“Would you like a beer? Wine? Mixed drink?”
No, thank you.
“Why? You’re not pregnant, are you?”
“Is this a part of some diet?”
Nope, I just don’t want an alcoholic drink. I would love a water though.
Looks at me suspiciously, as if I’ve lied in my interrogation.
This has become the normal line up of questions since I stopped drinking last year, 2017. It’s hard for some people to understand that I just don’t want to drink anymore. I’m always given the 3rd degree, because if you aren’t drinking, there must be a reason? You can’t just not drink, can you? First of all, you can just not drink, without needing any reason. So, let’s get that straight. If you are being pressured to drink, it is perfectly acceptable to say no. In my experience, you’re going to have to say no a lot for people to accept it, but they will. Stand strong.
I’d like to talk about why I’ve personally chosen not to drink anymore. As you recall from my last blog, If I knew then, what I know now: Relationships, I talk about drinking my way through uncomfortable situations. The problem is, a lot of situations make me uncomfortable, and so most “social events” I was drinking to a point where I didn’t feel myself. Making choices I wouldn’t make while sober. Being around people I wouldn’t normally be around. Not to mention, always getting sick, and even in my early 20’s always being severely hungover.
Now in my early 20’s, it felt like everyone was going to the bars to drink, and so I followed suit. It’s like once we were all 21, it was an every weekend shit show in Boston (you guys remember those nights at Hurricane O’Reilly or The Greatest Bar). The spilled drinks, the sloppy dancing, the money I didn’t really have, spent boozing it up all night. I cringe thinking about us leaving the bar, walking barefoot through the city finding our way home. I also cringe thinking about how many times, I just was over it and I’d just disappear on my friends and find my way home alone, not even telling anyone I left. I think back, and I’m so grateful that I always made it home safe. You should never stumble your way home alone, use a buddy system ladies and gents.
As the years went on, house parties started to become more the norm. Even in those situations, I felt uncomfortable, and I’d drink as fast as possible to forgot just how uncomfortable I was. I have a lot of regret from this part of my life. Sure, there were times where I held it together and had a great time, but there were also times where I lost my shit or made really bad choices. Fuzzy memories of questionable decisions, all because I let social anxiety drive me to drink more than I should.
As the years went on, my sisters and I have had to watch addiction become more prevalent within our family. We watch our father battle with drugs, to a point where he barely recognizes who we are. Years of taking drugs, has destroyed who he was, so even if he’s not high, he’s still not there. He’s not the person he once was, and I think he’s at the point of no return. Today, I don’t really have any contact with him. I get an occasional Facebook message from him, but it typically doesn’t make sense or is full of aggression. My mother had also battled with drug abuse over these years, which was harder to watch because we’d already seen my father go down this path. She had good days though, and she was still herself some of the time, so we remained hopeful that she would be able to come out on the other side. The full story, will have to be for another time, but I’m happy to report through rehab, she was able to kick her addition to drugs to this day. Unfortunately, after getting clean, she started drinking a lot. I think the biggest problem was, she could see her problem with drugs, but with alcohol she didn’t. She’d always justify it, by saying “No one gets mad at so and so for drinking”. I think anxiety, and guilt are the underlining causes for my mother and her need to be impaired. It felt like she didn’t face the past, and when it got too much, she needed to drink. Today, she is mostly sober. There are definitely more good days than bad, but with addiction I think it’s always going to be a battle she’ll have to face. When she’s sober, and herself, it’s so nice for myself and my sisters to just have our mom. And that’s all we want, to have our mother.
Back to me, and we’re approaching and entering my 30’s. House parties, and the bar scene are long gone, but work parties, weddings, and family gatherings are still a thing. And guess what, they are all things that, you guessed it, make me uncomfortable. So, what do I do, I drink. But when you’re drinking wine at a social event, even if you have too much, it’s acceptable.
When I think about 2016/2017, I think about the occasions I drank at, and which I didn’t. My wedding. I did not drink at all. I think people assumed I was pregnant, but I was just so happy I didn’t want to. It was the exact wedding we had envisioned, and it just came together exactly as we’d dreamed. I wasn’t uncomfortable, I wasn’t anxious. I wanted to remember every moment of this day. Just didn’t feel the need to or want to drink. There were plenty of occasions I did drink too much, like at multiple weddings for friends. Seeing a video of yourself dancing barefoot at wedding, then vomiting out the window on the car ride home is not an experience I’m proud of, to say the least. Leaving a work party and vomiting all night, when you have to be on a plane the next morning is beyond painful. And yet, even though I’m embarrassed of how flirty I become, of how sick I become, or how I can’t maintain my balance, everyone accepts it. For some reason, society deems my behavior as acceptable “it happens to everyone” and “it’s not like it happens all the time, right?” Being drunk, is okay with most people, but it stopped being okay for me.
After one too many incidents, I started to see a behavior I was not comfortable with. I started to let a bad day, or an uncomfortable situation drive me to drink, so I could relax. I started to see my parents in myself. I started to fear that if I continued down this path, I’d have a problem I couldn’t control at some point down the line. Now I’m reminded by my husband, that I wasn’t drinking that much, and he never felt I was out of control, or felt that I had a problem. And I agree, but I’m still drinking at a level I’m personally not okay with, and so I just stopped, for myself. It’s like a preventative measure against what could be. A preventative measure, I’m okay taking.
What has not drinking changed for me? Well, not much. I still go to all the social gatherings and I just face whatever situation I don’t like head on. No more drinker’s remorse. No more hangovers. I’m more irritated and aware of the social peer pressure to drink. Often, I’m asked, will you ever drink again?! I can’t answer that, as I can’t see into my future. I stopped drinking as a personal choice. I wanted to stop the cycle of drinking because I felt uncomfortable. And I’m not going to lie to you, can I see myself at some point in the future having a glass of wine sitting in the Tuscany Hills of Italy? Maybe, if I’m back in Italy. But can I see myself drinking at the next work party, wedding, or stressful evening: No.
It’s okay to just not drink. You don’t need a reason.
UPDATE Blog: 1 Year Later: Sober