While hedonic youth in early adulthood binge drinking is an established societal norm, today’s youth seem to have taken a very different approach to alcohol.
For many under Generation Z, health and wellness has become a much higher priority than excessive partying, with some choosing to massively reduce their alcohol consumption or stop altogether.
The change in attitudes towards drinking has spawned a new breed of ‘down-to-earth’ social media influencer – with the hashtag ‘Sober Curious’ being viewed over 105 million times, while the phrase ‘Sober TikTok’ a staggering 589 million times. has been viewed.
According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than a quarter of US adults over the age of 18 surveyed had binge drinking in the past month.
Meanwhile, research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the prevalence of excessive drinking among adults.
Speaking to Newsweek, three women, from the US and UK, shared why they chose to quit alcohol, the challenges they faced and the positive impact getting sober has had on their lives.
I quit alcohol for my health…now I’m happier than ever
Tasmin Lofthouse, 29, from Lancashire, UK, stopped drinking for medical reasons during her final year at university, and has now been sober for about nine years.
Like many students, Tasmin was caught up in the heavy drinking culture in college, but often became extremely ill after consuming alcohol.
She suffered from migraines and attributed the negative side effects of alcohol to various medications, at one point she vomited for 24 hours before she vomited blood after a drinking session.
She told Newsweek: “I got very sick but didn’t make the connection completely, I just thought it was a really bad hangover. It probably took me about six months to think, ‘I should probably stop drinking because it doesn’t make me feel good. does good’.”
While her final months in college were spent studying for exams, Tasmin struggled without alcohol after returning home — struggling to spend sober time with her friends while they were all drinking.
“It was really hard for me,” she said. “I struggled with anxiety a lot during that period. I think it was probably due to the fact that when you go out on these nights out, I was the only sober person, so on a very different level to other people.
“I just felt really uncomfortable and out of place because I think you have that mask of alcohol to give you that confidence.”
There were times when Tasmin didn’t go out with her friends, admitting she felt “very alienated” after initially quitting alcohol.
She added: “They insisted I come out because they still wanted to spend time with me, but a lot of what we did at that age was about drinking. That wasn’t an environment I was more comfortable in.” felt.”
She says it took her two or three years to feel completely comfortable with sober people around drinking people, but even now she’s questioned by friends who tell her, “Oh, just have one.”
“Then I really struggled with it,” she says. “A lot of people didn’t understand and suggested a bit that I was boring if I didn’t drink. I used to be really upset when people pushed me, while now I think I’m not explaining it to you”.
“For me, I don’t have to worry about waking up on the weekend with a completely black memory, not knowing what I did the night before, that night our anxiety that you sometimes get from drinking too much.
“My weekends are really to myself, not stolen by the fact that if you go out on Friday night, you have a hangover on Saturday. My social life isn’t about drinking. I spend time doing things I really enjoy instead of drinking because I feel like it has to.”
Alcohol added nothing to my life, now I make the most of every day
Lucy Jeffrey, 27, from London, immediately hated alcohol when she drank her first alcopop as a teenager on a friend’s birthday, repelled by the taste and thinking of losing control of her faculties.
“I remember not liking it,” she said. “Obviously it was a weird thing, if you’re not used to the feeling of losing control, but when everyone was drinking and you started getting used to that feeling, you go with it. I remember not enjoying it when I first started, but you’re forcing yourself, which is kind of awful.”
When Lucy reached college, she began drinking socially at club nights and sporting events, admitting that although she had a healthy relationship with alcohol, she only drank to get drunk.
“I had really good limits,” she said. “I drank on most social occasions, we went out a few times a week. I played sports, so there was a pretty big drinking culture there.
“I would always drink and have fun. It didn’t hurt anything. It didn’t affect my relationships or work, but I still drank every week, once or twice a week.”
After leaving college, Lucy’s drinking has “matured”, with the business owner beginning to enjoy smaller amounts of alcohol less often, for pleasure rather than getting drunk.
“My relationship with alcohol definitely changed as I grew up. The hangovers only got worse. I was more aware of the next day, I went out less, I didn’t like a night out.
“I went to work, but never drank at work events. That was my line, where I was like ‘I don’t want to get out of hand.’ I drank more for fun, a nice glass of red wine, we’d go out and “Go on a wine tour. I’d rarely get as drunk as I did in college.”
Despite never being a heavy drinker, Lucy was inspired to try a sober lifestyle after reading a memoir that inspired her to try an exercise to determine how many days she likely had left to live.
She said: “I just decided there and then I couldn’t do another hangover. I like to drink and it’s a social thing, but I just didn’t want to lose another Sunday just because I had too much to drink. wine affects my sleep and I won’t be 100 percent the next day.”
Lucy, who runs an online store that sells sustainable socks, decided to try 100 days without alcohol as a transition, admitting that it was mainly to help friends get used to her new lifestyle, rather than herself.
She explained: “People would get on the defensive. Kind of like, ‘You don’t drink, why? Can I drink around you?’ and I’d say, ‘Do whatever you want!’ The 100-day thing actually made it much better for them because it was like ‘I’m trying’.”
However, after just 100 days, Lucy noticed an overwhelming difference in her physical and mental health, revealing “I just felt so good all the time”.
She added: “It has gotten to the point where even having one would make me worried about the next day. I think alcohol is best for my mental health. Not that I was a big drinker or had a problem with alcohol, it just didn’t add anything to my life.”
When it comes to alcohol-heavy social events, Lucy says that while it sometimes feels lonely to be sober, she quickly realizes she can have an equally good time without drinking alcohol.
“Everyone thinks the worst thing about being around drunk people is when you don’t drink, but the few times I was around other people drinking I still had such a fantastic night and it made me realize that I don’t need it at all.”
Speaking of a recent bachelorette party she attended, Lucy continued: “The only time I missed it was right at the start when everyone was toasting. It doesn’t matter what’s in my glass, but you’re missing that buzz, everyone’s getting up.” about to start drinking.
“The rest of the night you wouldn’t have noticed a difference though, you get into it and feel the same as everyone else. You may feel more self-conscious at times, but you start to realize everyone else is drinking so they don’t really notice what you’re up to.” are doing.”
Life without alcohol gave me the confidence to start a business
Sophie Miller, 25, from Cheltenham, UK, decided to quit alcohol four years ago after quitting her job as an events coordinator and entering university as an adult student.
Before college, she spent weekends having a few drinks with friends, but found that as a student, most social events revolved around alcohol.
“I wanted to take care of myself,” she said. “I had left a full-time job to go to college and was surrounded by the drinking culture every day of the week, given its health implications, how it negatively affected people’s studies and just the lifestyle it entails. kind of just opened my eyes”.
Sophie found it hard to quit at first, revealing that it wasn’t so much about discharging alcohol itself, but an incessant need to justify her decision to her peers whom she found difficult.
She explained: “It was the questions. ‘Why don’t you drink? Just have one!’ I don’t think anyone in my circle has ever seen it in a negative way, but constantly having to justify your choice because it’s so normalized felt really hard.”
Sophie admitted that while she does occasionally feel a sense of “FOMO” when it comes to being sober, but not relying on alcohol as a social crutch has forced her to become a much more confident person.
“Especially when you first make that decision and you circle around drinking, I think it can be really isolating,” she said. “Now I feel like I’ve become a much more confident person, so I’m pretty happy to say it like it is and tell people.”
While drinking, Sophie developed a stomachache, bloating and a bad complexion, but she now feels healthier than ever and makes the most of her time without spending the weekends hungover.
She founded her own company, Pretty Little Marketer, in June 2020 and credits her sobriety by giving her real confidence to network.
She said: “I am now a business owner and have attended a few corporate events [sober]. I’m quite introverted, so it can be quite scary. In the past it would have been easier to have a few glasses of liquid courage, but now it’s me, Sophie, the real person.
Sharing her advice to the down-to-earth curious, she continued: “I would say to take baby steps. If you go out and you usually have four drinks, try having two or one, work on it.
“Talk about it, I didn’t know there were so many people who considered being sober or had never drunk, or hadn’t drunk in years. I think there are bigger conversations about it, start small and see how it goes.”