With it being Dry January, I thought it was about time that I finally told my story, of what it is like being a teetotal 23 year old, and why I will never be able to drink alcohol again. If you think that I'm old before my time, utterly boring and that it's a life changing sentence then you would be totally wrong. Although, if you told me I would never drink again when I was 18, I would have probably laughed in your face and said well how else will I have fun? But all of that couldn't be any further from the truth. I'm hoping that this will help to reach out to people like me that can't drink alcohol, or simply just don't like it! But whatever your experiences are with alcohol, I want you to know from the start that it's actually okay to be teetotal whatever your age!
It's now coming up to my third year anniversary as a teetotal which is something I never thought would happen. Long gone are the days of waking up and thinking my life was ruined, spending my whole night and the following day with my head down the toilet. Even from when I could drink I never liked the taste of it or how sick it made me. It was a horrible attack of pancreatitis when I was 17 that probably laid out my inability to drink as I got older. Pancreatitis is a serious acute illness which is the inflammation of your pancreas (located behind your stomach). The most common trigger for it is alcohol, and something that is most commonly seen among older men, so it was an incredibly rare thing to have at such a young age, especially as I hadn't really touched alcohol before. To this day we still don't know what caused it, but it has certainly caused me a lot of issues over the years, and with little help given by the NHS I have spent years finding the root cause of what makes me ill.
I always knew that after having pancreatitis you either didn't ever drink again or you had to be very careful and drink in moderation. I mean come on I was only 17! Not yet 18, and years of drinking at university and peer pressure lay ahead of me. Even though I never enjoyed alcohol or the affects that it had on me, getting drunk was simply done because it was the socially acceptable thing to be done, it would be frowned upon if you didn't, and leave people asking you if you were ill, and you'd most certainly be branded as boring. I was chasing fun, I was young and having the time of my life, but was I really? I just SO wish I had the courage back then to say no, EVERY time I drank I would be sick, whether it was at the end of the night or the following day, I often never even ended up getting drunk because I was sick way before that could even happen. I spent every weekend of being 18 abusing my body with alcohol, and even though the worrying signs were there, I stupidly chose to ignore them.
When I started university that's when the real games began. As freshers week started, it was an ongoing battle trying to keep up with my housemates and drinking. It was freshers week after all, and did you really have any right to be at uni if you weren't getting fully involved? With mounting peer pressure and this expectation to conform to society, I got to the 4th day of Freshers week when I ended up with an alcohol induced kidney infection. I still have no idea how I passed my first year of university, whilst most of you will probably vouch that you spent 60% of the time recovering in your bed with a horrific hangover. Everything that I went through was 10 x worse than your average hangover. As the months went on the sickness intensified every time I drank, it would happen more quickly, cause awful sickness the next day and my skin would be agonising to touch. It wasn't until my year abroad in Finland that I knew it had to stop. I always thought being sick every time I drank was normal, but more people were noticing, and when it got to the stage that I was only having a few sips and being ill for the rest of the evening, I knew something wasn't quite right. This time I really did have to listen to my body and ignore the drinking culture that I was living in. Shortly after this I had another case of pancreatitis in which the doctor openly asked me about my drinking habits and told me that the only way to prevent an attack and to live was to NEVER drink again. Whether I have also developed an allergy from alcohol along the way (likely) or that my pancreas is so damaged I will never know. But I truthfully would be on my way to death if I carried on like that, and life is far too precious for the sake of pleasing society. And when people say to me that living an alcohol free existence must be life changing, well yes it is life changing, I'm alive, happy & healthy and have gotten my life back on track, and truthfully alcohol really has robbed 3 good years from me. It's also taken me 3 years to recover and I'm finally to start to feeling better again before any of this happened to me.
Why It's okay to be a tee total whatever your age
Telling my complete story is cathartic for me in a sense as I've never written it down completely, and from doing so I realise that I made the best decision 3 years ago. However, as expected the not conforming to what society thinks you should be doing is what has upset me the most. We do live in a drinking culture, expecially in the UK where pre drinks start at 7pm and everyone is steaming by 10. I can't name one time that I have been on a night out, or at a restaurant since not drinking and been asked 'Why aren't you drinking?', or 'Oh that must be so boring, how do you do it?'. Actually I have the same fun as all of you, if not more? I certainly don't spend the whole following day in bed anymore gorging on takeaways or spending my night being ill. But do you know what, I am completely fed up of having to justify myself to people and having to provide a valid reason as to why I cant drink. You never see people asking why you don't do drugs or smoke, so why is this any different? Unfortunately through lack of understanding people can't understand that often there can be a medical reason that people can't drink or simply chose not to because they don't enjoy it. The fact is you should NEVER have to justify your behaviour to another individual. It certainly has been a rocky road for me the last 3 years with having to deal with other people, and I'm not just talking about strangers, people that I was really close to have questioned me throughout which is just madness. I've had girls try to force drinks down my throat, whilst others have accused me of lying. But even if it has taken me 3 years to get to this stage, every situation has shaped my being in some way and I wouldn't change how my lifestyle is now for anyone. Sober nights out are just as much fun (if not better) than drunken nights, for one I no longer spend the majority of my night with my head down the toilet, I remember every single detail of what happened that evening, I can wake up early the following morning, and becoming sober has opened a whole new life to me which is better than I could have ever imagined. With the obvious health benefits aside, I save an awful lot of money, lost a lot of weight and no longer have 'the fear' on a Sunday morning. Sober is not boring, nor life changing, it's a happy & healthy way of life!! I still have just as much fun as a drunk individual and the best thing is I remember every second of it!
So here's to more enjoyable nights out, hangover free Sundays and a better outlook on health. I am still completely okay with people that drink alcohol, but all that I do ask of people is to be respectful of people who don't drink, show understanding and never question. We most certainly aren't the norm but even if you don't think so, I promise you being sober is not boring, and I for one certainly don't need to be pitied!
What are your thought on this? Are you trying dry january? Are you a fellow tee-totaller?