“Why do you not drink?”
Naturally, I happen to be asked that question when people find out that I don’t drink. I tell them that it gives me bad diarrhea and I don’t want to be a party pooper. Seriously though, I usually struggle to answer it properly. It’s not really something you can answer with one sentence and I tend to be hesitant to talk a lot about myself with new people. Besides, it’s hard to know what kind of an answer the person asking is looking for.
A lot of people are genuinely curious and seeing as I am a curious person myself (in more ways than one. No, not that one), I’m happy to answer to the best of my abilities. I have no problem with people asking me and I often get the sense that some people would like to know, but are afraid to ask. I’d tell you to ask me why I don’t drink if you see me, but hopefully that will be rather pointless after reading this.
Other people who ask the same question seem more worried about me accepting them and are wondering if I judge them for drinking alcohol. That answer is simple:
No, not at all.
I get the concern, as people who don’t drink are usually perceived to be introverted, anti-social, cautious, judgmental or weird and I’m only some of those.. What I’m not though, is someone who would judge you for having fun and being able to do things I don’t dare to do.
One of the reasons that I don’t drink alcohol, or coffee for that matter, is that I’m pretty reluctant to try new things. I usually stick to what I know, whether it comes to ordering food at a restaurant or expressing opinions publicly. I always go through pros and cons before deciding to try something new, whether that is drinking alcohol, or sharing something personal. I’m obviously sharing something personal right now, as I have been meaning to write this for at least 2 years, but I don’t expect to start drinking anytime soon.
I mean, I have tried. I haven’t had a traumatic incident relating to alcohol, there are no religious reasons hindering me, and I haven’t been offered 1 million to stay sober until I’m 30, sadly. There are other reasons for me though, apart from obvious ones like cost, health and taste. If alcohol tasted like brownies, I’d be more interested. Weed has got you beat there, alcohol.
One of the things I’m worried about, is the fact that I struggle to do anything in moderation. I’m either 100% in, or I’m out. There is currently a brand new bucket of ice cream in my freezer and I know if I even have a little taste, I’ll probably end up eating the whole thing. Now that would be delicious and I’d thoroughly enjoy it in the moment, but the amount I ended up consuming is probably something I’d regret the next day. Maybe you can relate?
Having a drink or two and occasionally going on a bender is something a lot of people do successfully, which is something I envy sometimes. I don’t know if I could keep it to just that however and I probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much as other people anyway.
One of the reasons for that is that I hate making mistakes. I regret things every day. It can be something as normal as not doing anything productive or something as silly as the way I said “Hi” to someone in passing. There are so many mistakes I have made that I still think about today and wish I could change. The thought of being drunk, not having as much control and making mistakes terrifies me.
I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people felt as hesitant about drinking alcohol as me, but since they want to have a social life, and drinking is kind of the norm, the pressure to drink is inevitable. Let me just emphasize: You should never feel pressured to do something you don’t want to do. Unless it’s a family reunion, which ironically is something a lot of people need alcohol to get through.
So I never really used to “go out” when I was younger. Sure, I could go out with friends and play some football or go out with friends and watch some football (I kinda like football). Since “go out” by itself is implicitly followed by “to drink” however, that didn’t appeal to me. It would be like eating cereal without milk, watching “The Bachelor” without Ben & Jerry’s or eating pizza with pineapple, it doesn’t work.
The other part of going out, meeting new people, isn’t exactly my favorite pastime either. I’m a bit awkward with new people and like Matthew Perry himself, I’m probably better off without alcohol. Could I BE anymore Chandler?
What I found out when I went to University however, is that it’s perfectly possible to go out without drinking and have a good time. After living in Norway all my life, I moved to London to study, and at that point, I hadn’t actually decided if I ever wanted to drink or not. When the topic first came up and I was asked what I like to drink, I said I don’t. To be clear, the question was specifically about alcoholic beverages. I wasn’t offered water, OJ or milk and then answered that I don’t drink. I’m not that awkward with new people.
Anyway, I wasn’t going to let the fact that I didn’t drink alcohol stop me from finding new friends and enjoying the full University experience. That’s what being a fresher is all about and I didn’t go to London to sit in my tiny little room all by myself.
Pretty much everyone who found out were totally cool with it. Some gave me high fives as if I was a 5 year old, (I do have the mind of one) and others asked the question you are currently reading the answer to. Then there were a select few who didn’t really care for my decision, but hey, can’t win ’em all.
Funnily enough, a lot of people didn’t find out until I had seen them at several nights out and they were shocked that I wasn’t drinking the whole time. While I was apprehensive about letting loose to begin with, I quickly figured that just having fun dancing, mingling and talking to people wasn’t as scary as it seemed.
Alcohol doesn’t give you superpowers, it just lowers your inhibitions to get around socially conditioned safety stops or filters. So I tried to challenge myself to not care that much about those things. If I made a fool out of myself, most people would be too intoxicated to remember anyway.
It made me appreciate being around people who do drink as well. People who were almost too shy to even say hello when I saw them around campus would come up to me with a big smile on their face and give me a hug during a night out. Since people become more comfortable around me when they drink, I also became more comfortable around them.
So even though I don’t drink myself, I can appreciate the fact that alcohol exists. It can make people open up and be more friendly, make them forget about their troubles for a night or simply just bring people together. I’m starting to sound like an alcohol commercial now, so I’ll leave you with this. Please, drink responsibly… Or not at all.