David Randall: I'm David and I'm a teetotaller. What has Alan Johnson begun?

Our writer owns up to a profligate life as a pineapple juice pariah

Share
Related Topics

A scrape of chair as I stand up. "I am David," I say, "And I am a teetotaller."

I'm avoiding the eyes of everyone else in the room, but there's no need. They all have their heads down, looking at the floor, knowing they'll be next. They, too, will have to confess their helplessness, their shame at the night they got home at 10.30 and didn't piss in the sock drawer. Their sadly unexciting, considerate treatment of their partner. The fact that they have no anecdotes about being off their face, wasted, wrecked, and out of it. The lack of red wine stains on their lips, and the absence of liquid excuses for their behaviour.

We should have listened when people said we weren't fun. But we didn't. And now we're here. Obliged to attend the weekly meeting of Non-Drinkers Anonymous until we pull ourselves together.

Alan Johnson was right, back in 2009, when he warned teetotallers were becoming pariahs. But he was a lone voice then. No one took him seriously. After all, who would have thought a future Labour government, the one after Cameron's, would so much want everyone to drink that those who didn't must attend these meetings. But they did, and we do. "Anti-sociable elements", they called us. And so here we are, in this church hall, sharing our shame.

It's hard to sit here listening as grown men and women weep as they tell their terrible tales. Two weeks ago was the worst. A woman aged about 35, calls herself "Jo". Two kids, too. God knows what they're going through. So anyway, up she gets on her feet, and at first she's quite calm. "It all started when I went out with friends after work," she begins. "They'd be drinking and laughing at things that weren't really funny, and I was the one in the corner, making a Bacardi Breezer last all night, and longing to go home and have a sensible conversation. And then, one evening, I tried pineapple juice."

There was a lot of shuffling around the room at that; a lot of us had started on cordials. "Soon, they were all I wanted to drink. And my friends began to notice. Said I was no fun. I tried giggling all the time and balancing beer mats on my nose. I even pretended to throw up in the street. But I couldn't do it. I..." And she choked up. Just stood there, crying.

"Go on, Jo. Tell us," said our mentor, Stephen, or "Stevie-boy" as he prefers to be called, "You can do it." He's very patient, and encourages us with stories about what he can do with a pint glass after he's had a "skinful", as he puts it. So Jo dabs her eyes, clears her throat, and goes on.

"And then," she says, taking a deep breath, "I started not drinking alone. At first it was just the evenings, but then I was not drinking in the mornings, too. Soon as I got up. And the kids knew. I could tell from their faces, the way they looked at me...."

Her voice trailed off, and kindly hands helped her back into her chair. We applauded. Takes guts to do what she'd just done. "Well," said Stevie-boy, "I don't know about you guys, but after that I fancy a drink."

And he declares the meeting over, and races off to the bar down the street. We follow. I have a shandy. As they say, it's one day at a time.

David Randall is a non-recovering tee-totaller, sick to death of the idea you must drink alcohol to have a good time

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Primary supply teachers needed in Bury St Edmunds

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers requi...

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Secondary English Teacher - requ...

Science Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Calling all science teachers! Ra...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Tory whips were anxiously ringing round the “usual suspects” following Douglas Carswell's defection to Ukip  

i Editor's Letter: Douglas Carswell's defection

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Theresa May  

Democracy and the police: a system in crisis

Nigel Morris
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone