My grandpa on my dad’s side of the family gave me my first sip of beer when I was in elementary school. My mom was furious when she found out. I was taught that drinking was a sin, because we adhered to the beliefs of my mom’s parents (the Apostolic Lutheran Church). My mom didn’t try a sip of alcohol until she was forty years old and there never was any alcohol in our home.
After my family left the Apostolic Lutheran Church, I was told not to drink because it was against the law. And I followed all the rules. At this age, I watched a close relative’s intelligence and spirit drown in her alcoholism (and it was amidst her outwardly preaching against drinking). I learned of other family members dying or nearly dying, because of addiction. And I watched all my friends start to drink.
When I turned twenty one, I didn’t have any authority figure telling me not to drink, but it still didn’t really interest me. I tried a strawberry Jell-O shot three months after my twenty-first birthday. My head spun and I felt a strange feeling down the front of my quadriceps, but other than that, I didn’t notice much. By the time I turned twenty-seven, I could still count on my hands the number of times I had drank.
I understand why people drink. It’s a quick way to get yourself to do what you actually want, without caring what people think. You want to talk to a beautiful woman, who is a stranger, but it’s too scary. You want to dance and be free, but something in your brain makes it scary. The alcohol just turns that thing in your brain off. I think you can turn that thing in your brain off without alcohol, it just takes a lot of practice. You have to keep doing the things you want to do and you have to be okay with feeling scared.
When you drink you also forget about your problems. I get why people want to forget about their problems. Sometimes, I’d like to forget mine. The annoying thing about forgetting your problems when you drink is that they are still there when the drinking wears off. The secret is that working on fixing your problems actually brings you more joy. And running could also make you forget your problems, so could writing, or sewing (if that’s what you’re into). And all these things also help you process your problems instead of covering them up and hiding them away behind drugs.
I do occasionally drink. Sometimes, it’s just so people around me don’t feel uncomfortable with their drinking. Many times, I will get one drink and nurse it for a full night out. People eventually notice that I’ve only had one drink, but they’re usually too drunk to feel like I’m judging them by the time that realization happens. Another fun thing is to accept additional drinks when they are offered, but sneakily pass them on to someone else or add the alcohol to your friend’s cup when they’re not looking. Volunteering to drive is another fun way to not drink. Demonstrating a distaste for the flavor of alcohol someone got you also gets you out of that drink.
Ultimately some people figure out my real drinking habits aren’t like theirs and don’t want to be around me because of it, but it’s just as well.
I am usually more interested in chasing the highs the body naturally produces that don’t have a downside, when pursued in balance. I like to wake up with energy, instead of grogginess from drinking.
I’ll keep dancing freely, attending live music, trying new things that scare me, talking to strangers who interest me, working out intensely, spending time with the ones I love, laughing, spending time in nature, creating art, writing and performing.
I hope you will, too, whether you’re drinking or not.