I’m going completely sober at EP this weekend. Am I mad?

Past experiences of excessive drinking in my teens (passing out, violent puking episodes, the fear x10 etc.) have left me with little desire to drink beyond the point of reason. This weekend at Electric Picnic you’ll find me dancing all night instead of drinking, writes Niamh O’Donoghue.


There are a few types of people you don’t want to be at EP: the girl who uses her supply of makeup wipes AND loo-roll before 5pm on Friday evening; the guy face down on Saturday morning; the person (usually guy) who belly-flops on everyone’s tent and the stone-cold sober person in a sea of “on it” people come Sunday night. Well, look out, world(EP), because that sober person will be me. 

Past experiences of excessive drinking in my teens (passing out, violent puking episodes, the fear x10 etc.) have left me with little desire to drink beyond the point of reason, so this weekend I'm undertaking a self-imposed drinking ban to see if my festival experience rivals the ones with severe headaches and gut-wrenching fear. Some primal instinct feeling tells me it will...

In the past, drinking was seen as a hallmark of celebrations, a way of marking an occasion, though the general consensus around consumption now varies starkly. Today, Irish women are among the heaviest female drinkers in the world. They now rank seventh in the world for the amount of alcohol they consume daily, with women in their 50's being classed as the country's biggest female problem drinkers. What's more, it's possible for a woman to reach her weekly recommended low-risk limit of 11 standard drinks for €4.95We down naggins, skull flaggins, neck bottles of wine. Our weekends often go something like this: after-work drinks, a hangover on Saturday and a cure on Sunday.

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"Old habits die hard", but our drinking habits are changing – slowly. A recent Eventbrite study recorded the responses of 1,023 Millennials, aged 21-37, and found that alcohol consumption is actually on the decline among millennials. Six in 10 would rather dance all night than drink all night. Seven in ten people would rather pace themselves on the first night of a festival than go wild; these figures highlight the importance young people place on pacing their consumption. The survey found that most respondents see going out and getting drunk as something the “older generation” did.

Sobriety is no-longer something to snigger about – especially in Irish culture – and a number of our favourite drink brands now include zero per cent alcohol drinks in their portfolios. Having the option of zero per cent drinks in pubs and at festivals introduces a new element of socialising to the Irish scene, one without alcohol dependence. Generally, people don't react with HORROR that alcohol isn't part of your life, and, for the most part, support and respect that decision. I haven't experienced sobriety at a festival before though, so I might need to readdress this come Monday morning. 

If you too are planning on joining the sober curious movement this weekend, enjoy a swim in beautiful Stradbally lake whether you're an Olympic swimmer or a doggy-paddler; laugh your ass off with some world-class comedy acts; work your way through Just Eat Retreat; get involved in some social debate with Hotpress and Ana Liffey. And for those needing a bit of glam-over the weekend, give yourself a well-deserved pamper at the Pink Pamper Salon in the Jimi Hendrix campsite.

Not drinking either? Come find me - I’ll be the one dancing all night.

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