My Sobering Decision

There was a time in my adult life when I was bone-dry-sober.  For five full years beginning the day AH and I decided to start a family, I didn’t consume a single drop of alcohol, except this one time when I ate a chocolate that was filled with Bailey’s, but that was an accident because no one told me it was boozey and, let me tell you, I was pissed.  That’s something you should mention to a person.  “Oh, bee tee dubs, I’ve ruined that perfectly delicious hunk of milk chocolate by dousing it with nail polish remover.  Enjoy!”  Not only was it a shock to my then-delicate palate, but it tasted like ass.  During this time of complete and utter sobriety, my mind was clear, I never once woke up with regrets, and the only time I felt sick was when I was legitimately ill with the flu or I was gestating a fetus.  Those days were good.

It seems odd that I would have to defend myself for choosing to not drink, but here we are.  For a while after those five years, I drank like an average adult – I’d have a few drinks on the weekends, a few more than a few at parties, attempted to grow accustomed to the taste of wine.  It was a huge decision for me to break the teetotalling because I’m stubborn.  It had become less of a decision based on the health and welfare of my children and more of a personal challenge.

Before I swore off alcohol, I’d never had a problem with it, never drank during the week, usually only at events or special occasions, but even going from typical consumption to zero felt good.  Decisions were simple.  The day after a Halloween party last year was not simple.  I drank entirely too much for any one person and paid for it the next morning.  I wasn’t just hungover; I’m pretty sure my body just wanted to die, but I wasn’t merciful enough to let it.  The kids had been at a sleepover that night and when they returned the next afternoon, I was nowhere near being in any sort of shape to parent.  That’s when I said forget it.  It’s not worth it.  Sure, it seems fun at the time, but no amount of fun is worth making myself that sick.  I’m not even that big of a fan of having fun in the first place.

So I don’t drink anymore.  Much.  I’ve had a drink or two since then, but always begrudgingly.  I simply do not see the point.  I don’t like the taste, I don’t like who I am while I’m drinking, and I refuse to have a hangover ever again.  And I’m stubborn, so I won’t.

Good for me, right?  Good for me for making a grownup decision, choosing my health and comfort over a few hours of intoxication, right?  Surprisingly (maybe only to me), I’ve encountered exactly zero people who feel that way.  I’ve started this sentence five different ways because I can barely wrap my mind around the feelings I have when I actually brave the elements, attend a social event, and remain sober.  People are disbelieving, they’re shocked, they’re actually disappointed that I have chosen not to partake.  And, to be clear, I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with other people drinking.  I don’t drink because it’s a personal choice.  I don’t give a shit if you drink or not.  Drink up!  Get wasted!  Hurl your brains out!  I really couldn’t care less either way!  I’m not drinking and I can still have fun.  I know some of you are in shock right now, but it’s true, so let me repeat – I DON’T HAVE TO DRINK TO HAVE FUN.  I’m probably considered incredibly lame by some, but I even play drinking games with pop.  Little to no risk involved, but they’re still fun(ish).  I’m participating, I’m mingling, I’m conversing and fitting in…I’m just not drunk.  So what?

More than once (many more than once), well-intentioned friends have told me that when I’ve been drinking, I’m “Fun Jen,” which is more than just a little insulting.  By accident, I know, but it implies that unless I’m inebriated, I’m not fun.  I can’t argue with that completely, I have a hard time not assigning myself the role of Party Babysitter, being the person constantly worried about things breaking and being too noisy, but I can be fun without alcohol, and holy shit, what a way to turn a person into a drunk.  If I cared about whether or not I was perceived as fun, I could very easily take those comments to heart and just drink all the time to win friends and popularity.  But I don’t, so I won’t.  I think I just solved the problem of a million drunken college students right there.  Stop caring about whether or not you’re entertaining to your friends and just enjoy yourself.  If that involves alcohol, more power to you, get crazy, get wild, let’s party, get loud, just know that it doesn’t have to.

I almost feel weird having to have this (albeit, one-sided) conversation.  If I were a recovering alcoholic or if I were allergic to alcohol or if I were pregnant or nursing, no one would say a thing.  Sobriety would be encouraged.  Why is sobriety applauded in those cases, but seen as almost an annoyance to other people when it’s a choice?

I’ll drink again because I just know I will.  I know that sometime in the future I’ll feel like I need to or I’ll want to or whatever, but most of the time I don’t and I think that should be ok.  I didn’t drink at my sister’s wedding because I didn’t want to.  I had the kids with us during the day and I don’t ever drink in front of them and after they’d left I just didn’t feel like it.  I was having fun, I played a few rounds of Sprite-fueled Flip Cup, I laughed and joked and even danced for a few minutes, but I was stone-cold sober and I was happy that way.  I’m a willing DD.  I think those are hard to come by.  I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything by not drinking.  I just wish everyone could see that not drinking is my decision and there’s nothing wrong with that.

***

UPDATE: I HAVE to clarify that this absolutely in NO WAY is directed at one person or even one group of people.  I’ve heard varying degrees of this from close friends, family, even completely strangers, and have for years.  All the way back to when I first called off drinking, which was now about 7 years ago.  So, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t feel bad if you’ve said any of this to me.  I don’t think ANY of you are assholes.  I KNOW it’s always said in jest, light-heartedly, and never, EVER with any ill intent.  All I’m saying is sometimes I don’t drink simply because I don’t feel like it, I’m still having fun either way, and I’m way too stubborn to fall to peer pressure, so let’s just all concentrate on something other than watching how boring sober Jen is tonight.  Ok?  No hard feelings?  Love your face-skin right off your skull.

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29 thoughts on “My Sobering Decision

  1. Why would anyone denounce you for a personal choice? You don’t care if I drink, and I don’t care if you don’t drink.

  2. That sucks that people give you grief for not drinking. Maybe I’m lucky that I have friends who see drinking and not drinking as the same to them, socially, and that’s saying a lot, because I do like to drink. As far as drinking itself goes, it’s something I’m struggling with because I worry constantly about losing control. On weekends I’m a textbook binge drinker, and I worry that it will carry into regular life. I’m working hard on cutting back now, and thankfully, I have no social concerns about not drinking. Nobody should. Thank you for this post.

    • You’re welcome.

      Probably half the pressure is in my head, and they probably care way less than I believe them to, but I’m certainly not making up the words they say. I just feel like if I choose to drink at an event, fine, if not, fine, just don’t make it a big deal, either way. Don’t congratulate me for deciding to have a few, and don’t look at me like I have three heads for not.

      I think this is probably a contributing factor to my hermit-ness.

  3. Man, do I feel like the shittiest friend ever. I was DEFINITELY one of those assholes trying to get you to drink while I was in town. I’m truly sorry, Jen. If I would have known, I wouldn’t have given you (although purely in fun) shit at all.

  4. Nothing hurts more than when people say shit like “You’re fun when you drink” or “you’ll have more fun if you just drink and relax” because are you kidding me with this bullshit? I AM FUN when I want to be, and I can HAVE FUN when I want to. And you pressuring me to drink mind-altering substances is not okay in any circumstance. If I choose to drink alcohol, that is MY choice to make.

    So yeah. I totally get this. And I’m where you are. Do I drink on occasion? Yes, I do. When I have a taste for it, or when I do want to force myself to relax just a little. But those drunk days are over for me. I don’t like who I am when I’m drunk. I choose to not be that person anymore. And I’m happier because of it.

    Good for you for speaking out on this. You and I can hang at the parties together and document what all the drunks do that they won’t remember the next day. And we’ll have just as much fun doing it.

  5. Jen, true story. I have stopped being with certain people because they believe unless you are completely wasted, you are not having fun. These are folks in their 40’s raising families, not low brow rednecks. I hate the pressure and stupidity. Besides, I prefer to think clearly, sleep well and function the next day.

  6. I think it is sad you have to defend your choice not to drink. Lots of people don’t drink, for religious reasons, or personal reasons, health reasons, or whatever. You know what, I don’t drink soda or eat meat. I have a ton of reasons for that, but no one ever asks me why. Good for you.

  7. Thank you for this! I have never drunk (that doesn’t sound like the right tense. I have never drank? No not right either). Anyway, I chose not to drink when I was a kid & never have. I’ve tasted alcoholic beverages just have no interest in drinking. I’m 41 years old & people try to peer-pressure me ALL THE TIME. If I had some disturbing past that brought me to this point those same people would applaud my choice. I don’t get it.

    I used to get people telling me “you’re an adult, you can choose to drink now” (shortly after graduating from a Christian high school). My response was “yes, I’m an adult so why does my choice NOT to drink mean less?”

    Anyway.

    I’m glad to know there are other reasonable adults who make choices for themselves. Thanks for writing this.

    • Or maybe you just haven’t found “your drink.” (that was me being one of Them) I’d MUCH prefer to drink some juice or a milkshake or an iced coffee rather than anything with alcohol in it. It just does not taste good.

  8. I don’t blog anymore, but I’ve been composing a similar post in my head, I guess as a defense next time someone questions my not-drinking. It just doesn’t *do* anything for me. I usually don’t like the taste, and I don’t like the after-effects AT ALL.

    I also think it’s important that I don’t drink around my children, or if there’s ever a possibility that I need to pick them up or bring them somewhere, which is All The Time.

    In some of these small Iowa towns (where there’s nothing but a bar on Main Street), it seems the mindset is often that you have to drink to have fun, and if you don’t drink, you’re a goody-goody or just a stick in the mud.

  9. I’ve written a little about my drug and alcohol issues in my past. I used them to deal with a social anxiety disorder and some of the peer pressures that came along with my upbringing. About two years ago, after being on anxiety meds for a two years, I decided to try social drinking aka – two or three beers while watching a ballgame or dinner with friends or whatever. So far, it’s worked. Between the ages of 15 and 37 I had zero ability to social drink. I would either tee-total for years at a time, or I would drink heavily, getting drunk at every occasion. This sounds weird, but I enjoy 2 to 4 beers every once in a while just for the heck of it. I feel like a grownup when I can do it.

    Whatever personal decisions you make for yourself are yours. If someone has a problem with you its on them.

    I loved this post. It shows me a lot of your character which I’ve always deemed to be high and wonderful.

  10. I’ve always had the impression that the people who are bothered by someone not drinking are actually showing their own insecurities – they don’t know how to socialize or enjoy an evening out without alcohol as a crutch. Their disapproval is less about you than it is about them.

    • It’s not so much disapproval as it is perhaps confusion or disbelief that I’d CHOOSE not to drink at a function or event. Admittedly, it’s often a decision not many people voluntarily make.

  11. I can understand where you’re coming from. I will drink, but am usually the one choosing not to get “drunk” – I know when to stop, usually after 3. Hangovers suck, like more than any flu or cold for me, and it’s just not worth it. I think I only had 4 drinks at the wedding and really enjoyed the next day relaying ridiculous stories to those who were too hammered to notice what went on. I liked being able to compile a list of who was the drunkest (guess what – our brother, father, and your husband were very close to the top, lol) Oh, and btw, whenever i would tell someone that you don’t drink, after saying something like “not even one?” or “not even at weddings” or “not even a glass of wine” – they would say something like “thats cool” or “good for her”. So, while most people probably don’t understand your decision, they think it’s a good one.

    • There were MANY who, I assume, couldn’t remember much the next day. And, yeah, that’s probably one of my favourite parts of not drinking – not being a key player in any of those ridiculous stories!

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