Image: Making a free choice

Making a Free Choice Making a free choice means feeling that the decisions you make about drinking, and when you drink, are really your own.

Making a free choice means feeling proud about making drinking choices which reflect your personality, values and priorities.

It’s important to make your own choices about whether or not to drink – and, if you choose to drink, whether you drink in a way that allows you to stay in your Sweet Spot by enjoying the moment, staying physically healthy, feeling like yourself, staying safe and secure, and feeling like you belong.

Young people said that making your own choices about drinking can be an important part of getting older. Some said that when alcohol first became available to them, this seemed like an exciting shift – and then the novelty often wore off and the excitement faded. Many young people said that making a free choice meant thinking about what was important to them, their families and their communities. They mentioned beliefs that people who don’t drink are not able to think for themselves or are rigid in their thinking, but told us that these are often just stereotypes. They had made their own choices, for themselves.

“There’s no in-between I felt like if I want to enjoy myself, I’d have to get wasted, otherwise there’s no point.”
Iris, moderate drinker
“Me and my friends literally have no idea what happened, ‘cos all of us obviously went out with the intention to stay sober, and the opposite happened.”
Gaby, moderate drinker

When isn’t it a “free choice”?

Image: Girls with sign outsideGetting carried away in the moment and drinking more than you’d hoped to can mean feeling like you didn’t really make a free choice. Young people said they sometimes got carried away by the physical effects of alcohol, beliefs that they’d feel even better by drinking more, or encouragement to join in with drinking. This can be part of the experience of drinking for some young people, but choosing to give up control over yourself by drinking too much may mean that you later feel regret over that choice.

Even though some people feel they need to personally experience excess in order to genuinely make a free choice, many others feel that they don’t need to push beyond their personal boundaries in order to know enough to make their own decisions.

There may be expectations among friends focusing on spending time in pubs, invitations to join in rounds or play drinking games and ideas that a “good night out” involves excessive drinking. Expectations like these can mean that you get caught up and end up drinking more than you’d prefer.

What works

Remember that you’re not making a lifetime decision – you change the amount you drink, or your choice to drink at all, at any time. You’re making the best decision for you, right now.

Think about the “done thing” among your friends – are there hidden rules and expectations about drinking? Showing respect for other people’s decisions about drinking can help others realise that you have thought about your choices and they are important to you. But it can help to look honestly at how you and your friends tend to drink when you get together.

  • Look honestly at how you and your friends tend to drink when you get together
  • Learn from your own and others’ experiences.
  • Remember that some people brag that they drink loads, but actually drink slowly or alternate drinks
  • Stop drinking before you reach a point where the alcohol is making the decision, not you.
  • Stay sober and see what difference it makes

Image: Feel proud about your choices

Feel proud about your choices. There may be small difficulties sometimes, but they’re worth it.

  • Feel proud in your ability to have fun with less or no alcohol
  • Value acting in a way that reflects who you are and what you value
  • Value being someone people want to be around