The Accidental Teetotaller

depth of field photo of two pilsner glasses
Photo by Matan Segev on


Having a pint (or few) had always been part of my lifestyle. From my student days where a lunchtime pint on a Friday could sometimes lead to a lost day or two through to much more socially acceptable occasions when it was nice to have a drink with friends before or after going to watch the mighty Boro.

I’m from a large Catholic family and having a drink is part of the religion, you just feel guilty about it afterwards! Meeting up with friends invariably meant going to the pub for a few. I used to love it, having a drink gave me a confidence that I wouldn’t have. I would never have pretended to be Portugese (and nearly get away with it) or get on stage and join in with a band in a London pub if I was sober. Goes without saying that I always felt more confident talking to the opposite sex after a drink!

I have had some fantastic nights, social occasions, holidays, festivals that have revolved around having a drink. As I got older and the nights out got fewer and farther between and I didn’t feel the need to get “totally smashed”  I could still never imagine becoming one of those strange people you hear about who don’t drink! Yet here I am, a kind of accidental teetotaller!

The operation last year caused considerable damage to my liver. Although the liver is famous for it’s powers of recovery I was told by my consultant from an early stage that he wouldn’t recommend having more than the odd glass of wine or beer on special occasions. At first I wasn’t bothered, I was glad to still be here. As I got better I would keep testing him to see if he was going to change his mind but nope – his answer was always the same. Start drinking and the risk of causing further damage and becoming ill again would significantly increase. Christmas and New Year came and I stuck to his advice. It actually felt good not having that feeling you get when you have to force yourself to have another.

I went away at the end of May on a camping trip. Surely by now I could drink again. What do specialist consultants who have written research papers and spoke at international conferences on the liver know anyway?! I took it easy, had a beer one night, then the next night a couple of glasses of wine and another beer. I felt a bit tipsy which was to be expected and it felt quite nice. Then in the middle of the night I had to get up to be sick! Even in my student days this was never a side effect of drinking for me, all the other bad bits were! I took this as a sign and accepted that my drinking days are over.

You know what – It’s not so bad! Nights out are a lot cheaper and the health benefits are great. I can’t deny it was strange at first. I assumed that people would look at me like I had 2 heads. With help I was able to realise that I’m exactly the same person but instead of having a beer in my hand I might have a bottle of water or a soft drink, even these non-alcoholic beers taste better than they used to! I like who I am and I don’t need a drink anymore to pretend to be someone I’m not.

Another advantage is it’s suddenly cool! All the kids are giving up the drink or not starting – no doubt after seeing the state older generations got themselves into!

I’ve been on holiday and to a music festival and not drank and it was fine, I still had an amazing time. There is something very cathartic about seeing thousands of people enjoying themselves and being sober I had more awareness of what was going on around me and was able to laugh at some of the states people had got themselves into!

When I think back to some of my favourite times and favourite nights out, yes I might have had a drink but those times were special because of the people I was with and the places I had been and the events that we were celebrating. There are going to be great and special times ahead and I’ll still be here to celebrate them, I’ll have a better recollection of them the next day!

If like me, you find yourself becoming an accidental teetotaller let me know, I’ll go for a drink with you!

Cheers x

two persons holding drinking glasses filled with beer
Photo by Tembela Bohle on


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