Ever since I stopped drinking last year, I’ve been fascinated by how many people react with shock when they find out.
“You don’t drink? At all? Like not even a beer or a glass of wine?!
I think that translates to, “Are you nuts?” Yet, despite their initial reaction, people are generally pretty intrigued by the whole thing, and if the conversation gets this far, I usually end up hearing, “Man, I so wish I could do that.”
What I realized is that a lot of people only drink to feel comfortable in social situations, particularly when meeting new people, and I’ve been able to observe this in action over the last year many times. There is so much pressure to drink in our society, especially in social situations, and standing on the outside looking in for so long now has left me wondering why that is the case.
The Media’s Influence
In the media, for example, you rarely see a TV show or a movie where the characters aren’t regularly consuming copious amounts of alcohol, and both these characters and those in alcohol advertisements are portrayed, to varying degrees, as sexy, cool, spontaneous, and fun. In fact, an estimated $8 billion in advertising was spent on alcohol promotion between 2002-2009. While knowledge of alcohol’s dangers is nowhere near as common as that of, say, smoking, that still leaves the question, why is it kept in the dark? A lot of information is coming forward these days about how sugar is the tobacco of the 21st century and so on, but it seems the truth about alcohol’s dangers are largely being ignored.
Even many popular alternative health blogs don’t seem to pay much attention to the idea. Is this because so many people enjoy alcohol and the way it makes them feel and would rather turn a blind eye? Or is there a vested interest in keeping this information quiet? Not to be a total Negative Nancy, but this all reminds me of George Orwell’s 1984 and how the deprived characters of the story were given alcohol as a way to keep them happy and help them escape their otherwise miserable existences.
So, Why Is There So Much Pressure?
Meeting new people can be nerve-racking, there’s no doubt about it, especially if you’re alone. When I first stopped drinking, I was worried I wouldn’t be confident enough to enter a social setting where everyone else was drinking except me — but you know what I realized? It’s not that difficult once you’re there. It is, however, a great challenge to face and a great opportunity to observe what comes up for you. I found journalling to be particularly useful during this time. You are kind of forced to face the fear, because instead of leaning on alcohol as the crutch, you actually have to face yourself, and be bold. The only way this gets easier is by doing it. Even though it might feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, like anything else, it gets easier with practice.
If I’m being honest, I’ll admit that, rather than worrying about the not drinking itself, I was worrying about what I was going to say when people asked me why I wasn’t drinking, especially a group of new people. But really, this isn’t high school anymore, and I have faced no peer pressure whatsoever to drink — thank goodness, because that would annoy me enough to just stay home.
Social Situations Can Be Just As (If Not More) Fun Without Alcohol
I always took it too far with alcohol, so while there was this illusion of it being fun, the “fun” I was having was just stealing from tomorrow’s happiness. I have found that people are a lot less dramatic without alcohol; you can have a clear and engaging conversation, people’s egos aren’t as inflated, and you connect more genuinely with them. Instead of just making best friends with someone while you’re drunk, exchanging numbers, then never talking to them again, sober connections tend to be more meaningful, and many doors can open from connecting to people in this way.
You Might Find Drunk Fun Isn’t Actually Sober Fun
Another thing I realized is that extremely loud environments, with top 40 music blaring and crowds of compacted people, aren’t really my thing; they are more my drunk alter-egos thing. And while I can definitely enjoy a night out with friends, I look forward to going home and settling in for a restful sleep and waking up at a decent time in the morning, carrying on with my day, hangover free.
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Being sober forces you to find out what you actually like, and not just what you think people expect you to like. This is a very introspective and personal experience. I have learned more about myself this past year than in my entire life so far. I know what I genuinely enjoy, who I connect with, what I value in my life.
The thing about not drinking is, you won’t know how it feels until you try it. If you are someone who feels like they absolutely need to have a drink in a social situation, then you are someone who could probably benefit the most from trying it sober. Yes, it’s scary and intimidating, but let me assure you, it’s not impossible. If you’re worried about what to talk about with strangers, you can always discuss the experiment you’re trying, partaking in a social situation without alcohol; from my experience, this is always a good icebreaker and conversation starter!
Some people have a healthy relationship with alcohol, some don’t, and many are in denial. If you are questioning whether you do or not, then try taking a break, for a month or even just a week, and see how you feel!
Do you have experience with this? Share your story in the comments.
I’ve written extensively about this before, so check out some of my other articles about alcohol consumption.
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