Nicky Park: Do you need alcohol to have a good time?

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Do you need alcohol to have a good time?
Photo / Thinkstock
Do you need alcohol to have a good time? Photo / Thinkstock

Everyone else seems more concerned that I'm not drinking alcohol than I am.

My drinking buddies check up on me when I'm sipping my soda water and fresh lime.

"Are you okay, Nicky?"

"Are you bored?"

"You can just go home when you're ready."

Their intentions are always kind, but their words can make me feel like I'm being a wet blanket (when I'm sure I'm as jovial as always!).

About one in seven people in New Zealand are living a dry life and they're often unfairly tarnished with the "wowser" tag.

"Firstly, I think it needs to be said that I am not a goody two-shoes," said Auckland Mayor John Banks during an interview a few years ago with Canvas.

"I am not what you'd loosely describe as a wowser," said Banks, a teetotaller for 40 years.

His mother Kitty, an alcoholic, was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for performing back-street abortions in the mid-1960s. Within a decade of her release, she was dead, aged 50.

"It was a very easy decision," he told Canvas.

Mr Banks said he was aware of pressure to drink in his 20s, but didn't let this shake his resolve.

"I put down the last glass and never worried about it again. A lot of people ask me 'do you ever crave for a drink?' Well, no more than I crave for a cigarette. You just don't think about it."

I've only been alcohol-free for five weeks, and I will be hopping off the wagon again after this six-week spell (with a more considered approach to booze). However, one of my friends, Amy, has been sober for almost a decade. For medical reasons, she hasn't had a drink since we finished school and celebrated our freedom with a week of frivolity in Queensland.

She says drinking alcohol is so in-grained in the activities of our 20-something lives that she constantly needs to explain her sober self. She says there have been times she's been left off the invitation list because she won't be drinking.

It's also thrown her a curve ball when it comes to dating.

When offered the classic icebreaker: "Can I buy you a drink?" she graciously suggests a glass of water which inevitably brings the follow-up question: "Aren't you drinking? Why?"

There's something about sobriety that can make people feel self-concious about drinking alcohol.

Amy doesn't judge others when they've had too much to drink. She finds the random conversation funny. And if having a couple of vodkas helps dust the dancing shoes off, she's all for it.

But she says there's something liberating about the fact she doesn't rely on alcohol to have a great time.

She can chew the fat for hours, meet new people, stay up late and dance until dawn - minus the hangover.

I'll admit what I've missed most about this temporary teetotal period has been the social lubrication that alcohol provides. I love chatting with girlfriends over a wine, breaking the ice with a couple of beers, celebrating with champagne and sampling a new tipple.

However, like many people I've always said "I don't need to drink to have a good time".

It's nice to know that's the truth.

Follow Life & Style Editor Nicky Park on Twitter.

Nicky Park

Editor of Life & Style.

Nicky lives to wine, dine and thrive. As Life & Style Editor at the New Zealand Herald online, she feels lucky she can call this work. Nicky crafted her writing skills as a cadet for an Australian news wire. Amongst the coverage of sport, news, finance and courts she found a favourite in features. A stint as a foreign correspondent sent this chipper Aussie across the Tasman, covering the big issues of the Pacific Islands. Every single day Nicky relishes the opportunities she has to mix and mingle with interesting people, feast on delicious food, visit new places and write all about it. Nicky wants everyone to make the most of their minutes, learn lots and live their best life.

Read more by Nicky Park

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