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1:46pm on Friday, 6th January, 2006:

Teetotalers and Vegetarians


I don't drink alcohol. I don't like the effects or the taste, and I save a ton of money from my non-habit (or, if you're one of those people who thinks that not having a religion is itself a religion, my habit).

In some ways, this puts me in the same line as vegetarians. As I've said before, people are vegetarians for one or more of three reasons: medical, moral or social. It's the same for people who don't drink alcohol: I don't like the effects (moral) or the taste (medical). I didn't, however, give up drinking to ingratiate myself into the affections of some other non-drinker (social).

Teetotallers, like vegetarians, are looked on as people who have made vaguely wacky lifestyle decisions but hey, no harm done unless they rant on about it. Teetotallers did used to rant on about it in the old Temperance days (I thought the T in T-total came from temperence, but wikipedia disagrees), however the failure of prohibition in the USA put an end to such nonsense. Vegetarians, of course, often like the holier-than-thou part of being in that 4% of the UK population that abstains from meat, which is what makes them so insufferable at times.

Increasingly, though, I've found that there are connotations that teetotallers have to endure which vegetarians don't. Put plainly, a good many people who don't drink alcohol are reformed alcoholics. Telling someone you don't drink alcohol carries a suggestion that if you were to touch a single drop of it you'd be downing bottles of gin in next to no time. I wrote a poem about it once, I was so annoyed.

Vegetarians don't have this problem. "I don't eat meat because I ate so much of it in the past that I became addicted to the stuff, I'd knock back 20 or 30 sausages a night, then first thing in the morning I'd reach for the bacon sarnie and start all over again". It doesn't really work.

Thus, when the leader of the Liberal Democrats announces he's an alcoholic but hasn't had a drink for two months, I'm perhaps not as overjoyed as I might be.

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).