I Don’t Drink

Hi, my name is Alexis and I don’t drink. I’ve never had a problem with alcohol and I’m not “sober” as defined by AA , I’m “sober” because I don’t like drinking.  While I can’t speak to the struggles of those working toward sobriety and changing their entire lives, I can attest to my experiences as a not-alcoholic person. Being a non-drinker is non-fun.

I grew up around alcohol. I sipped beer as a child of the ‘80s. I remember my mother being really mean when she had too many drinks. I’m sure my disdain for the smell and taste of beer are linked to growing up with an unpredictable mom and a dad who’s best advice to us kids was to “Stay out of her way” when she had one too many.

When I moved out at nineteen and was completely on my own, despite the freedom, I couldn’t get drunk with my roommate and mutual friends. One of them (who is now my significant other) was the provider for all of us under-agers, and he would buy me a jug of Jack Daniels Downhome Punch in addition to the cases of Miller Lite requested by the “normal” kids. I’d be able to drink about two glasses, max, before the sticky phlegm in the back of my throat grossed me out. Being grossed out always came before being drunk, so I never got fully intoxicated. There was always marijuana around, so I’d supplement my disappointment with a few puffs, but alcohol just never did it for me. Even mixed drinks heavy on the soda burned my throat and started a fire in my belly. Drinking wasn’t fun, it was a hassle.

Friends tried to encourage me to join their drinking games. They told me that in order to get rid of the discomfort in my stomach I had to drink more. Drink more? Are you nuts? I had the caverns of Hell inside me. No way was I going to add more fuel to that.

At the time, I was still able to have fun with people when I didn’t drink. Being young meant few real world responsibilities; we had energy and the drunk kids in my circle always had the best ideas—midnight dodge ball in the dilapidated basketball courts, going down by the river to hang out. It was fun, exciting, and lighthearted, and I remember those times with a smile on my face.

As an adult, things are completely different. When people find out I don’t drink I get one of two reactions: the sympathetic nod with a gentle, “How come?” or the furrowed eyebrows with a demanding, “Why?”

When I’ve stated my most boiled-down, simplistic explanation, “I don’t like it,” it’s typically met with, “Oh, you just haven’t found the right drink yet!” or I get the laundry list of what I’m missing; after all, they love alcohol and so should I!

Unfortunately, not imbibing has affected a situation or two that could’ve turned into career opportunities, most notably, networking. Now, between you and me, I want nothing to do with networking. I don’t keep up with my industry, I don’t do small talk, and I refuse to join LinkedIn, but apparently that’s how things get done these days. If there’s a chance of advancement or a way to find a fulfilling career, I will network, damn it.

This past September, there was an event I would have been interested in attending based on two coworkers talking it up after the fact, but I didn’t get invited because they knew I didn’t drink. How do I know? Because they told me, “Well you don’t drink so it wouldn’t have been fun.” What were they doing? Playing beer pong? While I’m not all that torn up about it, it still gives me pause.

It’s strange being a non-drinker and a grown up–they don’t seem to go together. I’ve been casually left out of activities with friends where drinking is the end-game or just excluded altogether since a sober person is probably a buzz kill. It’s okay, I allow it to happen because I’m an anti-social butterfly, and I don’t feel like being your keeper when you get sloppy. Depending on the location, being sober in a group of drinking friends equals automatically being the designated driver or purse-watcher and, at the very worst, being the babysitter of adult toddlers trying to fight each other or accidentally kill themselves.

In my area there’s not much to do but drink. Where I live there are four bars on a two mile drag (six if you count the members-only places), one beer distributor, and one liquor store. If you’d like to go out for dinner on that same stretch of road, I hope fast food and pizza fulfills your fancy evening requirements; there are slim pickings around these parts. Going to taverns, pubs, lounges, whatever you want to call them just isn’t my idea of a good time, and I am in the minority.

At the ripe old age of 31, I’ve settled comfortably into evenings at home. Weekends don’t mean much other than a break from working and time to catch up on all my clutter and laundry that accumulated during the week, playing with my cats, or going to Costco. I value the nights spent quietly in front of Netflix or Prime, and I love playing Xbox and screaming at my boyfriend that he let me die in a firefight. How is that teamwork?! That’s what I like doing and none of those things are found at the bottom of a glass or in a dark smoky booth in a bar.


Alexis Oliver
Alexis has been writing on and off since she was a kid. Her first submission was to Highlights Magazine, and though they passed on her in-depth analysis of falling leaves in winter, she continued to be a loyal reader. She is most passionate about animals, conservation, and trying to convince her county to allow backyard chickens. Alexis currently works full time in Hospitality and lives outside of Pittsburgh with her boyfriend and three cats.
  • http://www.theflounce.com/ MartyWebb

    I used to have a problem with alcohol, and this post really hits a nerve with me. I constantly, being a student and in the service industry, will get skipped over on some invites out to the bar after work/class because I don’t drink anymore. I like having fun, but I just don’t want to go down that road that I went down too many times swerving from lane to lane. You’re not missing out on anything, I promise.

    • http://www.theflounce.com AlexisO

      Thanks Marty! The culture of not drinking, to me, seems like an “In or Out” club. If you don’t drink you’re automatically out. I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything but it’s exasperating that it’s like the only thing a group of adults want to do.

  • lizliew

    I can’t relate since given the right mood I’m probably the first one on the bar top, but one of my best friends is Muslim and when we’re at a pub I’ve become used to ordering virgin mojitos and other delicious non-alcoholic libations. I think it’s ridiculous that you wouldn’t be invited anywhere because you don’t drink. Hanging out is hanging out, whether you have alcohol in your gut or not. I definitely think there should be more non-nightlife nighttime hangouts but unfortunately, like you said, in some places it’s just all about the bars.

    • http://www.theflounce.com AlexisO

      I’m sure where I live is a big part of it, it’s not progressive or forward-thinking and it’s never gotten over the fall of the steel/coal industries. We could find possibly find alternatives but that involves driving a minimum of 20 miles out (and typically that means a movie!)

      Man, where’s my violin?? :)

      • lizliew

        This is probably why I’ll never be able to live in a small town. Florence isn’t tiny exactly- and it is gorgeous, I can’t complain- but sometimes I yearn for all the variety that a metropolitan city like Singapore offers. I want big dance and theatre companies to tour here or be able to eat crazy good Lebanese or Japanese or teeny-weeny delicious French amuse-bouches when I feel like fancifying. Conversely, there is the beauty of small and family-run businesses and shops here, and a regard for slow living and craftsmanship which I do very much appreciate.

  • http://theflounce.com Ali

    It’s interesting to see this POV. I’m a non-drinker 99% of the time, but I hang around with a primarily non-drinking crowd, so it’s hardly even a blip on my radar. Even when I worked at a bar, nobody batted an eye that I wasn’t much of a drinker. It was a point of mild amusement, at most.

    Drinking culture is one I haven’t had much experience with, but I’ve seen it here & there from the sidelines. It’s sad how, sometimes, people put so much energy into getting someone else to drink alcohol. During my bar days, I had one customer who was so intent on getting his friends wasted that I finally had to intervene on behalf of one of them and conspire with her to serve her “Cosmopolitan” shots which were 100% cranberry juice. She downed a few of these and everyone was happy.

    • botenana

      Yea – this frustrates me. I have done my time behind a bar as well and I always felt horrible for people that were being pressured into drinking. It’s sickening.

      The theory I developed, and it’s not a kind one, is that people who push their peers into doing that feel they have a problem and, if everyone else is doing it, then magically they don’t have a problem! Sticking around the same bars for about four years was long enough to see that theory prove true more often than not.

      It’s a sad skill that I am able to nail a future barfly just from small interactions.

      • http://www.theflounce.com AlexisO

        Your theory is right! I brought this up with my therapist and she said that same thing especially about the whole “if everyone is doing it then it’s not a problem!”

  • botenana

    I have a lot of issues with the drinking culture and come from a similar background. Picking your mom up off the floor a few times after she passed out naked in the bathroom will turn most people off from the allure of drinking.

    A lot of women that I could socialize with say they are “into wine culture” but that really means they get a bottle of wine or two each and get completely smashed. I am constantly interrogated for my reasons of maybe having a beer or for the most part, sticking with soda or water. I get badgered or have drinks put in front of me, which I won’t touch, and people seem to be upset when they find out, no, i’m not a recovering addict, no, i’m not someone who can’t control herself, no, i just don’t see what’s amusing about getting completely and totally smashed.

    I did find it a detriment to networking which is why I have a beer every now and then with colleagues – but it’s sad to think that I’m incapable of having fun simply because I don’t think it’s cool (or financially responsible) to drink until the bar closes! I find that once the conversation turns to “How much more could we drink? SHOTS”, it’s my cue to go. I pull the MS card – “Gotta get a lot of rest!” and am home well before i have to become a babysitter.

    Thank you for sharing, I really appreciate it. There’s a lot more of us regular sober people out there than I thought.

    • http://www.theflounce.com AlexisO

      Thank you for the comment! You phrased it perfectly about getting interrogated. My Boyfriend (who is forever known as Jon Snow due to the likeness), is a light drinker and if we choose to go out with his friends those “friends” badger the shit out of him. Gee, I wonder why we don’t hang out with them that much?

    • Blahblee

      It’s gross that adult people can’t just deal with their own alcohol problems.

      I know lots of wine and beer enthusiasts (I am one) but the ones who can’t put the bottle down, who have to proceed from appreciation to getting wasted, well, I don’t think anyone is buying that they are connoisseurs.

      It’s interesting, too, to see how many people are not into drinking. Because we were talking about how much drinking culture articles to include, and whether there would be a lot of support for that.

      • botenana

        Right? So sad.

  • nyhcmaven84

    I feel so much less alone after reading this.

    While I can’t say I am fully a non-drinker– I like to have a few every now and then. But in general, I just don’t drink much. I did a lot when I was younger.

    It’s just that it’s so frustrating trying to meet other like-minded adults, which ironically happens outside my culture more (it gets hard in the punk scene sometimes, but I’ve met far more other alt folks more forgiving of my not drinking much.) Like I joined a meetup to try and meet other gaming geeks– I got really frustrated at the ten million suggestions of Let’s Do X with Booze.

    Ironically, it’s actually in the games industry that I had more pressure to have a drink than I EVER did at any punk and hardcore shows, afterparties, and whatnot. I like a drink once in a while, so I save it for those events…especially since things about publishers tend to slip out when the other person I’m talking to has knocked back a lot more!

    But also, after 26 or so, I can’t even handle having 2-3 drinks without having a massive headache the next day.

    In terms of parentage, mine didn’t drink at all. I know my mother’s father drank himself to death, and she had an abusive uncle who was an alcoholic. She was abusive in different ways. But apparently that was why we never had liquor in our house. I had just assumed everyone’s parents were like this, until I found out from other kids that they saw their dads drinking a beer after they got home from work or something.

    • http://www.theflounce.com AlexisO

      Thanks for commenting! I’m glad you feel less alone! That’s interesting about the games industry vs. the punk/hardcore scene.

      Last April I saw The Black Keys and there were so many people just obliterated-drunk. I don’t understand buying an $80 ticket to see a band and then stumbling around the entire time, how is that enjoyable? We had floor tickets – this year I opted for seats, I’m eager to find out if there will be a difference in obnoxiousness.

      • botenana

        There is. Sadly, I am too old to deal with the BS that comes with standing in the pit with other idiots. Yes, I don’t get to see them if I were standing next to the stage, but my clothes don’t get drenched with beer and I don’t end up reeking of dope at the end of the night, so… trade-offs.

        • http://www.theflounce.com AlexisO

          I am fully prepared for those trade-offs!

  • MGM444

    I have one group of friends where some people drink, and some don’t. Those who don’t drink don’t mind if the drinkers have one or two drinks. And the drinkers stop at one or two drinks to respect the non-drinkers. Everyone has fun, since it comes down to the company rather than the alcohol. And nobody drives home drunk because there is nothing I hate more than that.