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Sober shaming: One in five pressured to drink by friends

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Dry January is over, but ‘sober shaming’ is a year-round issue. Addiction rehab expert at Rehabs UK Hannah Levi answers searchers’ most pressing questions.

Alcohol Change UK, found that 1 in 5 people feel pressured to drink by their friends.

One in 10 drinkers in the UK think they have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol

67% of UK men say they’ve had alcoholic beverages bought for them by friends, even after making it clear that they’re not drinking.

Traditionally, the UK has been characterised by its binge drinking culture, which means that those who abstain from alcohol can be seen as odd or boring. Alcohol consumption has become so ingrained in our culture that choosing not to drink can cause people to feel alienated and victims of ‘sober shaming’. But, recent trends show that more and more people are opting for non-alcoholic or low-alcohol options. With drinkers cutting down or binning the booze, sober shaming that was once commonplace is now being more frequently challenged as a societal problem that needs attention and resolution.

Hannah Levi, 24, drawing from her own personal experiences with alcohol recovery as well as her role as Treatment Advisor, answers some of the most common questions asked online about sobriety and sober shaming, according to AlsoAsked:

Are you happier when you don’t drink?

“Alcohol is a depressant and can keep people isolated as well as increase mental health conditions. Therefore, cutting it out can have a positive impact,” says Hannah.

“Personally, and as someone who has struggled with alcohol addiction, I would say I am much happier within myself.” says Hannah, who has used the 12-step programme. “The programme has given me the tools not just to get through each day but to enjoy every moment, and to be able to feel content and grateful for the life I have. I enjoy experiences a lot more, and am able to form healthy relationships and help others who are in active addiction and would like to be in recovery. 

Can you go to the pub if you don’t drink?

Pub drinks are a staple of British culture, and the prospect of missing out on the fun can be daunting for newly sober people: “You can certainly go to the pub if you don’t drink, however it is not advisable in early recovery because you are not likely to have built up a strong mental defence against alcohol and are likely to be very vulnerable to temptation.”

Hannah notes that there is no reason to miss out on social events just because you’re teetotal: “In the AA’s Big Book, its says “our rule is not to avoid a place where there is drinking, if we have a legitimate reason for being there”. It then goes on to say “therefore, ask yourself on each occasion, do I have any good social, business, or personal reason for going to this place”. 

“So always question your intentions first. Due to the increase of more people being interested in a sober lifestyle or mindful drinking, many pubs recognise they have to be more inclusive and provide non-alcoholic alternatives.”

Does being sober make you a better person?

This may sound like a silly question to ask, but for those teetering on the edge of sober commitment, being more ‘in control’ of their personality can be a big factor in why they might want to change. Hannah divulges in her own personal journey: “Being sober doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be a better person however most people recognise that if they consume alcohol or use drugs, they may turn into Mr Hyde rather than being their usual Dr Jekyll persona. Alcohol and other substances are mind-altering therefore they lower your inhibitions and can cause you to act in a way that is outside your normal behaviour.”

Without delving into a discussion on the morality of drinking, Hannah finds that there is a link between self-improvement and sobriety, particularly for those with a genuine drinking problem: “As someone in recovery, I have embraced a programme that encourages personal development which means I am more self-aware and able to recognise my part in any wrongdoings.”

Visit the Rehabs UK website for more information about sober shaming, including answers to more frequently asked questions:

Are you happier when you don’t drink?

Can you go to the pub if you don’t drink?

How do you politely tell someone you don’t drink?

If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, please contact the specialist alcohol recovery team at Rehabs UK. 

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