Remona Aly
Tuesday 05 January 2016 The Guardian

We’re being told to drink less alcohol – have you ever tried to give up?

Life as a teetotaller has been a liquid odyssey that has flung me far from the puritanical glass of orange juice, and opened up a daring world of Shloer and myriad pretentiously named mocktails.

My family has enjoyed its own version of a halal knees-up. We’ve often had our house red or white grape juice to accompany lamb or chicken for dinner. This Christmas just gone, we went all-out on elderflower fizz, £5 a pop. It was good stuff and I couldn’t get enough of it. I felt what it must be to feel hungover the next day. If I lived up north, I’d love to go down the Halal Inn in Oldham – the UK’s first alcohol free pub –a thoroughly British-Muslim concept.

On several occasions, people have been stunned, even mortified, upon hearing I’ve never touched a drop. “What, not even once?” they ask. However, I cannot say, hand on heart, that my life has been entirely alcohol-free. I’ve accidentally munched on the odd champagne truffle and doused my pancakes with bourbon sauce in a cafe once. An honest mistake. Sometimes I wish I made more of them.

A highlight or nadir that combined my faith with a bit of the ol’ bottle, came during one of the most sacred months for Muslims: Ramadan. A friend bought an enormous cake to add to the iftar feast. Once sunset kicked in, seven hungry Muslims were halfway through devouring it, when I piped up, “Tastes a bit alcoholic doesn’t it?” A Google later and we guiltily lowered our forks.

I’ve never been entirely comfortable around alcohol, but watching drinkers get tipsy or even sloshed is amusing. At house parties, weddings, university balls, I’ve seen inhibitions set free. Some gush odes and declarations of platonic love. Others become philosophers.

Many drinking friends have told me that I don’t need alcohol to relax and have a good time, saying – fondly, I hope – that I act drunk at times. It seems that an overt manifestation of happiness mirrors a state of intoxication. Yet these same friends have showed tremendous consideration, ensuring I’m not left out with gestures such as concocting alcohol-free mulled wine for me.

So alcohol – whether through abstention, being surrounded by it, or by accidental intake – has played some part in my life. I’ve never really wanted to drink it though, and according to friends it’s probably safer for everyone that I never try.

This article originally appeared in The Guardian on 5 January 2016. To view it click here.