26 Apr 2021

On The Wagon

Most people, at some point in their lives, refrain from alcohol. On occasions, refusal of alcohol is for perfectly clear medical reasons (booze may clash with prescription drugs, or an operation is impending, or the person is pregnant). At other times, it is more clearly a case of self-imposed abstinence: this can range from a few weeks ‘clean-living’ to a committed campaign to kick the drink habit once and for all.

The last year of intermittent lockdowns has been hard going for many of us, and the myriad variety of coping strategies have ranged from super-healthy exercise mania at one end of the spectrum to slumped couch potato at the other. It is certainly true that a lot of people found themselves eating or drinking to excess.

Now, as lockdown eases, we find ourselves back in the real world and for many people it has become imperative to lose the extra pounds and banish the drinking habit.

Whatever the reason, a decision has been made, and must be respected. Now that we’re all hosting again (albeit in a limited way), we may find ourselves confronted with a refusal of drink from a guest. Never question why this is happening; never cajole, or plead, or tease. You may be understandably disappointed that they’re not joining in the party fun, especially after the long months of social abstinence, but you must never let this show – meet their refusal with good grace and offer a tempting range of alcohol-free drinks.

If you are the teetotaller, however temporary, you must also mind your manners. Refuse a drink politely; give an explanation if you think that helps. Never act the martyr, miserably cradling your mineral water as the party takes off around you. Never lecture your fellow guests about the benefits of an alcohol-free existence.

If you are sober, intoxicated company can be baffling; conversations meander, arguments break out for no reason, non-jokes are met with general hilarity. If you are unable to cope with this alcohol-induced anarchy, don’t socialise with heavy drinkers. If you can endure these antics without a censorious air, you will be worth your weight in gold – the one sober guest at the end of the evening who is able to sort out the increasingly unruly guests, locate scattered belongings, confiscate car keys, and post them home in a taxi.

Just remember the next morning, when you’re enjoying a virtuous, hangover-free breakfast, that pointing out the benefits of alcohol-free living to bleary family and friends is a transgression that will not be easily forgotten.

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