Because I’m not asking you why you drink either…
My experience with those who take alcohol.
I grew up in a home of born-again Christians and taking alcohol was perceived as a sin. This didn’t make sense to me because the Bible condemned getting drunk just as it condemned gluttony. Why were we still eating food and yet prohibited alcohol in any measure?
My decision not to take alcohol is not religious. I’m not religious. It’s a set of many reasons that I feel are enough for me. However, there’s a subset of people who consume alcohol that make it their personal mission to persuade someone who says they don’t drink to do so. When these people summon me, I’m still conflicted by the many sentences and excuses I have to use to “make it make sense” why I don’t.
Simply saying “I just don’t drink” isn’t sufficient for them. They are adamant. They counter with, “But you can’t possibly have fun while you’re sober,”. “Don’t be a buzz kill. Drink a bit, you’ll like it.” “You can’t really be the only one that doesn’t drink”. They continue in this manner. They believe you could and should at the very least try, and they are persistent about it.
I once met an old acquaintance, Terry, at a club who offered me a shot. I told him “no thanks, I don’t take alcohol.” He kept insisting that I should at least try it this time, even just a sip, he’d be happy. Every time I tried to make an excuse to move away from him he’d hold my hand and speak loudly (he was now drunk) saying things like… “No, no you have to drink. What’s wrong with it? Are you judging us who drink? You think you’re better than us? Take something, you’ll enjoy it…” he went on and on. What amused me is drunk Terry really thought, my decision not to drink had anything to do with him (or people who take alcohol). He could not have been more wrong.
However, I believe that Terry expressed what many people like him feel when they are told “no thanks” by people who do not consume alcohol.
Why some people who take alcohol can’t take “no thanks” from those who don’t.
I realize alcohol means many things to different people. For others, it’s a rite of passage into adulthood. The type of alcohol you drink can determine your social status. It can also be a form of rebellion against religious norms. Some drink for social pleasure, others to forget real or perceived problems. Some, because they are bored. The reasons are plenty. Bottom line, I don’t care if you take alcohol. Do you and be happy as long as you’re safe.
But why do people care so much when I say I don’t drink?
I find it hard to believe their reaction is truly about me. I suspect, it’s about them. When my reason for not drinking alcohol becomes as plain as “I just don’t take alcohol.” — some feel the need to self justify. They start explaining why they enjoy alcohol and how it’s not a problem for them and how they still drink but never get drunk etc. But, I don’t care. I didn’t even ask them for reasons. Others like Terry, choose to deflect and make it about my perceived superiority complex. All in all, I suspect my response makes them start to feel self-conscious about their own decision to drink.
Those who take alcohol and care so much about why others don’t drink struggle with internal conflict about their drinking and are subconsciously critical of themselves. So, when they meet people who refuse to take alcohol, it strikes a nerve that someone else is able to make a decision they are unable to make on their own. As a result, they instantly feel inferior.
So how can they level the playing field? Get the other person to drink. This pattern of behavior is dangerous.
Why it’s dangerous to persuade someone into taking alcohol when they say they don’t want to.
They could be recovering alcoholics and they don’t want to openly talk about it. Insisting they should drink could force them to talk about something they are not ready to discuss just to get you off their back. Or worse, throw them off their journey of sobriety.
Alternatively, they may have had traumatic experiences with exposure to alcohol from family or friends, and they no longer want to be associated with it or discuss it. Asking someone to drink alcohol for the sake of social amusement is unhealthy and harmful. It places people in awkward situations where they not only have to avoid discussing such personal information but they might be triggered and have to relive the trauma from past experiences which is potentially detrimental to their physical and mental health.
In case you’re still wondering which applies to me — none. I just don’t drink alcohol because I don’t want to… and because of many other reasons that are enough for me.
But, here’s the thing though, don’t ask people who don’t drink why they choose not to — unless you are close friends. It’s really none of your business and if it was, then you’d know. If you’re always bothered by the fact that someone else doesn’t drink, consider why you care so much about other people’s choices. Therapy, anyone?