Sunday, January 3, 2016

Why I Don't Drink

What do a bunch of moms do when they get together? They talk about their kids and husbands while eating chocolate and drinking wine. Or sometimes painting while drinking wine and eating chocolate. Outside of Amish circles, it's pretty much the thing. Need proof? Check out numbers 10 and 11 on this Buzzfeed list. Or simply do a Google image search on moms and wine. You'll find a gazillion memes. Here are a few of my favorites.

Wine in a red solo cup . . . because trick-or-treating should be fun for moms, too.
I only drink wine on special occasions, like the days I have to do the laundry.
Being a mom makes me feel confident and sexy. No wait. That's wine. Wine does that.
The most expensive part of having kids is all the wine you have to drink.

Those all make me laugh but not from personal experience. Brace yourselves for the unbelievable. You ready for this? I don't drink, like not at all. I can count on three fingers the times I've had alcohol in my body.

1. A sip of my dad's beer when I was around six years old. The verdict? Beer is gross. Haven't had one since.
2. A sip of my mom's wine at a wedding a couple years later. Same verdict. Same result.
3. A couple of sips of some fruity drinks from the bar while in St Lucia for my wedding. They were nasty and the very last alcohol I ever tasted. That was over a decade and a half ago.

I try not to make my teetotaling a big deal if I'm hanging with a drinking crowd. But somehow, even if you're almost 40, it's still a shock to many if you don't drink. You get these kinds of responses.

Like, not at all?
Not even wine?
Never? Ever? 
Are you in AA?

A few weeks ago I was hanging with a group of moms, most with wine glasses in hand, and it came up. I didn't get the AA question, but I got the rest. I think a couple of them couldn't believe it. One girl even introduced me to her life-long bestie with, I have a friend who doesn't drink at all! Can you believe it?  It was hilarious. Another mom friend, who I've known for over 20 years, described me to the group as her most pious friend. I'm pretty sure she meant it as a compliment, in the sense of committed to her God and her religion. A genuinely good person, rather than the more commonly thought of holier than thou Bible thumping bitch. Like I said before, I'm pretty sure that's what she meant.

With all the questions, I felt like they wanted an answer; a reason that I don't drink. And even after 39 plus years, I still felt compelled to have a good one. And so I told them some of my reasons.

1. I grew up Assemblies of God in the 80s and 90s. Alcohol consumption went right along with smoking, gambling, R-rated movies, and social dancing on the list of activities that would take you straight to the Gates of Hell. So, pious as I was, when most others were testing boundaries and discovering hangovers, I didn't drink in high school. It was part of my identity and a part of my faith walk. I took pretty seriously the message of 1 Timothy 4:12 that says Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young but set the example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. I was all about setting that example. Honestly, that still plays in for me.

2. I went to an AG college. To go there, I had to sign a Lifestyle Covenant that said I wouldn't partake in any of the afore mentioned Highway to Hell activities along with a few more. Drinking wasn't acceptable in my circle, even in college, and so I didn't do it then, either. By the time I graduated at age 21, I had already begun learning to live life as an adult without alcohol. It seemed like kind of a lame thing to start now that I was actually of legal age to do so.

3. I'm cheap. Alcohol costs money. I've never been willing to dish out that much for a drink. There have always been more important things to spend my money on. Like Twix and Skittles and Chap Stick.

That's what I told the moms. All of that is totally true but it's not the whole story.  I didn't list all of my reasons because no one wants to hear me talk that long and also because some of them can come off really judgmental or in that not-so-flattering "pious" way. Let me just clarify this for you: I'm not judging you or anyone else for drinking when I don't. We've all got our own stories and reasons and convictions. I really don't think less of anyone for a glass of wine (or a beer or a margarita or whatever. That is pretty much the entire list of alcoholic beverages I can name right there, so whatever.)

Second, although drunkenness makes me more than a little uncomfortable (more on that in point 4), I don't care if you have a drink or two when I'm around.

That said, here's my other reasons.

4. Drinking can make you do stupid and/or mean stuff. I don't think drunk people are funny or cute. I think they're scary and sad. A lot of that probably comes from a time when I was around 15 where someone very close to me ended up being taken to the hospital after running from the police while he was wasted. He's the only one who doesn't remember the night he got that scar on his arm. The rest of us will never forget.

How many times has alcohol been a factor in violent crime? In broken marriages? I've seen the fear in a wife's eyes when her husband comes home wasted and I've had happy drunks hit on me in front of their wives. I've seen people leave the bar together and not remember why the next day. Divorce. Regret. Abuse. Ruined careers. Not risks I'm willing to take with my life or my family. And I don't want to witness others in similar situations either.

5. I have an addictive personality. When I drink one Pepsi, I drink two. If more is around, I'll drink it all before I even realize it. Soda is bad enough. I don't want to risk that same behavior with something that alters my mind in much different ways than caffeine and sugar.

6. I don't want my kids to have problems with alcohol use. It may seem a bit cliche, but if you never take that first drink, you never become an alcoholic. As they grow, my kids will make their own choices and some of them may include drinking. I get that. But at least I can rest easy in the knowledge that they have seen in me an example of someone who doesn't need a drink to have fun or unwind. And that goes for the public school students I have taught and the kids I've taken to church camp, too. When the world tells them that everyone does it, they can know at least one person who doesn't.

My goal in this post isn't to win you over to my side, to make you feel bad, or to give you reasons why you shouldn't drink. It's simply to give you my perspective. To show you why I choose what I choose and to maybe help you understand me and those choices a little better. We don't have to choose all of the same things to be friends. We just have to choose to love each other, wine or no wine.

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