Are we more sober than we were three years ago?

Originally featured here on Foundry Fox. 

Us millennials, that’s anyone born between 1981 and 1996, are stereotypically bracketed into a generation who date online, live online, binge drink and do outrageous things just for Instagram likes and social validation. If you were thinking at age 36 you were void of being thrown into this category, I’ve got some bad news for you…

Being a millennial means we’ve grown up alongside the growth of technology, we remember 90s fashion the first time it happened but don’t regret it enough not to wear it all again, we drank alcopops, non-ironically.

Despite our flaws and we are also arguably the most self-aware and conscious generation yet. We are inclusive and in tune with our mental wellbeing, the planet and just how we are affecting it with plastic pollution and animal farming. We are the future, innit.

As a demographic, we are drinking less alcohol, preferring to pick up an acai bowl over a ‘fish-bowl’.  At the smallest glimpse of sunshine we all shoot to a beer garden, but apparently, we’re more conscious of the units we’re consuming.

With this heightened awareness (news-zines ramming it down our necks every day) has been born a movement of people who are laying off the sauce, whether for a night, a January, or forever… If you go to the pub with your friends and order a lemonade, you can be sure there’ll be questions, an interrogation, right? Impregnation or antibiotics are usually the only excuses that really cut it.

Danielle, 27, has been sober for just over six years. ‘I have never looked back and love being the sober friend. I can’t see myself ever drinking again. The only thing that can get a little annoying is when people goad you saying, ‘Oh just have one. It won’t harm you’. Or the best answer to me saying I don’t drink, which is ‘What?! Why?! What’s wrong with you?!’ … as if it’s a sin or something! Funnily enough, I’m still able to have just as much fun as anyone else. It just means I can look after myself and others better, and even drive home.’

There is a certain peer pressure when it comes to alcohol, an expectation everyone must drink. Carly, 28, has only ever drunk alcohol here and there. She said, ‘When I go to business events and parties and I’m offered a complimentary drink – it’s always wine! I ask for a non-alcoholic option and people think I’m joking and try to make me take the wine. I get it a lot and I don’t see why surely it’s just as common as someone being a vegetarian?’

A report published by Eventbrite analysed the answers given by 1,023 millennials who frequent events like festivals. It explored their drinking habits and aimed to challenge the preconception that the group spends their whole life on social media. The report says, ‘42% of millennials say they’re drinking less alcohol than they were three years ago, with one in four preferring to spend their money on other things.’

It goes on to say a mere 13% of those analysed regard getting drunk as the most important thing when going out. ‘One of the reasons for the drop in drinking is that millennials want to enjoy (and remember) the moment more.’ Daisy, 21, chooses to stay sober. ‘I don’t like to be out of control of my own body, and when I drink I can’t stand the feeling of being drunk; I get irritated by not being able to get points across without slurring my words.’

Excessive alcohol consumption is connected to mental ill health. Dr. Cyrus Abbasian, a consultant psychiatrist at St George’s University of London, told The Guardian, ‘Alcohol leads to short-term relief of anxiety, but it doesn’t treat the underlying problem.’

Rebecca, 26, said, ‘I decided to go sober aged 19 as I believe that was when I truly started to understand my mental health issues. I began to listen to my body and what it was telling me about how my lifestyle choices impacted my physical health and my depression and anxiety. I realised that by going out drinking (just like anyone my age), the feeling would numb my issues temporarily or escalate them. Now I definitely get more of a buzz when I’m being creative and when I’m finding clarity through journaling and meditation. I’ve not drunk alcohol for 7 years now and I don’t miss it – especially the hangovers!’

In Jill Stark’s book ‘High Sobriety: My year without booze’, she admits to binge drinking since she was a teenager living in Glasgow. As a sufferer of panic attacks, Jill noted how hangovers were a trigger. She says ‘[Before,] I cannot and do not want to imagine a life without alcohol.’ But then came thehangover to change her whole life. On the first day of 2011, Jill could barely drive for a Big Mac due to her mix of hangover and onslaught of panic. In this book she documents her decision to embrace sobriety writing; ‘I’ve been here too long’, it was time for a change. She memoirs her journey and how it feels coming out the other side.

Being in tune with our mental health is a huge positive of this generation. We don’t need alcohol to numb our issues, or even to liberate our tongues so we feel free to talk about what’s on our minds. We’re happy to express concerns, woes, and problems to friends, people in close networks, or online.

So, next time you decide try sobriety, even if just for an evening, you should do so without any guilt. And next time your friend isn’t drinking, stop the interrogation. Maybe we’d all reap the benefits if we quit hitting the gins so hard?

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