Confession time. I have a problem with alcohol. But if you’re expecting amusing anecdotes of all-night debauchery from a sozzled hack too drunk to know his posterior from his elbow, then I’m sorry to disappoint you. I don’t actually drink alcohol.

My problem is with the drinking culture that still permeates every aspect of life. The unspoken expectation that hangs in the air, followed by the quizzical look and tilt of the head, when you say “no thanks”. Then there’s the half-joke, the embarrassment of asking the barman for a non-alcoholic beer, rounded off by the unconcealed smirk that says “what’s the point?”

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Having watched the compelling documentary on the late Charles Kennedy, which covered his tragic battle with alcoholism, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own relationship with drink.

I lost my father to alcohol abuse. It was shocking to see how quickly he descended from a fitness-obsessive to a shadow of the man who raised me. Has it influenced my views on drink? Undoubtedly.

Now, I realise I’m going against popular opinion here. I can almost hear the sharpening of pencils as readers prepare to write their letters, accusing me of being a “self-righteous zealot”. I’m not, honest. Let me make my position clear.

Firstly, I’m not calling for prohibition and the mass closure of pubs. Far from it. Pubs play a vital role in communities, offering a welcoming place of friendship and happiness. It’s just the drinking part I’m not sure about.

In the same way a church can be a place of belonging and kinship, it’s just the “God part” I struggle with. Can we not help our fellow man and woman without having to worship some mystical entity in heaven? Similarly, can we not meet in a pub without, to put it simply, always poisoning ourselves?

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Secondly, attitudes towards non-drinkers have moved on. And I haven’t always been teetotal.

When I was in my 20s during the 1990s era of laddism and Men Behaving Badly, hard drinking was the norm in the circles I moved. And not wanting to be the odd one out, I joined in. Thankfully, the “binge to excess” zeitgeist doesn’t appear to be as strong as it once was, while the rise of coffee culture can only be a good thing.

Thirdly, I’m not suggesting everyone who enjoys a sweet sherry is going to transform overnight into Oliver Reed.

Drinking is often associated with good times, while abstaining raises fears of being “boring”.

It can also be thought of as an indicator of social refinement. The explosion of wine drinkers or whisky connoisseurs are merely an expression of middle class aspirations. Sophisticates who wouldn’t dream of quaffing a bottle of Hooch, are quite happy to down a glass or two of Rioja. The respectable way to get blotto.

At the end of the day, Charles Kennedy and my father were responsible for their own actions. However, I sometimes wonder if vulnerable people with addictive personalities hadn’t been exposed to such easy temptation, Scotland wouldn’t have lost one of its best politicians and I’d still have a dad.

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