An official table of the most boozy nations has been released by the World Health Organisation. Although Europe led the way, with hardcore drinkers Belarus winning, we failed to make the top ten. First we lose Eurovision, and now this. I'm surprised that the UK didn’t make number one. Brits love a drunken night out, often followed by a bit of sick and recrimination.
I like a drink or three, even though I am rubbish at it. However, I’m giving my liver a break at the moment. It's not the first time that I've had a teetotal period; over the past few years I have given up drink for several months at a time. I've done it previously to sort out sleep issues and I'm doing it this time to overhaul my overall fitness and nutrition - a me MOT if you will.
We're so alcohol-centric in this country that 'giving up', rather than 'stopping', seems to be the right phrase for sobriety. You give up more than the booze itself as your social landscape changes. If you think it's easy to stop drinking and carry on as normal, try it for three months.
When I stop drinking, I notice how utterly central it is to UK life. That’s sad. Alcohol – reality-bending, sugar-stuffed, liver-bloating alcohol - is a strange axis on which to spin our social world. Going for 'just one' never actually happens, whilst other activities that we could really enjoy sober also turn into chances to get tipsy. Going to the theatre, a friend's house, a date - all of these experiences are habitually soaked in booze. We drink at events we know that we could enjoy without alcohol, but because everybody else is drinking, we never test this out. That's because dealing with other people’s reactions to your abstinence is more difficult than not drinking itself.
A challenging conversation always, always follows after an admission of teetotaldom. When I tell people I'm not drinking, reactions range from surprise to disappointment to utter befuddlement. Some try to pressure me to change my mind and 'just have one'. Perhaps if everyone went teetotal for three months and saw boozing from the outside, attitudes might change. You really can enjoy your life sober and the side-effects are great - more energy, more sleep and more cash to spare. Much better than hangovers, lost mobile phones and weight gain. Time away from booze makes you question whether damaging our health and our wallets with it should be the primary position for having fun.