I'm 23 and Don't Drink: and That's Okay.

22 comments
I don't drink


I'm nearly 23 years old and I don't drink alcohol.

I can.

I just choose not to.

I understand why people struggle to comprehend why I don't drink. Most people my age do. Most people even a lot younger than me do. There seems like no reason why you wouldn't. I can accept that confusion, but I can't accept the shaming.

It's my choice. Not yours. And you shouldn't make me feel ashamed of it. Or embarrassed. Or outcast. Or weird. I have no problem with people who drink. I don't hate them, look down upon them, want to change them. I'm just me and just because I don't drink nothing changes that. When invasive questions on why I don't drink are asked, it's uncomfortable. That I don't should just be enough.

"You don't drink? Okay, that's fine. We'll get you a Coke instead." And we can move on like it's no big deal. Because it isn't.

But people poke and prod and make me feel like this anomaly. "You couldn't possibly not drink, can you? Why on earth would you want to do that?"

Because I have OCD. Because I've struggled for over a decade with crippling anxiety that's left me in therapy multiple times and medication and countless panic attacks. Drinking triggers my OCD. So I don't do it.

I shouldn't have to tell people all that. To make my very personal struggles the first thing people know about me when they meet me. I should just be able to say I don't drink, and leave it at that.

Maybe what's worse than having them not just accept my choice is trying to change my choice.

"oh, well ___ doesn't get you drunk quickly"
"just drink a lot of water before hand and eat. You'll be fine."
"I've never thrown up, so you should be good."

People think that in .25 seconds they can offer me a solution that will fix all my problems. That will make me normal. Like them.

They don't realize that I've lived with this for 10 years? That I've thought of every possible solution and resolution to fix this "flaw" in myself that makes me an outcast to people my own age (and above) (and below)?

It's just a let down.

I can never shake the feeling after it happens. The shame haunts me through the rest of the evening, into the night, and when I lay cocooned in my sheets in the morning. Thinking about having people drawn to me like a spectacle, trying to fix me like a broken toy.

"Hey guys, get over here! You'll never guess what I just found out. Lauren doesn't drink! Can you believe that? Let's help her, let's figure it out. Let's get her to finally have some fun"

I just want people to accept that I don't drink and treat me like every one else. Also to respect my decision enough to trust that I know what's best for my mental health. And just because I don't drink doesn't mean I don't want to go out with you. I can still be out, have a fun time, and not drink. I don't want to be treated like an outsider. Like a charity case. Like a nut job. I just want to be treated as Lauren, who doesn't drink, but that's okay: she'll just take a water instead. x

ps. this cosmo article is actually really great on the subject and worth a read.

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22 lovely little notes:

SB said...

As someone who also doesn't drink I can't understand the pressure either. I think unfortunately it says a lot about our culture that someone who doesn't drink is seen as an anomaly that needs to change and 'fit in'. I have no problem with someone who drinks so if I can respect your choice it would be nice if people could respect mine. Plus I don't believe that you need to drink in order to have fun, fun can come in many different ways the majority of which actually take place sober and as an added advantage there is no hangover in the morning.
I also agree that you shouldn't have to tell people why you don't drink, I know in my family those who don't drink tend to have a simple one line response that they use whether that is; religious reasons, personal convictions, I don't like the taste or a number of other reasons. I promise that there are people out there who will respect your choice not to drink and not force you to have some alcohol they may be harder to find but they do exist.

Erin said...

Girl, you go. I know that the struggle is real (I'm Narcoleptic, so I feel you on the life regulation aspect) and in truth, you have a right to be a little bent out of shape about the insessant questions of others-- espescially in regards to something like drinking. Abstaining from such a thing doesn't harm anyone (and is actually a cool exercize of self restraint) so it baffles me at to why others feel the need to inquire. I'm especially sorry that people have tried to "solve the problem" for you, that's frustrating. I do think that there is a confident way to address those questions and sentiments, without needing to talk about your OCD-- maybe even calmly (ha, if you can muster it!) asking why a counter-cultural decision makes them uncomfortable, or simple stating that it's what works for you and you'd appreciate not being interrogated. There are hundreds of reasons that people choose not to drink. Bottom line, know that a lot of those people who pester and pressure you, are probably actually impressed by your decision. There is strength in going against the grain (with purpose). :)

Katie Lee said...

I'm 23 and also don't drink.
I cannot stand the feeling of not being in control of myself and I feel as if alcohol is a gateway for that for me. Not only that, but I don't find the allure in not being able to function the next day after drinking.
Plus, all alcohol tastes like rubbing alcohol smells and I'd rather not willingly down a gross drink for the sake of "fun".

Trust me Lauren, you're normal regardless of drinking alcohol or not. If people don't find you fun without drinks than they never found you fun to begin with, and they aren't worth your time!

Katie | Katie Like Me

Kezzie said...

As you possibly might remember from.previous comments I have made on your non-drinking posts, I don't drink either. I occasionally get the odd comment but mostly when people offer to buy me a drink, I tend to refuse, preferring to buy my own so I tend to bypass any possible situations. I think it helps that I rarely go to drinking establishments or that I am older. You are one of the bright young things who are seen so you get attention. I am ugly and old so I don't. Could you ask, "why do you drink?" Or "Has anyone given you grief for drinking before? Now think about how it makes me feel to be given grief for NOT!". IT IS difficult though and it shouldn't be!

Carmel Elizabeth said...

AMEN. I think this issue applies to other abstinences too - for example, I don't eat sugar. No, it's not a "diet", I just know that my self-control is minimal when it comes to desert, and I'm not the sort of person who will eat "just 1 cookie", so I'd rather not eat any at all. I've been doing it for a long time now + I'm really happy with this lifestyle choice. What I'm not happy with are the people who balk at the idea. People all the time tell me "a little sugar won't hurt you! Loosen up! C'mon!" and it's so annoying that they think I'm just going to change my whole life for their whims. It's ridiculous.

All that to say? I totally understand, you're not alone, and you'll find the people who accept your choices, I know it. ^.^

Victoria / Justice Pirate said...

I am 32 and still have yet to try my first sip of beer, alcohol, wine, etc. I didn't even have my first sip of soda or coffee until 4 years ago (and don't plan on more of either).

People still don't get how I have survived this long without having any of that. . .but heart disease and liver issues run rampant in my family and so many have been alcoholics. I am one of the youngest and saw it all go down for many and just didn't want to be that way. . so I chose to just abstain completely. Thankfully my husband is the same way but he was all into the straight edge lifestyle to go along with punks and such, while I just was not into the idea of it at all. It helps to have people who get you. I have no problem with drinking either if a legal age, but I have a problem with drunkenness. I was the girl in high school people called to pick them up to bring them home or to help them when they were hung over. . .I would never tell them to stop or not do it, I would just say, "I care for you and don't like seeing you this way." THey liked that.

You are now in NYC where it is more strange to be found not drinking. I know this since I live right outside of the city. You're right that we shouldn't have to explain it, but the different attitude towards it doesn't make sense to others. Therefore they question it. I am used to the questions so it doesn't bug me anymore. I get it less now in my thirties than in my twenties, because people tend to drink more in their 20s and be into trying new drinks and by the time they hit their thirties they already just assume people are drinking and if I ask for a water they don't seem to care as much and figure it is because I'm a mom. haha.

Your reasons for why you don't drink make sense and are good reason!! Hang in there and know you aren't alone. :)

+Victoria+
http://justicepirate.com

Minnie Muse said...

So many people think that they can't have fun unless they are drinking, but they don't realize that its not a necessary part of life....nothing is missing for those of us who don't drink. To be honest I think our lives are more fulfilling. It's admirable that this is a part of you, even though there are other more personal reasons for your choice. People always think we have to be just like them, when being our own person, with our own ideas and standards, and decisions makes us who we are.
-Madison
www.minniemuseblog.com

Lee4 said...

I'm in my 40's & don't drink either (& this Is my first time commenting here). I totally understand your frustration with being made to feel as if something is "wrong" with you b/c you don't. I thought by this point in my life, the no alcohol thing would be a non-issue but it still comes up. Very frustrating, especially since I don't lecture those who do or ask them nosey questions about their life choices. I don't feel the need to have alcohol in order to relax, have fun, break the ice, etc. and that's totally okay. I often still find myself surprised by other adults who act as if they cannot function without a drink.

I applaud you for putting your health first & taking care of you! Please know there are others of us out here who don't drink either & we know there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.

Lorna Sharp said...

Oh I totally get it. I used to be like that, and now I just can't say no again. And I'm worse than OCD...
I totally understand why it's better not to.
Congrats on being so mature on this !

xx

http://lornasharp.blogspot.com

Sian Thomas said...

So glad you've spoken about this again - I remember when you talked about this topic a bit years ago (when you were still at high school maybe?) and I agreed with you then too.I'm 25 (nearly 26, eek!) and don't drink either. I'll occasionally have a glass of wine with a meal and a cocktail if I'm out with friends or family, but I'll more often than not choose a mocktail - they taste just as good without the scary effects! I don't suffer from OCD, and I've never seen a doctor about it, but I have the same phobia as you of sickness so I'm terrified of drinking and feeling sick as a result. Plus I just don't get the drinking, spending lots of money, and not remembering anything the next day - it doesn't make sense to me! I spend a lot of time driving others around as I'm not bothered about drinking!
I've found as I've got older my friends are much more accepting of it. Being in the UK, we could legally drink at 18, but many people would drink at 16 or younger, so in the last couple of years I've found that people my age are started to get tired of the drinking to get drunk thing. They'll mostly now just have a couple of glasses or pints and not pressure me into having a drink any more. So maybe you'll start to see the same at some point too :)

Harley Brown said...

As someone who does drink, it is really sad to hear that so many people who also choose to do so are so uncomfortable by your life decisions.

All I can say is, keep doin' you girl.

I randomly came across your blog when you were a junior/senior in high school and you continue to be a great person to have in my internet life!

RC Rabbit (Bunny) said...

It's sad so many feel like they need to change you when you don't do what the deem as "normal". For many years I didn't eat meat and I would get the same kind of questions. Keep your head high, try to put it behind you (even if it is really hard), and keep pushing forward being you because only you know how to be you.

Sara said...

No shame! I don't drink either, and it was questioned when I was in France (by Americans), but no one gave me a hard time about it. I think eventually people just get used to the idea that not everyone is that "fun". I can have fun with a Coke at 1 in the morning and still be a safe driver. :)

xoxo,
Sara
www.coveritgirl.blogspot.com

Hayley Solano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenna Leigh said...

LOVED what you had to say! It's so true too. Just because you don't drink doesn't mean you aren't a normal adult. It's important to stand up and do what your comfortable with, and also not give into any pressure! Good for you

http://abeautifulheart07.blogspot.com/

Christine Tj said...

Girl, I'm 24 and don't drink either. I could, but I choose not to. And I totally get it. It really depends on your friend group. People get it... just people who are totally into this world and what is cool in their own minds don't really get it. Go you! Also, I am so glad you are still blogging- haha, I've been following your blog for probably 4 years now!

God bless,
Christine
Ethical Fashion + Faith
www.beyoutifulhope.blogspot.com

Jenn said...

I'm 27, not a drinker either. It's a personal choice. I've tried it a few times, but I've never been drunk. Alcohol honestly does not taste very good and I see no sense in drinking something unpleasurable just to chase after a feeling. I know and accept that others enjoy it and the feeling, but I've seen too many people make bad decsisions while drinking for me to ever make that effort.

A co-worker of mine is 65 amd wealthy, he doesn't drink either. However, he used to be an alcoholic, so he stays away, which is why people shouldn't be asking why you dont drink. When people act all weirded out about me not drinking and asking all those questions, I usually laugh and then remind them that for future reference, it's kind of uncool and inappropriate to pry for info. What if I was a recovering alcoholic and didn't want to tell you? I remind them that it's an easy way to make people uncomfortable and that they should learn to live their lives and I live mine. That usually gets them to stop, haha.

You'll come to see that the people who make too big of a deal or choose to pressure you are not really people worth being around. You shouldn't feel stressed to hang out with people. Friendship shouldn't drain you. True friends will accept it and respect it. Keep that in mind! Those people exist. At my age my friends don't even think twice about it! We go out to dinner they get their drinks, I get my Diet Pepsi, and life is good!

Sammi said...

I don't drink either, Lauren, and my closest internet-based friends don't either! I did a little bit in college (never to excess, and I could count on my fingers how many times I actually drank), but any small amount of enjoyment I had from it faded very quickly. I just don't like it and can have more fun being sober. Some people will never understand why I don't enjoy it and will give you a hard time... but those people aren't people you need in your life. The people who really matter won't give it a second thought. I think as you get older (and your social circle does too), people will be less judgmental about it. Until then, know that you are making the right decision for you and for your mental health, and don't pay attention to anyone who tries to make you think otherwise!

Tal Hartsfeld said...

Isn't whether or not someone chooses to consume alcoholic beverages rather subjective?
A "personal choice" matter, not unlike having favorite foods, or what style of clothing they wear in their off-time, or of what restaurant they prefer to dine at when they eat out?
An arbitrary choice? A "freedom-of-choice" matter?

Also: Since when did whether or not someone "drinks" become a criteria for judging another's level of "normalcy"? I always thought that sort of judgment call was reserved for "unusual personality and behavior" fare.

Sissy said...

I get the same thing as a vegetarian, people constantly ask me to explain and justify myself or try to pick holes in my logic. I don't tell anyone else what they should or shouldn't eat, yet they assume I must have some kind of morally superior attitude. I guess people who swim against the tide make them uncomfortable.

lovelybiscuitsblog said...

My two best friends don't drink at all and it's never been an issue for us. I understand that they have their own reasons for not drinking and I would never push them to drink. It doesn't affect me personally so it's not my business. We still have fun and I do all the drinking for them lol.

I find that as I get older, people care much less about whether or not someone drinks. Maybe it's an age thing? I don't know. I just remember people caring more about it when I was in my 20's. In the end, the people around you will get over it. It's not your problem if they have an issue with your choice to not drink. Just keep doing what you want to do and people will eventually stop bugging you about it.

Maria said...

I'm someone who *does* drink and I would never try to make anyone feel bad for not drinking! It's not for everybody! And I myself can't handle that much alcohol anyways. I'm sorry some people are so rude!

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