Our young blogger Charlotte writes about her life as a non-drinking young person.
A few months ago, I attended a friend’s 18th birthday party, something which is becoming a common occurrence these days. The venue was in the centre of town, readily equipped to deal with the demands of first-time legal drinkers in all their over-excited, rattling-with-birthday-money glory.
Inevitably, I left early. Being one of only two 17-year-olds in a group of about eight, the novelty of watching everybody disintegrate into various states of intoxication around me whilst I remained sober had started to wear thin by the time two hours had leaked by. I was right to leave, it seems; by morning, the party’s host had engaged in a furious rant over social media with a friend who had been unable to attend the party. Once they had sobered up, they both saw what they had written and apologised profusely. Luckily, each saw the funny side.
I found it difficult to, though. As somebody who doesn’t drink, I feel very uneasy when alcohol transforms the personalities of my friends beyond recognition. It makes me wonder what on earth would happen to me, should I suddenly decide to make merry in such a way one day. The only time I have ever had a drink – and I literally mean ‘a drink’, singular – was at Christmas, and the effect it had on me was unbelievable. I laughed so much at nothing in particular that I nearly fell over, much to the bemusement of my sister, who was trying to watch cartoons on the television. If one small drink reduced me to this state, what effect is this bizarre substance having on young people in general?
Luckily, statistics are showing that levels of drinking among young people are at an all-time low; according to this Guardian article, 17% of young people aged 8-15 surveyed in 2016 admitted ever having drunk alcohol, down by two thirds since 2003. The same can be said for smoking: under 5% of children of the same age group had ever smoked, down by three quarters since 2003.
This is undoubtedly a sign that times are changing; however, none of it seems to apply to my life or the people around me. You are still regarded as a killjoy – rude, even – if you decline the offer of a drink at a party. In 2017, the possibility of having fun without having to drink beforehand should not be a controversial issue. This year, my 18th birthday will fall at the end of freshers’ week at university, and every time I tell anybody this they react as though I have told them something terrible. For this reason, I am half dreading freshers’ week, wondering if I’ll manage to find anybody in the same position as me— but also looking forward to it because I know, deep down, that even if I was able to drink during freshers’ week, I probably wouldn’t do it anyway.
Quite simply, the cliché is true in my case— I do not need drink to have fun. And I suspect that most of my friends would find that the same applies to them, if only they would give it a try.