‘You’ve never thrown up from too much alcohol?’ Comes the often-appalled response of my peers when I tell them of my mediocre drinking habits. ‘Oh we sooooo need to get you absolutely wasted sometime’.
No. No you don’t.
I’ve never understood why it’s so comment-worthy that I’ve never spent an evening crouched over a club toilet while a friend holds back my hair. I don’t see why that’s an experience I should be adding to my bucket list.
Drinking culture, particularly among young adults, is an extremely broad spectrum. On the one end, you have the binge drinkers, those who ‘go hard’ on night’s out and then spend the entirety of the next day struggling with a colossal hangover. On the other end, you have the teetotallers, those who never drink at all. These people often – but not exclusively – sit smugly nursing their orange juices whilst telling anyone who will listen that they ‘don’t need alcohol to have a good time’.
And then there are people like me.
I’m not teetotal… I like an occasional glass of prosecco or a fancy fruity cocktail. I’ll maybe grab a bottle of cider when curling up to watch a film. But I’d be surprised if my monthly alcohol expenses surpassed more than £30.
And I feel like, for some strange reason, it is much more socially acceptable to be a binge drinker or a teetotaller than it is many of the things in between. It’s almost as though you’re ripe for conversion, with members of each side hoping to persuade you to their system of consumption. When a teetotaller turns down a drink, no-one really blinks an eye, but when a minimal drinker expresses a preference to a Diet Coke over a Budweiser, their motives are suddenly thrown into question.
According to AlcoholConcern.org, more than 9 million people in England drink more than the recommended daily limits, which is approximately 20% of the country’s adult population. A similar proportion of the population don’t drink at all. Minimal drinkers are, therefore, in the majority… so why are we still such a surprise to those whose habits differ from our own?
I guess the point that I am making in writing this is that society in general needs to shift its ‘black or white’ perception of alcohol. The situation is more ‘50 shades of grey’ (only with less questionable sex with domineering billionaires).
Alcohol isn’t singularly good or evil. I don’t believe that it’s a poison that should be removed from our shelves without a second thought. But nor do I believe that every social situation absolutely necessitates its inclusion, particularly not by those who recklessly ignore its potential for health damage.
In school, you are taught so much about the physical impact of drinking. You are shown diagrams of what it does to your liver and made to watch harrowingly traumatic videos about the dangers of drink-driving. I do not dispute that these are necessary. I just think more should be discussed about the relationship between alcohol and socialising.
By opening up more of a dialogue about drinking, hopefully we can come to a society that realises that everyone sits at very different points on the drinking spectrum. That way, everyone will be at liberty to partake in social drinking as much – or as little – as they choose.
Sources: Office For National Statistics, Alcohol Concern.