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My On-Off Relationship With Alcohol

Source: Turntable Health

Source: Turntable Health

Jodie discussing booze culture and whether you need to be drunk to have a good time.

When I’m out, I’ll usually have one or two drinks maximum, then switch to something non-alcoholic.

The 2011 Bristol Census found that 8.3% of the city’s total population are full-time students (not including those who study part-time or young people who aren’t studying). When you think of students, the stereotype is that they love nothing more than going out most nights to party, which always involves drinking copious amounts of alcohol. However, this isn’t the case for everyone.

When I’m out, I’ll usually have one or two drinks maximum, then switch to something non-alcoholic. Often people will ask me why I’m not drinking and if I say, ‘I’m just not a big fan of alcohol’, or even ‘I’ve had enough for tonight’, they’ll reply back, ‘You just haven’t drunk enough yet’. After it kept happening on night outs, I wondered to myself, ‘why is there so much pressure to drink?’

I was interested to find out what other young people around me felt about drinking, so I asked my friends why they drank or why they didn’t. It was around a 60/40 split, with the majority saying they drank to make them happy, have fun and escape reality (to quote one, ‘because no good story started with eating a salad’.) The others who didn’t enjoy drinking explained that they simply didn’t like the taste of alcohol, or didn’t like the vulnerability that comes with being drunk. Another didn’t like that a person’s dignity and common sense is lost when they’re drunk.

One person interestingly said that they drink because it’s the social norm and they feel like the odd one out if everyone else is drinking but they’re not. This answer really struck a chord with me and made me think.

One person interestingly said that they drink because it’s the social norm…

When I was younger, around 15-17, I started going to parties where there was alcohol involved. Alcopops were passed round and my peers were excited to have their first experiences of being drunk. I was more hesitant and would have been happy just sticking with a coke, but I joined in anyway as I didn’t want to seem boring. I noticed that at the end of the night, I’d always be feeling sad and down but couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

When I hit 18 and was legally able to buy alcohol myself, I rarely felt the need to but started feeling more like drinking was expected of me. We went out to bars regularly, where I wanted to stop after one drink, but didn’t want to seem like the odd one out as everyone else went back to the bar for the next round. People would sometimes laugh at me when I went to get a glass of water instead. I wondered why it was funny that I wanted to stop myself from going overboard. As I drank more, I enjoyed myself less and less.

In a culture where drinking is a huge part of socialising, not enjoying it can make you feel extremely left out, or like you’re not having as much fun. It’s not that I hate alcohol, will never drink anything, or even want to shame people who do like to drink, I’ve just realised over the years that the more I drink, the more I turn into a pretty rubbish person. It makes me feel sad, sleepy, cynical and sick. I’m also usually that person on the night out that ends up crying about something.

As I drank more, I enjoyed myself less and less.

I still want to go out and enjoy myself, and there have been some great times where I haven’t had a drop of alcohol. And now I’m living in Bristol, where there is such a varied, interesting nightlife, it would be a shame to miss out. Alcohol is a depressant, and I’m learning to accept that it definitely has that effect on me. No matter how much more I try to drink, that isn’t going to change. So sure, I’ll still have a glass of Buck’s Fizz on Christmas day, a cocktail or a single Archers and lemonade, but the idea of drink after drink after drink just doesn’t interest me.

And that’s okay.

If you need free and confidential support and advice around alcohol and drug use, get in touch with Bristol Drugs Project