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01st Nov 2021

All I want for Christmas is for people to stop pressuring me to drink

Kat O'Connor

Why can’t Irish society simply accept that everyone is different?

Halloween is now over and I’m fully embracing the Christmas spirit. Is it too early? Maybe, but this time of year is full of joy and merriment and you know what? We could all do with a little dose of joy after dealing with never-ending bad news, lockdowns, and isolation. We all need to invest in what makes us happy. If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that life is way too short and we should be spending whatever time we’ve got doing the things that make us happy. We should focus on the people who make us feel good and create memories we will treasure. The fear of Covid and rising case numbers are still a concern for me and most people, but I’m going to do my best to ensure the holiday season is as special as can be.

One thing I’m not standing for this year is being pressured to drink “because it’s Christmas”. The drinking culture in Ireland is hugely problematic, but people are so afraid to address it because it is ingrained in society. Have you ever been at a party and didn’t fancy drinking that night? Maybe you just wanted to take a break, maybe you don’t drink at all, maybe you’ve got a chronic illness that is worsened by alcohol. Whatever the reason, please remember one thing- there’s nothing wrong with you, no matter what society says. You do not need to drink to have a wonderful time. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had extended members of my family comment on my drinking habits.

Sometimes I just don’t feel like drinking. I’ll happily have wine nights with my friends or go out for cocktails every so often, but drinking excessively just isn’t for me. Unfortunately, some people can’t just accept that. They brand you a dry shite or call you boring or say you’re being awfully responsible. They’ll sneer at your glass of 7Up or force you to accept the drink they’ve bought you despite the fact that you’ve said no, thank you. I usually shake off their remarks, but why should I? Shouldn’t we stand our ground and help them see there is no shame in no drinking, even if it is Christmas.

Why can’t Irish society simply accept that everyone is different? Some people will drink 10 pints of Guinness every weekend and have a ball. Others will stick to water all night and still have a blast. Commenting on a person’s relationship with alcohol is not only rude, but it also makes them feel incredibly isolated and uncomfortable. What if they’ve had issues with alcohol in the past? What if they’re pregnant and aren’t ready to tell people?

Many people, like me, are on antidepressants and don’t feel comfortable drinking excessively anymore. I’ve been on my meds for over two months now and I know I’ll be cutting down on alcohol even more than ever this Christmas and I feel fine about it. I’m actually just excited to feel mentally well this year. Choosing to reduce how much you drink is a very personal decision. It changes with every person and relatives or peers don’t have the right to force you to change your mind. What’s the point in taking medication to help you when alcohol will only undo the medication’s job? And what if someone just doesn’t like the taste of alcohol? It isn’t a crime and it’s something people need to open their eyes to this Christmas. We need to respect people’s decisions and simply leave them be. You’re not boring or too responsible if you don’t drink. You’re doing what is best for you and if people can’t accept that then that’s on them. All I want for Christmas is to be able to celebrate the holidays without some relative moaning about why I haven’t spent half a day’s wages on some overpriced pints in our local pub. Is that really too much to ask?