As a country which is arguably the most synonymous with alcohol, an Irishman (or Irishwoman) who admits they are teetotal sounds like it is a cornerstone of modern Irish mythology, if such a thing even exists.
It is almost an unwritten law in Ireland to dismiss someone’s intention to not drink, even if they just want a night off, while simultaneously making it sound like the person who abstains from drinking does not know how to enjoy themselves.
Today marks two years since I last put alcohol to my lips. I know, saying that you stopped drinking alcohol the day after Valentine’s Day does sound like a bad cliché. However, romance had nothing to do with my decision to finally stop drinking. In fact, I had not initially planned to quit it entirely at the time: it just happened.
In hindsight however, it was not a sudden decision which just turned me toward teetotalism, but was something that had been years in the making.
A core part of my identity
If someone was to ask me the question “How would you describe yourself?”, I think saying I am teetotal would probably be the first or second thing I would say. These days, I make an extremely conscious effort to describe myself as such, as I feel it has grown to become a quintessential element of my identity.
A lot of that comes down to several key figures in my life having long-term struggles with alcoholism, with my father being among them. Thankfully, my father has been sober for several years.
I always felt a certain cautiousness whenever alcohol was involved, and having seen the potential destruction it can cause, which included it being a key factor as to why my parents broke up in an extremely acrimonious fashion, only reinforced my reluctance to make alcohol a mainstay of my life.
A curse on my creativity and productivity
Outside of bearing witness to what damage alcohol can cause to those who fall victim to its addictive qualities, I had become increasingly fascinated in examining the behaviour of others, and especially night culture throughout my college years.
I even wrote an unpublished poetry chapbook in 2017 on night culture during a year in the life of a university fresher, which coincided with my most in-depth exploration with alcohol, with my own drinking being extremely heavy in quantity whenever I did decide to drink.
This did bring about an unfortunate complication that I could only feel inspired to write while under the influence, which greatly affected my creative productivity for roughly eighteen months, as my awareness of alcohol being a potential muse for any creative outlet is outright dangerous.
Thankfully, I never felt as if my relationship with alcohol was going to spiral out of control. However, being all too aware that there is always a possibility of that happening, especially when it does run in the family line, was one of the big reasons why I initially stepped away from alcohol in the first place.
How COVID reinforced my belief in teetotalism
My belief in teetotalism was not rigid throughout my first year of actually being teetotal, which naturally did lead to massive initial peer pressure to have a drink. To be fair, it was my own fault, as I only considered it to be a somewhat temporary thing – and then the COVID-19 pandemic happened.
I would like to believe this pandemic has forced a lot of us to examine the world, society, and ourselves in particular, with a more critical lens than I think we ever wanted to.
For me, it mostly boils down to my belief that we as a society, glorify alcohol as being something . Even people looking forward to nights out again once the pandemic is behind us with the sole intention to drink themselves to a point they are caught in a bar stool, is for me at least, a little concerning.
I get why people would want to do that, especially so given the events of the last eleven months, and I do not begrudge them at all for it. I honestly think it is just a “me” thing at this point.
However (and I cannot stress this enough), it does not mean I am against anyone who does drink, or who likes drinking. Everyone is well within their right to engage in anything that brings them enjoyment, comfort, or happiness.
I have developed a steadfast belief that it is important to learn to live a fulfilling life without alcohol (or any other vice for that matter) as being a necessity for that fulfillment to exist. Fulfillment should start and end with yourself, with everything else on enhancing said fulfillment.
Of course, there are other, more obvious realisations that I could mention, which are more important in the grander scheme of things, but on a personal level, it is one of the most profound.
There are so many other smaller reasons that I could mention. However, I feel that to think too deeply about all of them here might be a little excessive.
Up until very recently, I said that I would give some consideration to having a drink during special occasions, which was the sole exception to my teetotal viewpoint. Now, it feels extremely likely that I will never drink again. I feel my life misses nothing now it plays no part of my life.
In some ways, being teetotal, at least for myself, feels much more intoxicating than being under the influence ever did.