Updated: Mar 25, 2020
Most people who know me well know that I don’t drink.
Sure I’ll have the occasional sip of someone’s beer or a tasty mix to try the flavor here and there, but I think the last time I was “drunk” was probably 2016 or 2015.
Does this mean I have any less fun than anyone else? NOPE. If you’ve seen me on the dance floor you would know that I love to dance, prance, and frolic.
When I first meet people and this topic comes up they usually ask me why, and if I’ve ever drank.
Yes, I have, my first drinks were at family dinners when I was a kid and my aunt thought it would be hilarious to get us kids to try this super strong Chinese liquor that burns the throat and you can pretty much light on fire (in our culture the drinking age is a little more slack…). After that I also had beverages like Smirnoff Ice in my early teens, and did some scotch tasting whenever my dad and brother would be having it at home. So drinking was never this forbidden ‘taboo’ rebellious act to me. I learned pretty early on what it felt like to be under the influence of alcohol, where my limits were, and how terrible it felt when I pushed past it. In high school I was never much of a party person other than a handful of house parties and some very fun new years eves with my friends.
Then in my late teens. I experienced a few rough break-ups, struggled with depression, anxiety, and emotional instability. At first I thought drinking would help numb the way I felt (I heard that’s what people do when they experienced heart ache) so I drank, and went too far, at times using the suffering as a way to punish myself, and one night when I was around 20 ended with me in a hospital puking Malibu rum out my nose for a few hours. That’s when I fully admitted that this wasn’t working at all. I woke up feeling horrible, my family terrified, and none of my problems went away. For years after that, the scent of alcohol made me nauseous.
A couple of months later, I ended up stumbling into the process of prepping for my first bodybuilding competition, where the calories of alcohol definitely did not fit into my diet plan. For months I didn’t touch of drop of alcohol. During that time I honestly didn’t miss drinking at all, I don’t even recall ever even thinking about it much.
I was 100% in the zone training for the show, and anything out of my regiment wasn’t an option. I got really use to refusing drinks in settings such as bars, parties, dinners, and eventually it just became a habit to say “no thanks”.
This pretty much continued after I stopped competing.
The last time I can recall being somewhat intoxicated was probably during a Halloween club crawl back in 2015.
My next drinks I think were 2017 in Mexico, one shot of tequila that came with a scorpion because my Mexican friend wanted me to experience it, and then a swig of rum and mescal on a sailboat with some Mexican pirates I was hitch hiking with. Other than that I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a full drink to myself or became remotely ‘buzzed’. There was never really a point where I made the decision to “quit”, it just naturally happened as alcohol became less and less appealing to me, and I didn’t have the desire to finish any drinks that were handed to me past the initial taste.
WORKING WITH ALCOHOL
For about a year and a half around 2016 I was a bartender at a country bar in Vancouver, dancing on the bar for the Coyote Ugly themed nights with my friends, riding the mechanical bull and making lots of margarita buckets. At the time I was also sometimes working promotional jobs giving out samples at events and liquor stores. It was strange to people that I was pouring booze all night but never wanted to drink any of it, even when I was off work, or offered free drinks. To be honest, working with alcohol turned me off of drinking even more. Just seeing the state that people start in the beginning of the night, then how they end up at the end. I can’t count how many times I witnessed people who kept going even when they didn’t want to, looked visibly ill, either out of compulsion or social pressure, and only stopped because I cut them off at the bar. I saw how much money people spent, and often wasted because they were so drunk that they would spill or forget about the drink they just ordered. I was so happy to be sober at the end of the night, to go home, have a snack, get a solid sleep and wake up feeling refreshed.
Years went by like this, and the less I drank, the less I wanted to. I noticed how great my body felt without alcohol, and when I do have sips of someone else’s drink I want to stop long before I feel any significant effect.
I’m not going to start preaching how unhealthy alcohol is, there is plenty of information out there on the internet if you really want to know the short/long term effects of alcohol on the body. What’s important for me is that when I listen to my inner truth, I know that that this substance doesn’t contribute to my well being. My body doesn’t want it. I don’t want it. Eventually I stopped wanting to even be around alcohol much at all.
Some people may think I judge other people who drink, and I really don’t. I understand why people do it, they all have their own reasons. It’s socially acceptable, promoted, celebrated, it tastes good, it can be fun and allow people to let loose and relax. If someone is drinking consciously and responsibly, not being belligerent, aggressive, drinking all day everyday, spending money that they don’t have to get drunk, compromising their own health or safety then I don’t see it as a problem at all. However, for me personally I do have a hard time connecting/communicating with people when they are very intoxicated, and will probably excuse myself from the situation because I don’t really enjoy the conversation anymore even if I think they are a lovely human being, it’s nothing personal.
As often as I come across people who enjoy drinking and do so responsibly, the fact that I don’t drink often sparks the conversation of people who want to stop but don’t know how, or think that they can’t. Most of the I tell people I don’t drink they are surprised at first, then high five me or say something along the lines of “good for you, I wish I can do that”. If you resonate with this then I hope me sharing my experience and process will help you in some way change your relationship with alcohol.
This doesn’t mean you have to quit all together, that’s not what I’m suggesting for everyone. I understand that for many people there is a time and place to have a few drinks. With any substance use or habit, I only see it as becoming an issue when it is starting to have a negative impact on the person’s life (socially, financially, emotionally, physically), becoming an addiction, compulsion, a way of escaping from or numbing deeper issues, or if the person doesn’t feel like they have control over.
If you can relate to this and wonder how to start the process of change, here are some ways to take a step back, get some perspective and make more conscious choices and changes.
The first step I would recommend is change your thinking to a more self responsible and empowered mindset. Notice the excuse voice in your head that loves to use phrases like “I can’t” or “I have to”. Neither of these are true. You may try to place the blame on your family upbringing, your friends, work, advertisements...etc. But ultimately, your decisions are yours to make.
Yes, it may be difficult to break out of conditioned patterns and habits because of internal and external influences, but your actions are completely within your own control when you bring those choices into your conscious awareness in the moment.
Next, be brutally honest with yourself about your relationship with alcohol, write it down or say it out loud to yourself or an empathetic person you trust.
Identify why you drink, do you enjoy it? What do you like about it? Are there times that you actually didn’t want another drink but had one anyways? Why did you do that? Are there other reasons you drink? What are they?
Identify how you feel before, during, and after you drink. What are your environmental, social, emotional, or mental triggers for you to start drinking? How do you feel while you are drinking? How do you feel after? Do the same with the thoughts that accompany these feelings.
Then ask yourself, what would happen if you don’t drink? What will you lose? What will you gain? What could you do in place of drinking?
All these questions and practices will bring your process and experience around drinking into your conscious awareness rather than going through the motions of usual habits.
While at where events others are drinking, I usually just get water. It’s my personal favorite drink (because water is life, and if I’m feeling fancy I’ll throw in a lime). If you want to have something bubbly there’s also sodas, sparkling water, or virgin cocktail options at most places.
It may seem weird at first to not order a drink like usual, and there may be that discomfort of breaking a social norm, but trust me, once you get over that initial hump and surprised responses from those around you who are use to you drinking with them, no one really will know or care about the drink in your hand being free of alcohol.
Okay maybe not no one, I’ve noticed that certain people get bothered by someone else not drinking, and I’m sure you will come across this at some point from a friend, partner, family member who will try to guilt or pressure you into drinking even when you don’t want to. Remember that their discomfort is THEIR problem, not yours, it is not your responsibility to change the way you behave to help them feel better. It may take a while, but with enough practice, your new habit can change into saying “no thank you” and keep on sipping on your own beverage. And if there is someone who won’t stop bugging you and pressuring you, then it’s time to ask yourself if this is the kind of person you would like to keep spending a lot of time and energy with, if they are not respecting your personal decision.
For me, there have definitely been people that I have grown more distant to because of me not drinking with them, but I would much rather have relationships in my life based upon connection and respect rather than an activity like drinking. Trust me, you may be afraid to lose some friendships, but that will create space for new ones that are more in alignment with who you are and who you want to be.
If you are looking for some other incentives to change your drinking habits then here are a couple of other bonuses I’ve noticed from not drinking:
I save SO MUCH MONEY. One of the main explanations to how I afford my lifestyle and travelling all the time is because I save a lot of money by not drinking. On average, from what I’ve seen, during one meal eating out people end up drinking the same monetary amount in alcohol as their meal cost. This means that because I don’t drink, the price that most people pay for one meal, I can actually eat twice! This adds up really fast especially when on the road and people eat out more often than they do at home due to not always having a kitchen, fridge, or carrying around groceries. I also save a lot of money when I go out to a party or event, since I will usually pay the cover charge/ticket, maybe a bottle of water if refill glasses aren’t available, and then I don’t really have any expenses past that. I also save money because I don’t need to cab home at the end of the night, and being the sober one I can also make sure others are okay, not drinking home drunk, and can offer them rides if needed.
SAVE THE EARTH
Lastly, I noticed the environmental impact that drinking has. Most of the time booze comes in bottles and cans, it’s rare that you go to a party and they are pouring from a tap. The aftermath of a night of drinking is usually piles and piles of cans, plastic cups, bottles, straws, plastic rings from the cans, bottles from mixers. Some of these things can be recycled, but for me personally I prefer reducing my waste production as much as possible, so if that means getting one cup/bottle of water when I have to (most venues don’t let you bring a bottle in), then refilling it if possible.
LEARN TO HAVE FUN NATURALLY
I’ve heard a lot of people say that alcohol helps them feel more comfortable in social situations, let loose, and make their social anxiety more tolerable. So many times I’ve invited people to start dancing and their excuse is that they aren’t drunk enough yet. Throughout the years of being sober I’ve learned to have fun, be myself, dance, and move past my self consciousness without the use of alcohol. I no longer get that awkward “I need a drink” or “I’m not drunk enough for this” feeling at social events. I can bust out in a dance party in the middle of the day because I feel like it and muse strikes, no assistance needed. If alcohol has been serving you as a crutch, the only way to learn how to walk on your own is by letting go of the crutches bit by bit, and taking those baby steps, even if they are scary and shaky to start.
Changing a habit, especially with something addictive like alcohol isn’t an overnight process. It takes take time to practice, readjust, and build new habits and patterns. While it’s important to commit and hold yourself accountable, also remember to be kind and forgiving towards yourself.
For many people using alcohol is deeply ingrained in their lifestyle and culture since a young age, and can take some time to shift from; but if it’s something that you truly want there are so many resources out there that can help you get there.
If you experience a more serious addiction to alcohol and feel like outside help and support will help you, there are lots of support groups out there such as AA dedicated to helping those struggling with alcohol addiction. There are also lots of counselling services from trained professionals that can help. I highly encourage you to reach out to someone if this is something that is causing you and/or your loved ones problems and suffering. You are not alone.
Hope this post helps anyone out there, thank you so much for reading, and please share it with someone who you think may benefit from these words.