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.