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.