the single goal of getting us all to cut down on sugar.
More than ever, we’re being encouraged to consider the link between what we put into our bodies and how it makes us feel. As we download mindfulness and meditation apps, we’re chewing our food slowly, asking where it comes from, and making links between our emotions and how we’re fuelling ourselves.
In my case, it was only after a few Headspace sessions that I realised I couldn’t eat handfuls of Haribo without experiencing a sugar crash that forced me to rest my head on my desk and weep softly for at least an hour afterwards.
However, it isn’t just cerebral. We’re taking more pictures than ever, we want to look good in them – and most importantly, we want to be in control of what gets posted to Instagram. Following #PigGate, there was talk of 1980s bacchanalian student societies full of beautiful people going wild – and accompanying pictures of frizzy-haired, broken-veined aristocrats looking like a prematurely aged government funded public health warning.
Compare them to the glowing Instagram wellness superstars and pick a team. Even if it’s only vanity that’s making us cut down on the boozing and general hedonism, it might be saving and extending our lives.
Whenever I take a break from booze, I realise it’s not the drinking I love at all, but the feeling of freedom that it brings
According to the Office Of National Statistics, 16-24 year olds are the one group who are, year on year, drinking significantly less. In 2013, 27% described themselves as teetotal, compared with 19% in 2005. The data doesn’t show why people avoid alcohol – many non-drinkers will have religious or health reasons that prohibit them from it. But it’s safe to assume that lots of us are concerned enough about our bodies to start cutting down, if we’re not stopping altogether.
Whenever I take a break from booze, I realise it’s not the drinking I love at all, but the feeling of freedom that it brings, and the moments of connection and bonding. Drunk Me is a twirler, a skipper, a rapper and a hugger. She strikes up conversations in the Ladies (‘I love your lipstick.’ ‘Thank you! Have it! I’ve got more at home!’), she’s impulsively generous when it comes to Jagerbombs for strangers, and she knows every word to every song, at least thinks she does.
She’s also a weeper with no sense of direction who likes to get into taxis with strangers and thinks her nipples need to be ‘aired’ periodically, as if they start to take in their own oxygen after a second bottle of Sauvignon.
Being sober among drunks is delicious, because you can still run down the road singing Mariah Carey songs at the top of your voice and no-one will mind but the police. But you can do this without vomiting, losing your phone, getting lost or waking up feeling as though someone has replaced your blood and organs with a bag of sand. Your Uber rating is safe.
Hopefully, this sober stint will make me better at respecting my body, drinking in moderation and respecting my limits, and learning that if I feel drunk after two drinks, I don’t need to prove I’m not a lightweight by ordering a third. But I’ve started to wonder whether booze is as life-enhancing as I used to believe it was, and whether life might be more fun if I didn’t drink at all.
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Picture: Sophie Davidson
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