Why I Stopped Drinking Alcohol: Reasons and Reflection from a Nondrinker

When I went away to college, I was a nondrinker. My high school friends and I even waxed prudish on the subject, thinking that underage alcohol consumption was something for troublemakers and bad students. It’s not that I was a product of religious conservatism or an alcoholic family – I just didn’t see the appeal of alcohol. I was far more interested in my nerdy academic pursuits.

Although it took until halfway through my freshman year of college, I finally caved and experimented with alcohol. Succumbing to peer pressure, I wanted to avoid the stigma of being a nondrinker and to understand what all the fuss was about. Throughout my four years, I drank on a regular basis, though less often than most of my peers. During my years as a “young professional,” I continued to drink on occasion, but it became more expensive and less fun. And I never acquired a taste for it. Ultimately, I stopped drinking alcohol altogether.

As a nondrinker, I face lots of questions and criticisms about my choice, the most frustrating of which is the assumption that I am a recovering alcoholic. The phrase, “Sorry – I don’t drink” is often met with a condescending “OhâÂ?¦.I understand. Good for you for getting help.” The truth is that I have never craved alcohol. In fact, during most happy hours and nights on the town, I struggled to find a drink that didn’t taste awful.

It was like taking yucky medication without an ailment. I tried to focus on the “positive” effects of alcohol and ignore the taste, undue expense, and setting. Now that I’m closing in on 30 years of age, I’ve finally found the nerve to confront the peer pressure and explain to people – in the face of scorn, pity, and even rejection – that I just don’t really want to drink alcohol.

In short, that’s why I stopped drinking alcohol: I just didn’t want to anymore…for lots of reasons. I hope that, by sharing my reasons, other people who can relate will also feel empowered to stop or change their consumption levels. I also hope that people who do drink will be more understanding of us nondrinkers and not jump to conclusions that we’re cranky alcoholics, boring teetotallers, or people out to put them down.

Why I Stopped Drinking Alcohol – Reason #1: Taste
I’ve tried wine, light beer, dark beer, vodka, rum, gin, tequila, brandy, and most other types of alcohol. And none of them have ever hit the spot. There was no taste for me to acquire – no sublte flavor for me to enjoy. Yet I can’t tell you how many times I went to a bar with friends and agreed to join in on a pitcher of beer or take a shot, even though I just wanted an ice cold Spite. Water, juice, soda, tea – those beverages sounded so satisfying and tasty that I finally decided to buck convention and start ordering what I wanted, even if it meant I was the only nondrinker in the group. No more swallowing down a beverage I dislike while pretending it tastes great.

Why I Stopped Drinking Alcohol – Reason #2: Cost
A night out at a bar (or even a trip to a liquor store) really puts a dent in your wallet. I resorted to using simple economic reasoning. For me, alcohol was providing very little utility relative to its price. Drinking a beer was more “work” than it was worth, and I finally felt comfortable admitting that.

Why I Stopped Drinking Alcohol – Reason #3: Clarification of Friendships
I took great care in expressing my decision to friends. I tried not to make them feel like I was rejecting or judging them for still drinking. I explained that I wanted to join them for occasional happy hours or bar nights but that I’d be drinking something nonalcoholic. I also expressed my hope that we could do more things that did not involve drinking because I had the most fun when everyone was sober. And wow, did I learn a lot about my friends! Some folks were offended and defensive, shunning me. Others shrugged and said “whatever.” And still others were supportive and understanding, commenting that they too felt an undue social emphasis is placed on drinking. Although the clarification of friendships wasn’t a conscious “reason” why I stopped drinking alcohol, it was a poignant and valuable thing to observe. It’s a reason-in-retrospect.

Why I Stopped Drinking Alcohol – Reason #4: Physical Effects
While I rarely drank to excess, I found that even the milder physical effects of alcohol were still undesirable. The novely of being relaxed and losing some inhibition had worn off. Feeling dehydrated, smelling like alcohol (and often the accompanying smoke), losing verbal prowess, and deadening my motor skills were all immediate physical effects that, upon reflection, seemed undesirable. I found other, more personally rewarding ways to relax and take the “edge” off, and none of them involve substances. At least for me, drinking seemed like a way to avoid confronting real causes of stress or tension.

Why I Stopped Drinking Alcohol – Reason #5: Context
At most venues that serve alcohol, there are always some patrons who drink too much and can’t control themselves. They become so loud, boorish, messy, clumsy, or aggressive that they taint the experience for other people (instead of providing mere amusement). While I still visit bars, baseball games, private parties, and other alcoholic events from time to time, I found that reducing my exposure to alcohol has also reduced my exposure to idiotic behavior. I finally admitted to myself that I have more fun around people who are sober. If I am with the right people, they’re just as fun (or more even fun) when not drinking. This doesn’t mean that I see all drinkers as buffoons, but we all know that alcohol has a tendency to bring out bad qualities in certain people.

Why I Stopped Drinking Alcohol – Reason #6: Self-Confidence
When I think about my best qualities, I think about my intellect, my creativity, and my unique role within a circle of friends. Around the time I stopped drinking, I realized how rewarding it is to make a change that feels positive, even though it may draw criticism, skepticism, or other challenging reactions. For me, it was very freeing to question this social convention and start doing my own thing. I lthink it has improved my self-confidence, which is ironic, considering that most people feel more confident socially when they ARE drinking alcohol. I’m a little different, and that’s okay. I can finally “own” that aspect of my personality.

Anyone who is considering nixing (or reducing) alcohol consumption needs to find their own reasons for doing so, but I hope that my reflections above provide some food for thought. Even as I reread my comments, I realize they may sound smug, yet I decided that honesty was most important – with myself and with other people. I don’t expect everyone to stop drinking alcohol. What I do expect, however, is respect for my decision.

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