Mindful drinking: our stories

January 2020 | 8 minutes

After Dry January we all have choices to make about what we want to do next with our drinking, and tens of thousands of people choose to cut back - here are some of their stories.

Elaine

I'd never done Dry January before now. I've been known to binge drink occasionally - yes. My ability to 'hold my drink' and 'party hard' can sometimes be worn like a (misguided) badge of honour, most definitely. Fortunately for me, I've never considered myself to have a problem with drinking, and my relationship with alcohol is a healthy one of moderation.

What I have been guilty of though, particularly during my 15+ years in the ad industry, is not being mindful that so many people don't drink alcohol, for a myriad of reasons. The assumption and culture of the industry is one that is built on a history of boozy client entertainment and team celebrations, as though we're only fun if we're having a drink. That's a default. And in today's day, that means we're forgetting about and doing a disservice to the 20% of the UK population that don't drink alcohol at all. And that number is rising amongst young people.

So, I’ve been doing Dry January 2020. Not just for me, but to raise awareness of all the people that don't drink and are therefore excluded at many levels every day in the workplace, probably inadvertently. Whether it's for their faith, a simple lifestyle choice, a physical or mental health condition or perhaps because they just 'don't fancy one today', whatever the reason - this is a matter of inclusion.

Here's my advice to those who still drink (myself included!): Don't try and convince someone to have a drink if they've said they don't want one. Don't call someone boring! If you're taking people out, consider who is going and choose somewhere that has a good selection of AF drinks. And for heaven's sake don't assume that she's pregnant just because she's not drinking alcohol.

As we enter a new decade, I'd invite us all to consider how inclusive we're being and how we can celebrate and value our individual differences.

Emma

There is a growing array of drinks and cocktails available that deliver a great taste experience, but that do not contain alcohol - and there’s a really good reason for this growing trend: fewer people want to get drunk all the time - and I’m one of them. I don’t abstain completely, but I’m definitely way more mindful. Making all social and networking events all about the drink is discriminatory. I value a range of people in my personal life, and I definitely support diversity and inclusion in my professional life. Here are just a few of the many reasons I don’t drink every time I go out, and why I think social events should be less about the alcohol and more about the social:

  1. Even if you handle your drink incredibly well, you’ve definitely got more energy and more spark without a hangover; my days are too important to waste.
  2. I don’t want to be a part of someone else’s battle with their physical health, their mental health, or an addiction they're struggling with.
  3. I value social interactions and want them to be authentic. Alcohol doesn't need to be involved for that.
  4. I'm giving thought to my future health.
  5. I have nieces and nephews and godchildren and I want to be a bona fide decent role model for them.

Perhaps most importantly, I’ve started being vocal about not drinking and the reasons why. It’s surprising how many conversations it sparks with people who thought they had to keep quiet about this societal, and let’s face it, industry, taboo.

Kelly

I didn’t realise that there was a name for the way I drank until I met the SPILL group. I drink mindfully. I choose when I want to drink and when I don’t and how much. For me that choice has come with age. I was definitely encouraged to drink more at work events when I was younger and I went along with it because I didn’t want to seem dull, and I got bored of saying no again and again. I hate that the advertising industry encourages drinking to such an excess, and that the events are very much focused around alcohol. There are so many other ways to socialise and build relationships and I would encourage organisers to think more creatively and inclusively.

Christine

I have picked up the phrase 'drinking mindfully' from the SPILL group, as I do enjoy a drink or a few from time to time, yet I enjoy it on my own terms. Over the last few years I have become more comfortable with not drinking when I don't feel like it, and the times I did drink when I didn't want to were due to fear of being or feeling excluded; fear of being seen as boring or annoying. I was apprehensive and embarrassed of being asked: 'Are you pregnant?' and similar questions.

I'd like to encourage everyone to be more mindful of creating a space where everyone can bring their full self; no matter of gender, sexual orientation, religion, ideas, emotions, beliefs, or the very choice of drink, may it be water, alcohol-free or with alcohol, as when we are able to bring our full selves, we are at our very happiest and best - and so much more productive too!

Everyone in this blog is a member of a digital advertising industry group called Sober Party Industry Lads and Ladies (SPILL), which is a community of sober-curious people who are keen to show that you don't need alcohol to have fun!