HERE’S a sobering thought: a quiet revolution is taking place in Scotland with people calling time on alcohol. Despite our unenviable reputation as a country of boozers, more people are giving up our national pastime – and much to my surprise I am one of them.

Like others who jumped on the Dry January wagon, I enjoyed being sober so much that I’m nearly five months alcohol-free. I’m not alone: there are 10.6 million adults in the UK who don’t touch a drop and many of them have joined social media groups such as Dry January and Beyond, Club Soda, which has 15,000 members, and Soberistas. Bestselling books such as The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray, and The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley are taking the stigma out of being teetotal.

Giving up drinking today is a world away from the traditional image of the desperate alcoholic who reaches rock bottom, losing family, home and job and ending up baring all at AA meetings. Instead, going alcohol-free is seen as a lifestyle choice and is being embraced by clean-eating millennials with 27 per cent of those aged 16-24 in Europe teetotal.

Scotland is finding the habit less easy to shake with only 10 per cent of non-drinkers in this age bracket compared to 25 per cent in England. However, more middle-aged Scots like me are waking up to the mental and physical health benefits of sobriety and that’s where the statistics gap begins to close. Around 12 per cent of Scots aged 45-54 don’t drink compared to 15 per cent of people in England while 10 per cent of those aged 55-64 don’t drink in both countries.

One of the most telling signs that we are undergoing a sober revolution is the rise in the variety and quality of alcohol substitutes that are available, from alcohol-free gin and tonic from Tesco and alcohol-free beer from drinks giants Heineken and Becks, and 0.5 per cent ‘Nanny State’ beer from craft brewers Brew Dog at one end of the market to the pricey distilled non-alcoholic spirit Seedlip (yours for £26 a bottle) at the other.

The demand is clear from recent Office of National Statistics figures, which show that in 2016, 20.9 per cent of people drank no alcohol, up two per cent from 2005, while sales of low alcohol and alcohol-free beers increased by 17 per cent in 2017.

A sober bar, Redemption in Shoreditch, has been such a success that two more are set to open in London and The Brink has just opened in Liverpool. A dry pub has yet to make an appearance in Scotland but it’s only a matter of time – earlier Sober Clubbing launched in Glasgow, where you can dance in a drink-free environment.

Mark Leyshon, senior policy officer at Alcohol Concern said: “The demand for alcohol-free drinks has gone through the roof. InBev, the biggest drinks firm in the world who makes Becks, Stella and Budweiser, says that in the next seven years 20 per cent of its portfolio will be in low alcohol and alcohol-free drink.”

He points out that it is the Baby Boomer generation who are the biggest boozers while the clean-eating younger generation are more likely to shun alcohol, perhaps as a reaction to their parents’ habits.

“Very few people in Britain in the 1950s drank heavily or regularly, but in the 1970s and 1980s the advertising industry targeted drinkers and alcohol changed from being an occasional treat to a lifestyle choice.

“Women have always drunk less than men, but now they are being targeted with the message that drinking alone – once taboo – is a little bit of ‘me-time’ while watching Netflix or having a bath, or it helps you bond with a group of girlfriends.

“Drinks like gin, prosecco and wine are aimed at women and are cheap and easily available.”

But women, too, are getting wise to the perils of alcohol and beginning to shun 'wine o'clock’. According to the ONS, 27 per cent say they drink between three and six units on their heaviest drinking day, down from 33 per cent a decade before. Many women cite losing weight as a reason for giving up alcohol.

“The average wine drinker consumes an extra 2,000 calories a month and alcohol is a significant contributor to the rise in obesity,” said Leyshon.

An unwanted, spreading middle was one of the reasons I gave up drink. I thought I would shift weight by ditching all those empty calories, but the scales have so far stubbornly refused to budge. I remain hopeful as weight loss is supposed to happen after month five of sobriety. However, my ‘wine tummy’ has disappeared, I’ve lost a couple of inches off my waist, my face is less puffy, and my skin is less dehydrated.

I had health concerns too: high blood sugar that could lead to diabetes, and alcohol and the menopause are not a good mix, with disturbed sleep, weight gain and hot flushes exacerbated by drink. I have been sleeping better, hot flushes are not so frequent, I have more energy and feel more alert, and my moods are more even now that the chemical balance of my brain isn’t being messed up by a depressant.

Other than health and vanity, my main reason for giving up was the example I was setting my 11-year-old son, who had begun to comment on his parent’s regular habit of downing a few glasses of wine with dinner. He had started saying he couldn’t wait until he was 18 to start drinking and it made me reflect on how I’d grown up in a 1970s household where drinking was regarded as not only the norm but necessary for an enjoyable adult life. I don’t want my son to fall for those advertising lies or into the same cycle of dependency.

Another reason I decided to quit was the shock of how hard it was to contemplate dealing with the ups and downs of life without a drink. It made me realise how in thrall I was to alcohol – psychologically if not physically – and even more determined to be free from its constraints.

Since giving up I’ve remained sober through a dodgy mammogram result, which thankfully proved to be nothing, the severe illness and death of my mother, and countless dinners where I would once have enjoyed a glass of wine and chat with my husband. Every time I nearly cave, I reach for an alcohol-free beer and remind myself of the friends and family who have lost their health and in some cases their lives to drink.

In the past, I’ve tried to moderate without success and find that giving up has been far easier than wrestling with the desire to empty a bottle of wine once opened. I’ve often felt weak-willed and ashamed at my lack of control, but Mark Leyshon doesn’t think drinkers should be too hard on themselves for not being able to ‘handle’ their drink.

“The alcohol industry likes to say the problem lies with drinkers and not the product, but if you overdo it over a long time it is habit-forming. The group that drinks the most are the middle aged who have carried on drinking since their youth. Alcohol is a toxin, and because it is a legal drug and highly acceptable, it does far more harm than cocaine and heroin.”

Author John Neil Munro, 58, who lives in Edinburgh and has been alcohol-free for five years, said: “My only regret is I didn’t stop 25 years ago. It’s fun when you are young but as you get older, the hangovers are brutal and you lose control of your actions when you are drunk.

“I’m really glad I stopped. I had tried to give up several times before but it didn’t work. This time it was easy. I had grown to hate alcohol and the effect it was having not just on me but also on friends and on Scottish society.”

Ann Lawson, 45, a web editor from Glasgow gave up alcohol at the beginning of the year in an attempt to slim down.

“I signed up for One Year No Beer and their 90-day challenge. I’d piled on weight and knew wine was mostly to blame. I was also knackered, felt awful and noticed my intake had grown to harmful levels.

“There were times when I was thoroughly fed up with yet another cup of tea or fizzy water, but I felt amazing and liberated.”

Ann celebrated completing the challenge by cracking open the wine over two nights. “I can’t begin to express how bad I felt. My booze blues were off the chart and my sleep was pitiful. I now want a longer if not permanent break from alcohol. Life’s too short to waste on hangovers.

Maggie Ritchie's latest novel Looking for Evelyn is published by Saraband.

Sober celebrities

They may be knocking back the whisky and downing enormous glasses of wine in television dramas such as Big Little Lies and Sex and the City, but the stars of these shows are drinking fruit juice on set and in real life many of them are teetotal. Take a look at these celebrities and be inspired – never has sobriety been more fashionable.

• Scots actor Gerard Butler has played plenty of bad boys but nowadays he steers clear of alcohol. “I did a full life’s drinking between 14 and 27,” he says.

• Never a big drinker, TV presenter Fearne Cotton quit alcohol completely ten years ago. “Now I feel bloody brilliant,” she says.

• Singer, dancer and actress Jennifer Lopez doesn’t drink or smoke. She says: “I think that ruins the skin.”

• Squeaky clean football role model David Beckham stopped drinking years ago.

• Kristin Davis and Kim Cattrall helped make the Cosmopolitan cocktail famous on Sex and the City but they are both teetotal.

• Once a notorious ‘ladette’, radio personality Zoe Ball and her DJ husband Norman Cook gave up drinking after years of hard partying.

•Scots DJ Calvin Harris gave up alcohol in 2008 to help his career and says: “My live shows are a million times better now.”