This has been probably the most asked question of my life. Depending on how it's asked, my response has varied from the finger to an intimate conversation into the wee hours of the morning.

I don't consider myself an asshole in the usual case, so let me qualify that remark about giving the finger. I've actually never responded that way, but I almost have a couple of times. I remember one was when this really obnoxious ex-girlfriend of a friend of mine was here. She offered me a beer and someone else offered up "Vineet doesn't drink." She turned to me and gave me a heartfelt "Oh, that sucks. I'm sorry."

Sorry? I thought. I certainly don't need your pity.

Generally people ask me with some degree of respect and even sometimes envy. I try not to let it go to my head, though. My short answer is that "I don't feel like I need it." That's good enough for some, but sometimes it goes on a bit more:

I'm a big fan of if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Remember this is the guy who will walk into a restaurant 3 times a week for 4 years and order the same damned thing every time. I don't think I'm boring, I kinda just like to leave well enough alone. That part is the same as the reason I don't eat veggies.

But it's not as haphazard as that simple explanation makes it sound. I have given it a lot of thought. I kinda see it as something I'd need a reason to start doing, rather than something I need a reason not to do. I sometimes ask people why they do drink. The usual responses are "to fit in," "to be social," and "to let loose." I think I do all right covering all three of these on my own.

I've been told by people that my nonchalance is astounding regarding my stress levels towards school and other "big responsibilities." I guess I'm lucky enough to get by without stressing. I've never been really stressed out over anything. When it comes to socializing, I have my barriers. So far, though, I've never been in a situation where I haven't been able to let them down. I've never felt unable to let loose and socialize, so no catalyst seems necessary.

There are a couple of reasons I've come up with through my own observations, that people either aren't aware of or can't say aloud. I sometimes see people using alcohol as an excuse to act a little dumber. I don't mean that in a bad way. Consider the man who can't get on the dance floor until he's had a few drinks, or the kid who can't go up and talk to a girl without a little liquid courage. I am not those people. I'll dance when I want to dance, and I'll talk to the women I'm going to talk to without needing any form of crutch.

So fine, it's not a necessity for me. But it's fun, right? Why not give it a try?

I can have my fun. And if I want a drink in my hand, nothing beats a Pepsi. There are more obvious reasons not to drink, too. I've seen plenty of alcohol abuse, and I've had to clean up after plenty of it as well. I'm talking about all kinds of cleanup, from mild to just not cool: Holding back a puker's hair. Babysitting for hours. Staying up and watching someone sleep so they don't drown in vomit. Cleaning up plenty of vomit. Driving people home. Carrying people home. Carrying people to the Emergency Room. Calling 911 when my friend got hit by a drunk driver. Caring for drunken injuries. Filling in memories. Helping straighten out BLTs.

Someone once asked me if I didn't drink because I was a control freak. Later that night I ended up being the only one able to talk to the Fire Department, cleaning up $1200 worth of damage to my kitchen, and calling an ambulance for my roommate.

I'm not even militantly saying everyone should give it up, or that anyone should aspire to follow my lead. I just wish more people could acknowledge that it's a reasonable conclusion to have reached for myself, and let me have it.

I don't think that's too much to ask.

I kinda see it as something I'd need a reason to start doing, rather than something I need a reason not to do

I totally agree with that. The process of starting to drink has been naturalised as part and parcel of growing up, and I did start drinking with the rest of my friends during my teens, because it just seemed like something we were supposed to do. However, when I finally did think about it on a conscious level, I realised that not drinking was an option, and in fact the preferable one. I don't have alcoholism in my family, but I was aware that alcohol has more negative health effects than most people are aware of. So basically I made the decision to experiment with growing up as a non-drinker and see how I liked it.

Although I never said to myself: "I will never drink", ten years on I am now a confirmed non-drinker. I have never come across a reason to drink, and I doubt that I will at this stage in my life. I have not missed out on anything as a result, my social life is entirely normal, and I regularly visit the pub.

The only caveat is that, as a foodie, I am sometimes tempted to take up drinking wine, because everybody tells me that it complements food so well. However, not drinking gives me so many benefits that I can live with having water with my meal. Also, I'm not an obsessive, "no drop shall pass my lips" non-drinker, so I can taste a drop of wine or whatever, when I care to.

I respect your decision to not drink. I think it's a reasonable conclusion to have come to for yourself.

But I also understand why your argument doesn't go over well. You attempt to logically justify your decision, not to drink, but your argument isn't logical. It implies that there are exactly two cases in which people drink:

  1. They drink for courage, and you don't need any.
  2. They drink for fun, but don't drink responsibly, and so terrible things happen.
Have you never experienced a case where someone around you drank responsibly, because they wanted to, enjoyed it, and nothing bad happened? It's hard to believe. I did so the night before last.

I'm not suggesting that this fact should change your decision not to drink. I'm suggesting that, without recognizing it, you've constructed a flawed argument against anyone drinking. It's probably just an emotional response to the abuse you've taken for your decision, but it comes off as sort of smarmy.

You don't need an excuse or an argument not to drink. Personal preference. End of story.

While I respect the decisions of others not to drink, the reasoning presented here is piss-poor.

First off, DaVinciLeo's reasoning assumes that everyone who drinks does so to excess. I drink because I like the taste of fine alcohol (I can't stand the cheap shit), be it wine, beer, mead, or hard liquor. Wine really makes a fine meal complete. I do not drink to excess -- I've been three sheets to the wind (as opposed to merely tipsy) twice in my life, and both were under conditions where I knew I was safe for the night.

Second, the negative health effects are from prolonged, heavy drinking -- not social drinking, alcoholic drinking. The latest studies indicate social drinking is in fact good for you. Certain compounds in red wine are good for the ciculatory system; relief of stress is another health plus. A glass of wine every day or two is good for your heart and your mind.

And I might add, good for your palate.

plonk plonk and imago said it well, I will say it worse: why the hell do people only associate alcohol with abuse ?
In the original writeup, and in most of the ones that follow, I do not see anyone that says "I do not drink because to me alcohol tastes like crap". It is all "I do not drink so that I do not get drunk".

Now, people of the US (and of England and other countries ...), let me remind you that there is a fine line, nay, a fucking big football field between not drinking at all and being drunk (or a drunkard).
I tasted alcohol first ... I don't even remember, I must have been four, and it was wine. I did not like it, and at the time I did not like cabbage, spinach, mustard and a lot of other foods.
Later on, my food horizons expanded: and with them the alcohol came, and it made sense. I am still learning, though. Only recently I tried Sauterne and Tokay, two wines that would probably break Ryano's resolve.
Hardly a day passes that I do not drink a glass of wine (or beer), usually with meals. Nonetheless, in thirty years of life I have been drunk ... probably five times, of which two were mistakes, one was innocence, and the other two intentional.

Am I an alcoholic ? I don't think so. Do I think that people and institutions that make a big deal of the subject of drink are a bit funny ? Yes.
Of course, excepting personal tragedies like alcoholic families ...

I must be honest here, no matter how much I wish it were different: It was my parent's decision at first. I have been known to be a control freak, and I would love to be able to say it was all my doing. But really, when I was young, my parents told me it was wrong. Why it stuck in my head, I don't know. They also told me to do my homework, but look at me now.

The local "Don't Do Drugs, Instead Marvel At Our Cool Acronym" group got ahold of me in time, too, I suppose. My best friends soon happened to be in that crowd, too, solidifying my non-drinking status. To some extent it was easier to keep not drinking than it was to start drinking. Obviously by this time I knew of all the undesirable effects of drinking. Being a control freak, I was scared of having a substance interfere with my "mind over matter" pilosophy.

The longer I didn't drink, the more the decision became my own. There was this pride swelling from some feeling that I was better than everone else. "Look at all these poor saps drinking. I have so much more willpower than all of them. Aren't I cool?" I started seeking out others who I thought were as cool as me. If someone didn't drink, I wanted to know them.

Eventually, It was like running a marathon. Along the way, I would watch my friends bail out, and I would be saddened by the loss of another running mate, each one of whom I thought would be there until the end. But I'm too busy running my own race to stop, so I just keep running, going farther than all my friends just for the sake of the race, not knowing where it finally ends, realizing that eventually I'll be the only one left. Except...that won't happen. I won't be left running alone. Not when she's around. That's why we have this weird bond that will never break. I'm glad we met. I miss her. I think I'll call her

I try to remember now that I'm not really better than a drinker. We just chose different values and stuck to them. I like my values better anyways.

Note - In this particular node, drinking is shorthand for "drinking, drugging, and smoking"

I'm not totally sure. Here's what I've got so far: my four part reasoning-

1. It's a matter of fear really. I fear that I am not strong willed enough to stop drinking if I ever start. I know there are people who handle themselves very well, but I know (or see) a lot more who don't. Why should I think I'm going to be much better? And when I start, and I become addicted, well geez that sucks. All those negative health effects and such that I can only really account for before I'm addicted. I feel that once I get in too deep, I'll never be able to get out.

2. No one I truly admire gets drunk. I have some friends at college that don't drink, but very few. Those few are people I respect for other qualities (like social skills, intellect, etc). I guess I also respect them for their resolve, since there is a fair amount of unspoken pressure to drink. I also know some folks from high school that (still) do not drink. They as well are people I look up to in certain areas of life. I often have to refer to a memory of them to remind myself, "I'm not the only one."

3. I don't like the taste of cheap alcohol, and I don't want to spend money on stuff that tastes better. There may be exceptions to this rule, as splurging can often be a lot of fun in itself, but nothing has come up yet. I'm really such a geek that I usually splurge on stuff like headphones or disk drives or something.

4. I want to have the ability to loosen up and enjoy myself on command, I don't want to drink it out of a can. I am not particularly good at this yet, but it's sort of a fun battle with myself. In the end the only way I see I can lose is to give in.

In my life I have had one beer. It tasted terrible, but I enjoyed it anyhow. I enjoyed being able to say "Yeah, I did it." For that hour or so I had about 5% reduced perception and my mind was very relaxed. I don't know if it was from the beer, or because I thought that's how I should behave. In any case, it helped to outline my goal. As for repeating this, I won't lie and say I don't want to do it at all ever again. There are times when I think it would be fun, different, or mind opening. But there's something that I feel in the day time, the knowledge of what every other college kid is like on Friday and Saturday nights, it just steers me away. Sometimes I want to drink, but I pull myself back and say, "No, it's not for you." I'm pretty damned undecided on the matter, but for now I'm sticking to my rules. It feels like once I start, people will just want me to go farther and farther. Eventually I'll be like my roommate - sit around and watch TV most of the time, come home drunk on various nights, and not care. It's all about fear.

Looking into the future: I'm 18 now, and I know when I hit 21 my father will have a bottle of wine he has saved since the year I was born. My brother, who was like I am now when he was 21, told my father, "No, I'm not going to drink." I'll tell my father, "Sure." I'll tell him this because my father is one of the people I admire - he has a glass of wine every night with dinner, but he keeps it under control. If I knew I could be that, I might take up drinking. My mother, on the other hand, is an alcoholic (who doesn't admit it), so you can see why I can't be certain about my own resolve. I also figure that I shouldn't fear just one bottle of wine, it will taste fine, and I can put my battle on hold for a night.

On the reverse note, my best friend from high school and I just recently spent Thanksgiving together in Cape Cod with his family. This was a fairly wealthy, look I'm better than you type of family. Friendly from a distance, if you know what I mean. At every function I went to with this family (one or two a day), there was alcohol. The mother of my friend thought of me strangely for not wanting to drink. This goes back to "Why do you care so much?" She even quietly pulled me over and tried to give me a little 'inside information', as if I didn't already know it, "You can drink, no one will call the cops or anything. It's ok." The thought, "I don't want to" didn't really occur to her. And then there was my friend, who went to the point of switching my drink for his; his contained vodka. The truth is, when people start to care that much about me drinking, I start to care less about me drinking, and just go with it. So I pretended to sip from my vodka then accidentally left it somewhere or something, but making comments as if I had no idea about the switch. My friend later explained that he just wanted me to loosen up. "I'm trying," I said.

Update: Spring, 2004

I've taken a while off E2, but I thought I'd come back and update this node. I'm graduating from college in a week, and naturally a lot has changed since I wrote this. I now drink regularly, in moderate amounts, at parties exclusively. I've yet to throw up or pass out from drinking, and I don't mean to... I think that's taking it too far. But I have come to understand, on a personal level, the institution of alcohol and the role it plays in colleges and social environments like mine.

When I wrote of a matter of fear, I was also talking about being afraid that drinking might make me do something I don't want to do. This has not happened. Drinking gives people a mutually-accepted excuse to do things they do want to do - it gives them a scape coat for off-beat behavior. I'm generally not afraid of doing things I want to do sober, but in order to do things with other people you have to get drunk together so you all (or both) have the protection. Most of my drinking happens at a particular campus residence house that hosts lots of loud, roudy parties that are always a viscerally good time. Slowly but surely I've learned how different parts of my body could coordinate to do something called "dance," which is excellent.

On a couple of the specific points I made:

Admiration: I have no heroes in my life, it's only small parts of people I really admire. In all the time I've spent working in college, I've had a hard time finding the right balance of partying and academics, so there is something to be admired about those who do drink (without wrecklessness).

Taste: There are a few beers I've come to like taste wise, and mixed drinks can always taste good if done right. I didn't know enough about the various options when I wrote that.

The equation between partying and drinking is perhaps a little unfortunate, but both necessary and insurmountable. It's nice to have a strong delimiter between "this is off time" and not. A friend of mine (who doesn't drink) disparately wishes that we could go back to the days when a party meant playing board games and telling ghost stories... as fun as that was, people want to move on and perhaps dig a little deeper into who they are and experiment more with who they can be. Alcohol, in that sense, is like the river running through an unexplored forest, and we'd be collective fools not to hop on it.

I do still worry a little about the possibility of becoming an alocholic. It's in my blood and there's nothing that can stop that. But I fear just as much the inability to relax and get a little crazy, even though that deficiency is more readily overlooked by society. To all the non-drinkers out there looking for advice: you do not have to start off by drinking until you puke, like some people do. Try it out, be with friends, slowly learn about your tolerance, and don't let what's unknown to you be intimidating. It can lead to having an excellent time without disastrous consequences.

P.S. I never got that bottle of wine when I turned 21. I was studying at the University of Helsinki that summer, and I let my new Italian friend pick the wine at dinner that night :)

Obviously YMMV but the reason I don't drink is that I used to.

I was born with one of those personalities/genotypes/whatever that lent itself to addictive behavior. Or maybe it was because on my upbringing. Regardless of why or how, by the time I quit drinking, it was all I was doing. I went to work, I came home, and I drank. I never drank at work, and my drinking never directly interfered with my work (although I was usually a wreck from 9 to 2), and I never got into trouble with the law. After work and after I did everything that needed to be done, I sat on the couch and drank and drank and drank. At parties I drank. Alone, I drank. I drank to be social, to be antisocial, to kill a hangover.

Finally, I was granted a moment of insight to where I saw what I was doing with my life. More accurately, what I was not doing. I chose to get off the couch, but I couldn't do it with a bottle in my hand. So I quit. 18 months now, and I am still sober.

Some people don't drink because when they do it consumes their lives. I know, because I am one of them.

Feel free to kill this or downvote it, but I feel like this was a point of view not well represented.

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