The Mighty Logo

How I Respond When Someone Asks 'Why Don't You Drink?'

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

When I am out and about, I often get asked — why don’t you drink? Instead of something like, “the band is really great, right?”

When I first quit drinking I didn’t really know what to say when I was asked, and I was always asked. How sad and tragic that it is more common to drink in excess, than it isn’t.

It didn’t feel right to tell my life story to everyone; but it’s almost like people know you have a problem when you say you don’t drink. They look at you funny and you know they are thinking: is she religious, does she have the flu, is she breastfeeding? What is the reason this young girl is not drinking?

I cannot count how many times someone followed up with, “How long have you been sober” when I had yet to even form a reply to “why don’t you drink.”

Maybe I am more aware of how often this question is asked as I am sober. Or maybe it is because I am around drinking quite often and I still think of it on some days, fondly.

I keep it simple and now stick to this reply: “I am cooler without it.”

It is a pretty solid answer; no one can judge you. I don’t like labels, and I don’t like self-fulfilling prophecies; I cannot drink alcohol because it doesn’t work for me, so I don’t. If you knew me as a drinker you will likely nod your head in agreement.

Of course there are a handful of people who know the truth; I am a wonderful girl without alcohol. With it, I am someone I don’t know or aspire to be.

Where I come from everyone drinks; some people are good at it, and some people are not. I was not.

Someone asked me, “how did you know you had a problem?”

There are a million reasons why I knew I had a problem; I cannot give you
just one.

I could never have one drink, or two. I always had to finish the bottle. I would never slow sip a cocktail, I would always chug it. I would never have two drinks and stop. It actually didn’t make any sense to me that you would stop after having a drink. Why would I go to bed after this just started?

I would never remember. I would wake up after drinking all night wondering if I still had friends. I would literally have no idea what I said or what I did. I would always feel incredibly guilty, because I felt superior when I drank — smarter, better, richer and prettier. So I would argue, yell and fight.

“I am so sorry. I will be better. I was so drunk,” I would say the next morning, every time.

I always needed a babysitter. Going out with me would inevitably cause you to babysit me. Ask my friends, old lovers — they won’t disagree.

I loved going to all of my son’s practices and games. But I would dread and wish the actual time away while I was there, because I wanted to be at home relaxing with wine. “Mom’s need wine,” isn’t that a thing now?

I was a clock watcher; I would wake up hungover, chug water, eat shitty food, participate as best I could in sports., and then I would get home and clock watch. Watch for the time I thought it was OK to drink. Sometimes it would be earlier, sometimes it would be later, and it was always depending on how stressful of a day I had. “Wine reduces stress,” right?

I would buy 15 bottles of wine on a Sunday at the liquor store. I would tell myself, “I am filling my wine rack for company.” Towards the end of my drinking, I thought “this is smart, buy more, save money,” still not really recognizing that I would buy 15 bottles of wine on a Sunday, and they would always be gone the following Sunday.

It was never that I didn’t think I had a problem; it was more like I just didn’t care or know I was powerful enough to change it.

I would never tell you I thought I had a problem — but I knew.

You know if you have a problem with alcohol. If you are asking me how I knew I had a problem, maybe ask yourself why you’re asking me that.

Perhaps you just don’t understand how addiction works.

But more than likely, you are questioning yourself.

I know addiction. I know who has a problem with alcohol, and I know who doesn’t.

I know, because I see myself in you.

It is not my job to tell you that you have a problem. I never would. I wouldn’t tell anyone for that matter, but I do know.

And so do you.

I didn’t drink for pleasure, I didn’t drink for fun. Though I would tell you I was having fun.

I drank to escape.

I drank to numb.

I drank to hide.

So now I don’t drink, because I am cooler without it.

Now, I like to travel, enjoy fine food and sparkling water. I read, explore and love. Life really isn’t as boring as you would think without alcohol. Life really isn’t as hard as you would think without alcohol. I read on someone else’s blog, shortly after I quit, that one day I get to be a really put-together old lady.

I smile at this thought.

That’s what I want.

Keep showing up.

Getty image by Alpha-C

Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home