Even in an Akha Hilltribe, having the occasional beer was the norm.
From my past experience, I learned how so many people treat alcohol as a vessel for social engagement. I was confronted on a couple occasions by people who were incredibly friendly, and by no means alcoholics, but could not understand how I could refuse the offering of a beer during a beach party, or during a giant festival. It actually made them uncomfortable to a certain degree. It’s a fascinating journey into the human psyche. This really challenges your own will and inner strength. I persevered and felt stronger because of it. Of course we still managed to have a good time, but there was the odd duck who just couldn’t understand it or accept it. Well… that seems to be a good filter for those I choose to have in my life then. A true friend should be able to support your decisions through any choice you make in life (as long as they’re non-damaging to yourself, of course). It becomes a great social experiment, though some of the realities may be quite black and white at times.
There’s no question about the health benefits associated with being alcohol free. Even after just a few big nights out over the past couple months, I already feel more susceptible to ailment and have gotten sick (twice!) for the first time in over a year! This is a definite driving force behind the challenge and one which I know will be the push needed to see it through to the end.
I think the hardest part of going alcohol free, as mentioned, is being in the company of friends, new and old. Especially while on the road. If you bump into an old friend, what better way to enjoy the encounter than sit around for a few hours over some beers and catch up on life happenings? Or after encountering someone new, hitting it off during a day of snorkelling, jungle hiking, bathing elephants, or whatever it is you’ve bonded over… now the evening sets in, and your new group of friends want you to join them for a frosty one at the local watering hole. “Oh, I’m trying to go alcohol free for a few months” are some difficult words to hear yourself utter… sadly.