Although this post is titled “It’s OK not to drink”, let me be clear, its OK to drink too. What isn’t OK is the weird social navigating you have to do in social situations if you choose not to. This is something to think about, be considerate of, and is a highly personal choice either way. Whether you chose to imbibe is totally up to you, but please be considerate of those who don’t.
You see, most people would never assume that I don’t drink. It’s so engrained into their daily lives that it’s hard to imagine that someone also might not indulge. It’s not that I think alcohol is evil, I am the only one of my friends that is a teetotaler of sorts, it’s just that it doesn’t have a place in my life. I found out early (and acted on it late) that I must be allergic to alcohol. Anytime I would drink I would break out in random song, exude symptoms of break dancing, and lose my memory, coordination and occasionally my temper. All joking aside, one drink easily turned to twelve for me. I’d wake up the next day wondering what happened, what whirlwind attached itself to my brain and guessing how just one beer turned into the mound of empty cans and an empty frozen pizza box. It was a rite of passage I enjoyed in my early 20s, but became just totally unacceptable, unenjoyable and downright unpleasant as a father pushing into his thirties.
Not drinking seems to have more of a social stigma than drinking itself, and socially the pressure is still there as an adult. Though it doesn’t bother me, I was interested to find that more than half of the worlds adult population don’t drink alcohol either. Not drinking doesn’t mean I’m no fun (at least I don’t think so), as I mentioned most people would just assume that I do drink.
I’ve been to a bar and ordered a seltzer water, and drink craft ginger brew at backyard barbecues and don’t get me started on coffee, I drink it by the ton. I treat myself to slices of cake instead of shots of whiskey, and I assure you everyone is much happier because of it. I don’t look down at people for drinking, I looked down on myself when I was the one turning up the bottle without control.
It’s an extremely personal choice, but one that both sides should respect and be able to navigate easily. The first time I turned down wine at a fancy dinner, I thought I grew a third eye. It got easier with time and with a little humor, I make those around me feel at ease with it. I used to think to myself “I don’t have a problem not drinking, it’s everyone else who has the problem with it”. Sometimes that feels very true. Though as time goes on, it’s easier for me to navigate through life, abstaining from alcohol, and not being a pompous jerk on top of it.
Here are a few tips for those that are sober and those who might entertain those people as well.
First, make sure you are okay with your decision to not drink alcohol. Being comfortable with yourself about not drinking will make other people feel comfortable as well. No one should take up issue with you not drinking alcohol, it’s a personal decision that doesn’t concern them and if they are entertaining you at a party, they should be able to accommodate you without making you feel uncomfortable.
When someone offers me alcohol now, I just politely tell them “no thank you “. I don’t explain to them all the headaches, hangovers, and frustrations alcohol has cost me, I just ask them if they have a cup of coffee instead. Occasionally I will bring a drink to a party myself. Fortunately I have been able to find 40 ounce bottles of beer at my local store. Not only is this tasty and will last me all night, but I also can drive myself home afterwords.
If you are the person that is entertaining guests at a party, at least offer something to drink that doesn’t contain alcohol. It will make all your guests feel comfortable and welcomed.
Drinker, or not, just don’t try to change how other people act. A social or business gathering really isn’t the proper setting for anyone to get on their soapbox to proclaim why someone should or should not drink alcohol. If you are abstaining you made the decision to attend a place where alcohol is served, and it wouldn’t be right to pressure your ideals on anyone. If you are a drinker, a social or business gathering certainly isn’t the place for you to pressure someone to drink alcohol, especially to excess anyway.
Though some people might see you initially as a “party pooper ” there really is no negative attributes to not drinking. When you don’t drink alcohol you don’t have to face any of its negative consequences. Socially people might think you are a little strange at first, but what kind of friend only wants to be around you if you are drunk, or drunk with them. The biggest thing to remember from both sides is that it is absolutely okay not to drink alcohol. Who you are personally should be want matters, not what you are drinking.