Today marks one year since I stopped drinking alcohol.

Apart from one ‘non-alcoholic’ drink that possibly wasn’t and a few meals cooked with alcohol, I’ve gone an entire year without touching a drop of the stuff.

Why did I give it up?

There were a few reasons. One was that I was inspired by this post about going two years without drinking. Two was that I wanted to get my book written and to be more productive in life in 2016 than I was in 2015. Three was just for a challenge. Four was for my health, although I wasn’t a particularly heavy drinker beforehand.

Here are a few things I learned:

A lot of Britons are dependent on booze

I use ‘dependent’ in a broad sense here. A small minority of people are physically dependent on alcohol – as in they get the shakes if they come off it. But a much larger proportion of people are socially dependent on alcohol. That means that their social lives are built in such a way that removing alcohol would undermine their ability to form and maintain relationships.

Alcohol greases the wheels of British social life, just like it does across the West. It’s easier and perfectly understandable to accept that and drink than to go against the grain and stay sober. But giving up alcohol has made me realize more fully the extent of our social dependence as a country.

You have fewer, better conversations

Alcohol makes me more sociable but I sacrifice quality for quantity if I have more than a few drinks. I become more outgoing than I am naturally but the conversations I have tend to become a bit shallower. Staying sober means I’m quieter, but the conversations I do have are more likely to be more meaningful.

I haven’t found a non-alcoholic drink of choice yet

If I carry on being teetotal in 2017 I plan to drink more non-alcoholic beer. I can’t go a whole evening on Coca-Cola or lemonade. Ginger beer or lime and soda aren’t bad.

It’s often easier not to drink at all than to drink a little

Once your friends and family understand that you are serious about giving up alcohol then any pressure on you to drink is lifted. This can be useful if you sometimes struggle to keep up with your friends in the pub or on a night out. One might become four sometimes, but zero never does.

Christmas is the hardest time to go without drinking

A combination of office parties and seeing friends and family make Christmas the toughest time for a teetotaler to navigate. Personally December was the last month of my self-imposed ban, which made a bottle of Peroni or a glass of red wine more tempting than usual.

Dry 2017?

I’m planning on seeing it through until New Year’s Day.

Originally I planned to break it just after midnight, but now I’m thinking of keeping it going for a while longer. I think on balance the advantages of going without alcohol outweigh the disadvantages. But I do miss it though.

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