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When Friends Push You to Have 'Just One Drink' Despite Your Illness

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That familiar question every time I go to a party, bar or gathering… “Why aren’t you drinking?” My simple answer is usually, “I can’t because I have a heart condition.” This answer isn’t exactly the full truth but it usually gets people off my back. It’s not the full truth because technically my heart is structurally healthy, it just doesn’t do what it’s meant to do because of my dysfunctional autonomic nervous system. But no one knows what that means nor do they generally care to understand, so I usually just say heart condition.


Back to the part where I say it “usually” gets people off my back. I say usually because sometimes people push. Sometimes people don’t try to understand. Sometimes people suck. I get “Can’t you just have one?” or “Just have one sip!” far too often! What’s frustrating is that they wouldn’t push if I had told them I had a better-known condition because these are conditions people are aware of and show understanding towards. But no one knows what dysautonomia is, so they push. What they don’t know is if I have “just one sip,” I will end up tachycardic, dizzy, nauseous and break out in a red flushing rash. They don’t understand that just one drink will lead to me being very sick for days, if not weeks. So no, I can’t just have one drink and I won’t have just one drink to try and please your absurd social norms.

After I finally get it through people’s heads that no, I can’t drink, then the pity starts. I get questions about whether it’s depressing not to be able to drink when everyone around me is drinking. The truth is it doesn’t depress me. I have fun without alcohol and more importantly I feel much healthier. What depresses me is the pity and disappointment I receive from those around me because I can’t drink. The fact that I can’t drink is fine, but the fact that people can’t accept that I can’t drink is very frustrating.

So next time someone tells you they can’t drink, just accept their answer. Don’t push. Don’t say “just one drink.” Just accept their answer and move on.

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Thinkstock photo via g-stockstudio.

Originally published: June 23, 2017
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