Being teetotal

No more hangovers, puking in your hair or forgetting what you got up to the night before welcome to the world of the teetotaller.

What is a teetotaller?

A teetotaller is somebody who doesn’t drink alcohol. They may have never tried it, or they may have drunk it in the past, but they won’t touch the stuff now.

Famous teetotallers include Chris Martin, Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Lopez, Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, and Rachel Stevens.

Why do people give up alcohol?

People choose to avoid alcohol for all sorts of reasons:

  • Some teetotallers give up alcohol because they’ve been addicted or dependent on alcohol in the past
  • They don’t like the feeling of being drunk or losing control
  • They simply don’t like the taste of alcohol
  • They’ve had bad experiences with alcohol in the past
  • For health or mental health reasons

Nick, 22, used to drink heavily from the age of 17. He gave up alcohol six months ago. “I found myself recovering for half a week after drinking, which was playing havoc with my life. Now I feel healthier and more awake during the day. My skin has cleared up and I can actually remember nights out,” he says.

Do people not drink for religious or spiritual reasons?

Yes. Most Hare Krishnas, Muslims, Scientologists, Sikhs, Seventh-day Adventists, Mormons, Brahmins and Baha’is are likely to be teetotal as part of the belief of their religion, but there are exceptions. Some Christians, including Methodists and Quakers, are also associated with teetotalism. But plenty of people who aren’t religious are teetotal too.

What are the positives of not drinking?

  • No dreaded hangovers
  • You can save loads of money you would be spending on alcohol
  • Alcohol tends to be calorific, so not drinking can help you lose weight
  • Not drinking can give you lovely clear skin, whereas alcohol can give you spots
  • You won’t lose control, so you’ll always know how to get home and remember to use a condom if you’re lucky enough to pull

Will not drinking alcohol mark the end of my social life?

Nah. It’s difficult because culturally, most of our adult socialising revolves around pubs, clubs and parties. Yet despite this fairly closed idea of having fun there are many other things you can do to have a good time without getting drunk. Honest!

Ellie, 25, hasn’t had a drink for the past six months and says she has a much better time without it. She suffers from depression and found that alcohol made it much worse. “Everyone has been really supportive. I meet a few people who think it’s really sad that I can’t ‘go out and enjoy myself’, but they’re usually avoiding looking at their own drinking habits,” she explains.

“It totally baffles them that I’ve given up drinking completely. I don’t really miss drinking – I’m just happy to know I’ll never have another hangover, be sick in my hair, or wake up next to a stranger.”

When you go out you may order alcohol more out of habit than a desire to drink it. Your friends may give you a hard time for ordering a soft drink instead; people don’t like to drink booze alone, it can also unnerve them that you want to remain sober.

How to deal with peer pressure to drink

If you’re not driving, ill, or pregnant, friends may pile on the pressure for you to join in.

“When I go out everyone tries to persuade me to drink with them,” says Nick. “I get negative comments from friends because they think I can’t enjoy myself as much as I would if I was drinking. I avoid alcohol by distracting myself with other hobbies, or just socialising at home.”

Ultimately, alcohol is not an essential part of a night out. Remind your friends that you’re out to have fun, too, and if they’re still giving you grief, try some of these tactics:

  • Tell them the truth – that you don’t drink or don’t want to drink
  • Skip out of rounds and avoid telling people that you’re not drinking alcohol
  • You may decide to avoid socialising with people who are drinking, or in places where alcohol is available
  • If your friends can’t respect your decision to stay sober, you may decide it’s time to find other like-minded people to hang out with

Alternatives to booze

There are plenty of places that serve good non-alcoholic drinks and where the nature of the entertainment is not focused on getting drunk. The trick is to think about what appeals to you and what makes a good night out. Here are some suggestions:

  • Art centres, late night cafe-bars and independent cinemas are good alternatives to pubs and clubs
  • Ten-pin bowling and bingo have had resurgence in popularity, as have kitsch days of afternoon tea and craft
  • Evening classes, social groups and art and sport clubs can offer ways to meet people and socialise where alcohol needn’t even crop up
  • Doing the pub quiz, having Sunday lunch or playing pool can switch the focus of trips to the pub away from simply getting smashed

Next Steps

  • Drinkaware offers advice and information on alcohol and your drinking habits.
  • Are you drinking too much? Drinkaware has a useful self assessment tool to help you discover if your drinking habits are healthy, or something to worry about.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Susie Wild

Updated on 29-Sep-2015