I disliked being drunk. So I quit at 23
I don’t have a medical condition, and I’m not pregnant. The sober truth is I don’t like drinking. People find that hard to understand
My name is Bridget and I don’t drink alcohol. Uttering this phrase always feels like a dirty little secret. I still socialise in pubs and clubs, nursing a Diet Coke while my friends down pints, spirits and mixers, cocktails and shots. I also still have fun while doing all of this, surrounded by my increasingly drunk friends.
This seems incredible to many people I divulge this information to. As a sober 23-year-old, I’ve been asked by friends as well as people I’ve just met if I’m a recovering alcoholic, religious, pregnant, on antibiotics or other medication that prevents me drinking, or if I have a long-standing medical condition. The truth is far more boring and apparently completely unbelievable: I simply don’t like drinking.
At university, I drank a lot, and I completed a degree. But as I got older, the hangovers got worse and I was no longer able to function as well I once had after a night out. I also realised that being drunk just isn’t fun for me and decided I would feel better if I gave up alcohol completely.
I was drinking because I felt it was what was expected of me to have fun. I dislike losing control of myself and being unable to remember all of my night. Most of all, I just dislike myself as a drunk.
I have found there are many positives to being sober. I save money. A night out for me in Dublin tends to cost about €20 including drinks, food on the way home and a shared cab, whereas a quick straw poll of my friends showed that they tend to spend between €20 to €70 on booze alone.
I have three or four drinks on a night out, fewer than my friends. Drinking a Diet Coke is a social habit; drinking alcohol is often a behaviour with another purpose.
I also feel the health benefits of not drinking. It’s a lot easier to eat healthily and exercise when you don’t drink, as you don’t have days that are complete write-offs due to hangovers. And I remember everything from nights out (although this can be a curse when friends ask me to recount details they can’t remember).
Of course, there are downsides. People assume that you are judging those who drink or that you are no fun. I don’t judge those who drink and enjoy being drunk. If my friends want to get drunk every weekend, I am happy for them to make that choice. I am comfortable with other drunk people, although I know that other sober people feel differently.
What I find more difficult is that so many people question my motives. People find it difficult to understand that I simply don’t like drinking. This isn’t like a medical condition, which they might understand as a “real excuse” for not drinking. They often ask invasive questions about my personal and medical history, and some assume I have a hidden drinking problem.
There’s also very little variety of drinks for people who don’t drink alcohol. I am usually confined to sugary soft drinks or mixers. Cocktail bars are an exception. A non-alcoholic mojito is just as tasty as its boozy counterpart.
I can’t say whether I’ll drink again, but I don’t think I’ll ever be drunk again. I’ve had enough brilliant, sober nights out to know that I don’t need alcohol to have a good time. This isn’t the case for everyone, but I do wonder if there are people who, liked I used to, drink because they feel they should.