Why I've never tasted alcohol - and never will
PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 September 2019 | UPDATED: 13:51 14 September 2019
For many people, taking their first sip of beer or wine is something to truly savour.
Rather like passing your driving test or getting your first job, it is perhaps a moment when you feel you have really become an adult - with all the freedoms that entails.
Not that I'd know...because alcohol has, literally, never passed my lips.
The reactions that sentence has got over the years has varied, from shock and bewilderment to some thinking it is actually quite quirky and cool (although not that many, I have to confess).
Working in what certainly was a heavy drinking industry, although it is much more professional now, it caused even more surprise.
One legendary news editor who was known for his drinking habits once said to me, aghast: ""You've never drunk alcohol? Never?! You haven't lived, man!""
It certainly wasn't a deliberate or conscious decision, at least not to start with.
As a child I was quite a fussy eater and drinker, who preferred a familiar diet I knew and liked as oppose to branching out and trying new things.
I'm still quite fussy now, but I stuck to an incredibly limited range of both foods and drinks throughout my teenage years.
So while many people seemingly can't wait to go and buy their first pint when they were 18, I saw no reason to move away from my good old familiar blackcurrant juice.
As I moved into the adult world, where drinking is a common part of socialising, the continuous questions - and one might saying goading to have a drink - became more and more frequent.
For many, the first question was quite simply: why?
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The answer that I just didn't feel inclined to have any form of ale and was already happy with my (admittedly limited) drinking habits didn't seem to satisfy some.
Many seem to think that I must secretly be hiding an alcohol addiction and have gone cold turkey to stop my cravings for booze.
Believe that if you want, but having not even tried alcohol it'd be pretty hard to get hooked.
Bizarrely, many think I have some sort of religious objection to alcoholic beverages. Again, I'm not religious and I'm really not fussed either way what people decide to drink - I've always mixed quite freely in bars and pubs with drinkers and non-drinkers alike.
One person told me that unless I was prepared to have a sip here and there in certain situations, I would find it hard to get on socially.
Although I'm sure I have many faults in social situations, I can't say I've ever found this to be true. If anything, to say I don't drink is a good conversation starter.
And it's perfectly acceptable to drink a fruit juice or water while others drink alcohol. If people have a problem with that, it's a shame but I'm not going to change because of it.
Had I faced no questions about my drinking habits, I probably still wouldn't have felt the need to try any form of ale. As those who know me realise, I'm quite happy with my blackcurrant squash.
But the questions, rather than making me question my automatic choice, probably made me even more determined to live my life as I see fit. If not drinking is part of that, then so be it.
It probably is also true though that seeing some of the negative effects of alcohol has perhaps emboldened me to steer clear.
The vast majority of people drink safely and responsibly and as I've already said, I've no problem with people enjoying themselves.
But having been a court reporter for many years, I have seen what having too much booze can do to people.
I've seen it turn people who are otherwise normal and reasonable into someone with a conviction for drink-driving or assault, their lives effectively ruined.
While I don't personally drink it, alcohol is something people have every right to enjoy. However hopefully it can be just one part of the mixture of a rich life.