New perspectives

Last week-end I went to the 18th birthday party of a close family member.  It was a lovely evening where the young person was surrounded by family and friends cheering on their coming of age.

But boy do I see things through different eyes now I don’t drink!  In my old drinking days this would have been a bona fide excuse to get absolutely ripped.  The kids would have been amused with a film whilst I got down to the job of drinking and smoking myself to oblivion.  They would have been put to bed at the host’s home and we would have carried on carousing until the early hours.  Mother’s day the next day would have been completely ruined as I would have been hanging from a major hangover and Bloody Mary’s would have been the order of the day for an early lunchtime to try and manage the pain in my head. But I wasn’t an alcoholic was I because the drink at lunchtime when I had finished drinking in the early hours of the night before, and struggled out of bed at 10 or 11am,  wasn’t a drink first thing in the morning was it? ;)

The amount of booze at this party could have sunk a small ship.  When did it morph from taking a four pack of beer to taking a whole slab or case, from one bottle of wine to three and bottles of spirits?  The total units of alcohol sitting inside this house was mind-bending, liver failing and made me feel quite sick at just the thought.

Is this a marketing thing where it is just cheaper to buy this larger volume?  It would seem so as this week Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has criticised the “deplorable” tactics of supermarkets designed to encourage customers to buy “ever-greater quantities of alcohol” in the latest annual report on the state of the public’s health.  Within this report she also says ‘in popular culture, drinking alcohol to excess is sometimes portrayed as normal behaviour. An analysis of six weeks of soap operas in the UK in 2010 found 162 instances of characters drinking to excess, with negative consequences rarely shown’.  Do people just drink more and is the normalisation of this behaviour in the soaps supporting this excessive drinking?  We used to say that people should bring their body weight in booze to a party but we weren’t being serious!!

But I did not want to drink any of it I’m happy to say.  What other people did was absolutely fine by me but I was not tempted in the slightest.  I nursed a couple of AF beers (which threw some people who knew I’d stopped drinking as they thought I had started again until I pointed out that it was alcohol free) and we took the kids home at 10pm when they got tired.  People were unsurprisingly fairly well oiled and starting to get worse for wear by the time we left.

But the next morning I was struck by the question, how do you celebrate an 18th if you don’t drink?  OK turning 18 means you can also vote but most young people are excited by the prospect of legally drinking.  In the British culture alcohol is so embedded as part of our coming of age rituals that this really foxed me.  How do you mark this milestone without booze??  Any thoughts or suggestions from you? :)

8 thoughts on “New perspectives

  1. Great blog! I have thoughts rather than suggestions. My own 18th, 100 years ago, was spent in fancy dress, in a social club, pouring as much snakebite down my neck as I could manage, Everyone I knew drank to get drunk, and liked to do it at least 4 times a week. I worked part time and pretty much all my money went on alcohol and the alcohol lifestyle. I remember us sixth formers going to the pub at lunchtime one time and girls and boys all swapping clothes before we went back in the afternoon, half cut, and made a den out of the furniture in the sixth form common room instead of going to lessons. I was part of a gang of drink obsessed arseholes. If someone had said at the time, why don’t you use your imagination and do something more interesting instead for your 18th birthday, I would have laughed in their face. Sadly until the drug pushers (government, supermarkets, pubs and clubs) are brought to heel, as individuals we are fighting a hard battle on behalf of young people. xxx

  2. In the US, Birthday 21 is the magic drinking age. When my older daughter turned 21 in December, she was home from school with us. We took her out to a nice dinner, and she ordered her first ‘official’ drink. She is pretty much unmoved by alcohol and rarely drinks. And thinks my not drinking is totally cool.

    When our son turns 21 in this coming October- it may be a different story. Although his 21st birthday will be exactly ONE YEAR of no wine for me. He is very impressed with my not drinking, so I’ll propose a low-alcohol event for him and his buds.

    But the prevailing culture is certainly that one gets totally drunk on one’s 21st birthday. Yuk- and certainly dangerous for a young person who has no experience with risk management- ie, making certain they get home safely!

    So if Sober is the New Black (my necklace says so, doesn’t it?) then perhaps we can develop some fabulous coming-of-age celebration that makes Not Drinking on the 18th/21st birthday totally fashionable?

  3. Tricky question! There was definitely a feeling when I turned 18 that if you wanted to do it “properly” then it would involve alcohol. I went to a nightclub with all my friends from school and spent a portion on the night weeping in the toilets. I laughed about it afterwards, but can’t see what was so great about that now! If you’re lucky enough for a summer birthday, camping trips are great, particularly if you can mix in some hiking or surfing. Though I expect those kind of trips are mostly booze heavy, too. (Me, I’m looking forward to my first sober camping trip this summer :) )

  4. I don’t think that many 18 year olds would be too interested in a booze free celebration. I know I wouldn’t have been. Unfortunately most of us don’t wise up until our life experiences start to make us question the norms. It will take a big cultural shift – maybe an Eastenders 18th celebration at a rock climbing centre. The alternatives have to seem ‘cool’ if they are to appeal. Good blog as always Lucy xxx

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