Please Don’t Ask Me to Explain Why I Won’t Drink a Glass of Wine


The mood is festive. Literally everyone sparkles in their holiday finery, from guests to tree to dog to house. Conversation and laughter flow freely. It’s lovely, and I enjoy every moment until I’m handed a wine glass or asked if I prefer white or red. There are many reasons why some of us can’t accept that glass of wine. Addiction, medication, designated driver, dislike — take your pick. That isn’t the issue. The issue is having to explain.

Most days, if you happen to see me, you’d have no idea I have psoriatic arthritis. And I prefer it that way. Lack of any outward symptoms means my drug cocktail is doing its job. My skin is clear or anything that’s visible anyway. My hands function, and I can tie my shoes, pull my hair back and shake someone’s hand without cringing in pain. It’s wonderful that no explanation is needed, and I would prefer to keep it that way.

Back to the party. Have you ever seen that commercial touting credit over cash as the quickest way to check out? Life is buzzing along happily with everyone sliding their credit cards or inserting their chip cards and the line moves quickly. And then someone shows up with actual currency, and the line grinds to a halt as something out of the ordinary has to be processed. I feel the same way when I decline that drink. Everything stops.

“No wine? Would you prefer a martini?”

“No, thank you. I’m fine.”

“I didn’t realize you don’t drink.” Eyebrows raised. Just a little. Question?

There’s no reason you should. But I feel uncomfortable when someone is looking askance for my behavior. I really don’t want to use a party as a teaching moment for how alcohol interacts with my liver when I’m taking methotrexate. It’s awkward and uncomfortable for everyone. And that’s just me, but I imagine those struggling with addiction have the same feelings.

What to do? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking folks to do away with alcohol. I’m merely suggesting that in addition to offering white or red, we may want to add sparkling water or cider to the mix. I do want to celebrate, and I do want to be part of the group. I just don’t want to draw attention to my medical condition by having to abstain or requesting something you don’t have.

And as much as I appreciate my dear friends, please don’t jump in ahead of me and offer up an explanation of my condition. It isn’t that I can’t explain. It’s that I simply don’t want to share that information with everyone in the venue. Take a look at our HIPAA privacy guidelines these days: only one person at the counter and written releases to leave messages on your voicemail and to share information with family members. It all kind of goes out the window when a well-meaning friend explains why I won’t be having that glass of wine.

We’re all so very different and that’s OK. We all have challenges we take on every day. As individuals, we also have the right to pick and choose those challenges we’d like to share, and who we’d like to share with.  

As a party host or a friend, I know you put great thought into the menu. We all want to serve something our guests will like. We all want them to have a good time and to enjoy themselves and the company.

So I would make a request. Please expand your offerings to include one or two options that anyone could enjoy, regardless.  

“We have a Merlot, champagne, white zinfandel, and we also have sparkling water with fresh limes or sparkling cider as well as cranberry ginger ale. Pick your poison.” My friend grins and waits for my answer, wine glass in hand, ready to fill.

“I’ll try the cider. Thank you! Much appreciated.” I smile and turn back to the group, raising my glass to their toast, sipping happily while I chat with someone next to me. And no one even notices.

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Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images


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