Evening Telegraph

Dundee student Victoria, 18, has ‘lost friends through my decision not to drink’

Aged 17, Victoria Stewart had her first drink – and found the experience a thrill.

Victoria Stewart

But a year later, she is among the growing number of younger people who have decided to steer clear of booze and go teetotal.

Now aged 18, Victoria, from the Glens area of the city, admits she has lost friends as a result of her decision.

More young people are choosing to abstain from alcohol than ever before.

According to YoungScot, since 2005, the number of 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK who prefer not to drink at all has increased by 40%.

The charity has now issued new advice to people on what to do when they feel pressurised to drink by their peers.

Victoria first drank alcohol on her 17th birthday but decided it was not for her just six months later.

She has not touched a drink since and says she is not planning on drinking alcohol ever again.

Victoria said: “I took my first drink with my family at a birthday meal. Because it was the first time it was exciting, but I soon realised it did not appeal to me any more.”

Victoria said she didn’t like the sensation of drinking alcohol as it triggered feelings of anxiety.

“Most of my friends drank at that point, so sometimes I felt left out,” she said.

“But I soon decided I didn’t need to drink just because everyone else was.

“It is hard not to feel pressure sometimes so I had to stay with the friends who didn’t care if I was drinking or not.

“I have lost friends through my decision not to drink.

“Sometimes it would be my friend’s 18th birthday party and I would say I was not going out drinking.

“I naturally became distant from those friends who expected me to drink.

“I’m quite lucky to have some supportive people around me now.”

Victoria admitted that it has not always been easy to avoid being a part of the drinking culture.

She said: “I am very aware of the pressure but I am quite honest about it when I am asked why I do not drink.

“It is my personal choice not to and it’s not like I try to change what others do if they want to drink.”

Although students coming to Dundee for the new university year may be mostly looking forward to enjoying lively nightlife, Victoria, who is studying English and history at Dundee University, says she has still been able to enjoy the experience without alcohol – and still goes on nights out.

She said: “I’ve managed to make friends with people who don’t expect me to drink.”

The confidence to say no is something which may not come naturally to everyone, but Victoria encouraged others to stand up for what they believe in.

She said: “I have always been quite confident and outgoing but it becomes easier to not drink as you grow older.

“I am happy to go to a bar with friends and still not drink.

“I don’t worry about it too much.”

Speaking about what other young people should do if they are thinking about giving up alcohol, she added: “Just give it a go and don’t be scared.

“Imagining what it would be like is always worse than reality.”