Saturday, 4 July 2009

Indygal Goes Teetotal

Recently I've become a bit sickened by alcohol. That's partly because of reports that I'm reading, partly because of the alcoholics (recovering and otherwise) I'm coming in contact with but mainly because of the many events I've been attending where the alcohol is flowing freely.

I've been thinking a lot about our attitude to alcohol and the attachment we seem to have to it in Scotland. A friend was visiting from Berlin recently and she felt that the social pressure to drink was very strong in both Scotland and England.

I've also been thinking of late of the people I've loved and lost who I've no doubt would still be here had they not drank so heavily. Some of them didn't even make it to 50.

Sadly, I can do nothing to change that but I can do something for myself and, as an MSP now, I am in a position to do something about this country's relationship with alcohol. When I mention doing "something for myself" interestingly I feel the need to quickly point out that I don't have a drink problem and I never will have. But think about it. If I asked you to drink no alcohol for a month, how would you react? I asked some friends yesterday and they looked like they might cry. None of them have obvious drink problems but they all admitted they would find it extremely hard. The line between social drinking and alcoholism is indeed a thin one.

And if these social drinkers were so dismayed at the thought of only a month without alcohol, how much harder must it be then for the alcoholic who is physically and psychologically addicted? Thinking about that now I have nothing but admiration for those alcoholics who do manage to stay sober.

Anyway, when I asked MYSELF the question, could I stop drinking for a month, the answer was that yes I think I could but I really don't want to. Why? Well mainly because I don't think my friends will like it. And that, I think, is the crux of the problem for many people - it's the social pressure to drink that stops us stopping.

So, I'm going to try. As of today I'm going to attempt not to drink alcohol until I go on holiday on 25th July. I am not planning to suddenly get plastered on 25th btw - I may not drink at all on holiday but the important test for me is how I get on with my day to day life without alcohol. On that I will blog as often as the question of alcohol arises.

I don't mean this to be a gimmick and I hope nobody takes it like that. I genuinely want to examine what kind of pressures (internal and external) are put upon people who don't want to drink alcohol. I have a lot of friends and family. They're all intelligent, articulate, sensible people who are, no doubt, also concerned about the alcohol problem in Scotland. But I imagine some of them will try to cajole me into drinking alcohol. And I have to be honest and say if the tables were turned, I can't guarantee I wouldn't do the same to them because that's what we do in this part of the world. BTW in case any friends are worried, I won't name and shame you :-)

So, we'll see how it goes. I will try to drink no alcohol between now and 25 July. Only 3 weeks I realise but it's the summer, recess doesn't mean not working but it does mean I'm in Glasgow most of the time and so I'll be catching up with friends over lunch and dinner. It will be interesting to see if my friend from Berlin is correct about the pressure to drink in Scotland.

Another friend in Glasgow is teetotal and tells me when he tells people that they invariably respond by telling him "that's okay". There's something not quite right about people feeling they have to "reassure" someone who's just "confessed" to not drinking alcohol. I wonder what response I'll get.

First challenge ~ I'm worrying about Sunday night when I am going out with a friend who I expect will not be happy to hear about my new teetotal status. He's expecting a fun night out and I'll just have to show him (and myself) that it can be done sober! Wish me luck!

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