On Not Drinking
I'm 26. I live in New York City. I work at an agency. I don't drink. One of these things is not like the other. Being young, living in a city where you can literally party till dawn, and working in a culture that endorses happy hours and team bonding activities revolving around liquor, not drinking is not always easy.
There are certain situations that are more difficult than others. I usually leave an evening out before people get to the messy drunk stage. I avoid work functions that involve excess drinking because I'm uncomfortable by the gossip shared or the slightly off color comments expressed when the alcohol starts flowing. People are physically uncomfortable when I say I don't drink, looking at me like I have four heads. To be clear, it's not really a decision. In college, I drank pretty regularly, but often would get sick and spend the night on the bathroom floor. When I graduated, I had a flare for months and drinking even a sip of alcohol had me shaking uncontrollably, vomiting, and feeling absolutely terrible.
Now, I'm able to drink gluten free alcohol like sake or cider, but I don't want to feel sick, so I avoid it because even those cause symptoms. My body feels better and most of the time, I'm okay with not drinking. It has forced me to deal with my emotions after a tough day, to go into awkward social situations without liquid courage, and to discover activities that don't revolve around drinking. Sometimes, I feel so awkward in those awkward situations and sometimes I want a glass of champagne to cheers for a celebration, but for me, it's not worth feeling sick over.
Not drinking has given me perspective I wouldn't have had otherwise.
If you also don't drink and are having difficult traversing situations that do involve drinking, here are a few suggestions that have helped me:
1. Always Get a (Non-Alcoholic) Drink: Even if it's just water, having something in your hand will make you feel included and will minimize any questions.
2. Suggest a New Activity: I've learned that most people are game to do activities that don't involve alcohol but don't know where to start. Suggest going out to a comedy club, taking a fitness class, seeing a show, or create a game night for your friends. I'm not saying they'll always want to choose the non-alcoholic activity, but I've found they definitely are more likely to choose it after experiencing how much fun it can be.
3. Set Expectations: Tell people you don't drink before the question comes up. I'm not saying as soon as you're asked to scream "GET AWAY! I DON'T DRINK ALCOHOL!". Essentially, just mention you're happy to join and can't drink so will join in with a lemonade (or something similar).
4. Remember, Not Drinking Is Actually On Trend: Believe it or not, not drinking is becoming cool. Dirty Lemon opened up a bar for the summer that is completely non-alcoholic and the line has been around the corner! Daybreaker is a morning party (amazing for those of us who flare at night) that only serves coconut water and offers epic dance parties before the work day. Even the festival scene is forgoing alcohol for maple water. The sober social scene is a thing and it's starting in cities like NYC and LA.
5. If They Don't Get It, They're Not Worth It: People should love you for you, not only drunk you. If friends start to avoid you because you don't drink, it's not worth your time to pursue them. Find friends who will support you and who, even if they don't live the same lifestyle as you, can be accommodating of your lifestyle. This is SO important. Remember, your choice to drink or not drink alcohol should not define you in anyway.
I hope these tips are helpful and remember that you can still have fun without alcohol and your friends will likely be more understanding than you think.
Do you have any tips that help you navigate your social life without alcohol? Let me know in the comments!