One of my New Year's resolutions for 2015 is to go this entire year without drinking alcohol. It's a goal that seems both feasible and impossible, and it's one I made for a variety of reasons. I want to learn to exercise more self-control, especially in social situations, but I also want to push myself to find healthier ways to handle stress rather than unwinding with happy hour or an evening glass of wine.
The decision not to drink isn't a new one for me. I didn't drink until around legal age in college, and even since then I've opted out of drinking on nights out for smaller reasons — because I was training for a big race, recovering from an illness and on medication, or, more often than not, I just didn't feel like it. I'm only a few months into this resolution and I've basically found that, although this is the strictest I've been about abstaining from drinking, it's not that big a deal.
The issue is that we live in a society that often presents drinking as key part of socializing. In that context, my resolution not to drink can seem like a big deal to some people. Here are a few common and noteworthy reactions I've gotten from people when they found out I'm not drinking.
1. Acting Shocked
This is the most amusing reaction, which I admit, might just be made more dramatic because that person's had a few drinks. But I get it, it does look a little odd for someone to show up at a bar or club where everyone's expected to drink and then not partake. But really, it happens all the time, it shouldn't be that shocking.
2. Asking Questions
After the initial surprise, there comes the questions. I never feel any real push to explain why I'm not drinking (because it really doesn't require a reason), but people get curious and want an explanation. If I'm up to it I usually give my real explanation, if not I just say "I don't want to," which I think is a complete and valid explanation, though not everyone agrees.
3. Making Assumptions
If people aren’t asking for an explanation of why you aren’t drinking, they’re making assumptions. The most common one I’ve gotten is that it’s for religious reasons, but I'm still waiting for someone to ask if it's because I'm expecting.
4. Making Judgements
People often assume that I'm making judgements about them for drinking or behaving drunkenly, which is never the case. While drunk people can be annoying, it’s like the idea of the loud group of people at a restaurant. You hate the group when it’s a bunch of strangers seated at the other table, but when it’s you and your friends, you don’t care. Besides, I made the decision to go out with people who I knew would be drinking. If I'm bothered by their behavior, that's my problem.
5. Forcing Alcohol
This can be in the form of repeated offers to buy you a drink — offers that get more annoying the more they happen, especially if they’re coming from creepy strangers who've been "observing" you and "noticed you weren't drinking." The more extreme version of this is people physically trying to force me to drink, usually in the form of shoving a drink and a straw at my face. PLEASE DON'T EVER DO EITHER OF THESE.
6. Assuming Responsibility
I don’t mind being the designated driver, especially if it means that my friends and I can go out and get home safely. What I do mind is the planning of a night out that hinges on me being DD without discussing it with me first and just tossing me the keys as we head out. Not cool.
7. Leaving You Out
At some point, you’ll notice that your weekends are quieter and your friends are posting pictures and talking about events and parties that you don’t remember being at. Whether it’s intentional or not, it’s hurtful and unpleasant. But it’s also a sign to find new people to hang out with; people who won't be bothered by the fact that you're not drinking.
Images: Andres Nieto Porras/Flickr; Wifflegif (7)