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A personal reflection on turning down a drink

This week GrogWatch publishes a personal musing from one of the Australian Drug Foundation’s own staff.

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“Go a month or two without any wine” my trainer said to me, “it’s an easy way to lose some calories.”

After six months of 6am training sessions and no movement on the scales, you’d think I’d be willing to try anything.

Instead this came out.

“But I can’t not drink at all, I’m single and I’m dating.”

My trainer laughed and said something about “needing wine” to get through marriage also.

On the way home from the gym the hypocrisy of my words hit me.

Sometimes I even help write some of the articles you read here in GrogWatch. I’ve worked on alcohol culture change campaigns. I meet with researchers and experts regularly to stay abreast of the latest alcohol research, news and trends. It’s fair to say that I have a strong grasp on the ways that alcohol can impact on your health and your life.

Like many others in our community, I’m a product of the culture I’ve grown up with, which tells me every day that I deserve that drink. Even if I don’t feel like one, it’s easy to get caught up in the desire to fit in with what others are doing – which often seems to involve alcohol.

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Intellectually I know this is learned behaviour and a construct that has been heavily reinforced by alcohol industry advertising and popular culture (Offspring and Sex in the City come immediately to mind!).  The hundreds of memes I see on my Instagram and Facebook feeds show me that I’m certainly not the only one.

In our culture drinking alcohol appears to be the norm for social activities and not drinking is a rarity. This applies to dating in particular, and has often led me to having a drink or two when I really didn’t want one.

In this age of internet dating, generally it seems there are two variations on date formats – a daytime coffee date and the “let’s meet for a drink” type of date.

Sometimes refusing a drink feels harder than it should. Especially when you’re on a date. Sometimes it feels like you have to explain why you’re not drinking and it’s easier to just have a drink and fit in. And I wish it wasn’t the case.

VicHealth recognises this peer pressure that many of us feel to drink and created a campaign aimed at challenging those social norms. The No Excuse Needed campaign aimed to raise the acceptability of not drinking, with no excuses needed.

The Australian Drug Foundation are excited that later this year we’ll be launching a new social media campaign. It will be aimed at helping young people take a short break from drinking so that they can be confident in refusing a drink and realise that not every social situation needs to revolve around drinking alcohol.

Stay tuned for more about our new campaign in coming months.

And in the meantime for me, I’ll keep reminding myself that I’m great company sober and I certainly don’t need an excuse to say no to a drink if I don’t want one.