Ten years ago, teenager Ezrah Waith was in a bustling nightclub on the Gold Coast’s glitter strip, with lights flashing and music pumping, when he had an epiphany.
- The number of ex-drinkers rose from 1.5 to 1.9 million Australians between 2016 and 2019
- Weight gain and hangovers were among the reasons for giving up alcohol
- Distillers are filling a gap in the market by making low and no-alcohol spirits
“I just remember standing in the middle of Sin City and realising I didn’t need alcohol to be myself,” Ezrah said.
It was almost sacrilege in the schoolies’ capital of Australia, where drinking alcohol is a veritable right of passage for many.
Now 30, Ezrah and his wife Tyrene are proud to remain booze-free and it seems their sober lifestyle may be catching on.
According to an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) triennial survey, the number of people who had ditched the drink rose from 1.5 million to 1.9 million between 2016 and 2019.
Weight gain and hangovers were cited among the reasons.
The AIHW report found the proportion of ex-drinkers had fluctuated since 2001, but 2019 recorded the highest proportion of ex-drinkers over that period.
The coronavirus pandemic may have disrupted people’s drinking habits in 2020, however, the AIHW said no clear patterns had emerged yet of the effects of COVID-19 restrictions on alcohol and other drug consumption.
Under the radar
Christmas parties and work social gatherings can often be an irritating experience for the sober-minded, but the advent of no and low-alcohol drinks has allowed people like Ezrah and Tyrene Waith to fly under the radar.
“It’s not so much that the questions annoy me, but it gets repetitive after a while if you are constantly explaining why you are not drinking,” Ezrah said.
“I like non-alcoholic beer and gin and tonics; I’ve found ones that are quite enjoyable. They taste very similar [to an alcoholic drink].
“It’s more socially acceptable to drink non-alcoholics. When you are not drinking, people think you are not having fun.
Faye Lawrence is the founder of Untoxicated, a non-drinking network of 8,000 Australians who socialise over morning teas and activities like mini golf and camping.
They are part of a growing movement called “sober curious”.
Ms Lawrence said whether people drank alcohol or not did not have to be “black or white”.
“It’s about having that sense of curiosity and picking for the individual what works for them and how they want to show up in the world.