During the holidays, JJ Vincent finds it even harder to be a non-drinker is a boozy world.
Let’s have a drink. We’re going to the bar…wanna come? Can I buy you a drink? Where’s a good bar? Lite? Red or white? What’s your drink?
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.
What do you mean, you don’t drink?
Let me say I don’t mind if other people drink. I mind if they get mean or stupid, or do something off-the-idiot-scale like drive drunk. But if they want to drink, fine. Unless there’s a problem, I’m not going to hassle them not to.
I wish non-drinkers got the same respect.
I know it’s better in some places and worse in others, but generally, part of adult-male-bonding involves alcohol. It starts in high school, carries into college, and by the time you enter the workforce, you’re pretty well indoctrinated that most social events will involve drinking, sometimes to excess.
I’ve seen a lot of guys get really wasted, trying to prove their manliness or out-macho the guy next to them. I’ve seen guys drink stuff they hated because they did not want to look like a “p***y” to the others around them. I’ve been one of those guys, and learned within a couple of hours not to try to outdrink a guy who is a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier. His wife was none too pleased with us.
I’ve also seen people have great fun with open bottles, crazy mixed shot contests, drinking games to just about anything, or enough six-packs to build mini-Great Pyramids with the empties. I’ve been one of those guys, too.
About 10 years ago, I decided to stop drinking. I’d never been a heavy drinker, just a drink or two here and there with friends. I can count the number of Seriously Drunks on one hand. But I just decided I didn’t like the way it made me feel. When I got together with my partner, I made to choice to not drink any more out of respect for his feelings. Now, due to medication, alcohol would be, in two words, not good.
Did you notice that I just justified my non-drinking to you? It was automatic, because I have to do it all the time.
When I’m offered a drink, I always decline. And people are usually surprised, and almost always ask why. Football game parties, work events, clubs, bachelor parties, being pretty much any place where there is alcohol, it’s the same.
Sometimes it’s a curious Why. Sometimes a derisive Why. Sometimes an incredulous Why not. And 98% of the time, it’s another guy offering, another guy questioning, and if I’m not so lucky, when someone else offers, that guy will loudly tell everyone that HE DOESN’T WANT A DRINK or HE DOESN’T DRINK.
And then there are the assumptions. How long have you been sober? It’s great that you got help. Are you sick? That must be hard. Oh, Baptist? Maybe later? What church do you go to? You must have had a bad problem. It’s hard for me to resist, too.
Between the alcohol ads in the media, the free-flowing booze in the movies, and the age-old messages that you’re not a man until you’ve had that drink, or you can get rid of that stress with a beer or two, I shouldn’t be surprised that there are plenty of people who don’t get that you can have a great time without the 80 proof.
But what’s even more puzzling is their need to know why, their seeming inability to conceive of a reason beyond addiction, illness, or faith, why someone would not drink.
I can list a bunch: athlete, weight loss, big meeting in the morning, respecting of significant other’s wishes, money, wants to keep their wits about them, being the designated driver, doesn’t like how it taste, doesn’t like how it makes them feel, the smell, and the simplest of all…I DON’T WANT TO.
The price of not drinking can be high. Not in dollars and cents, but in social inclusion, ridicule, other-ness, and if you have a dry house, like ours, people not wanting to come over if they can’t drink. This magnifies at the holidays, when most parties include mulled wines, ciders, hot spiked drinks.
I could just say I’m a designated driver, but that doesn’t hold when other people step up to DD. So I tell the truth, the simplest truth. I don’t like the way it makes me feel. There are other reasons, which I’ll add on when pressed.
But I’m sure that those of us who don’t drink, for whatever reason, would rather people just say ok and move on.
We don’t ask them to defend their drinking. Please don’t ask us to defend our not.