I do not drink. I will not drink. Please don’t pressure me to drink. (April 2016)
Every so often, I find myself in a situation where alcohol is being offered. And I find it unusual that I have to report that I am in the unorthodox situation of having to politely refuse, and say, “No, I don’t really drink.”
And sometimes, the conversation doesn’t just end there. I get questioned, even grilled, on why I refuse to drink, in some twisted attempt to catch me in a logical error or eventually trapping me with a gotcha question. It usually concludes with something frustratingly circular, like “…so you don’t really have a good reason to not drink, so come have a drink!”
Because I never really sat myself down and put much thought into it, I could not come up with an articulate response. I am lucky enough not to have faced an abusive relationship fueled by alcohol. I don’t think I actually know anyone who has. I just don’t want to drink. And I would be one of the estimated 20 percent of college students who refrain from doing so.
Well, because some combination of roundup, the enthusiasm certain incoming freshmen at Discover BHP have about drinking and partying, and four years of experiencing extremely liberal drinking culture have struck a nerve, and because I am sick and tired of the constant implicit and explicit peer pressure, I wanted to come up with a coherent response.
First, I appreciate having full control of my mental faculties.
I’ve made plenty of awful decisions throughout college, things that I have not been proud of. I’ve lost some friendships and alienated a number of people in the process.
All of this happened while I was completely sober (it is worth pointing out that there is some connection with stress and/or exhaustion and how likely I am to lash out in a way I will regret).
If all this can happen while I still have some inhibitions, however weak, then what the hell will happen when those inhibitions get weakened even further via alcohol? I would prefer not to find out.
Second, there is some risk I will develop dependence to alcohol.
First of all, not everyone who drinks becomes addicted. But susceptibility to addiction seems to spike in the absence of robust and enjoyable social interaction and support.
You know what? Sometimes, I feel pretty damn lonely. Upon further reflections, I honestly cannot say I’ve developed genuinely close friendships throughout college.
Let’s say the risk of dependence is only 10%. Or 5%. Or even 1%. It doesn’t matter. Given how destructive dependence to alcohol is, I’m not risking it.
Third, I think there is a surprisingly prevalent and demonstrably false dilemma that you must consume alcohol to have a good time.
Not everyone buys into this false dichotomy. Maybe most people don’t buy into it. But whether or not they’re a minority, they are one hell of a vocal one.
My idea of winding down on a weekend generally involves Netflix, reading a book, going to a Gigglepants show, or having an engaging discussion. And there are so many other ways to have fun in Austin; social dance has quickly become a favorite of mine.
Honestly, I find that drinking culture is so uncritically accepted in society, especially in college. I find a large number of parties, particularly Greek-hosted parties, to be Hamsterdams of binge drinking that end distressingly often in an ambulance being called. And at a minimum, it is a problem endemic and serious enough to admit that a problem exists and necessitates a conversation, even if there are no easy solutions.
As a final consideration, even if you don’t understand my choice, please at least respect my decision anyway.
Most of the time, I will pick an approach of passive resistance — I will stick with a staunch refusal to drink — but I will not object to others drinking.
So, at the very least, perhaps let’s agree to disagree.
I’ll conclude with a Cyanide and Happiness comic on the topic of beer and Stockholm Syndrome.