“I don’t drink.”
It amazes me the amount of discomfort these words cause.
Most of the time, I simply forget drinking is a normal part of a lot of people’s lives.
When I step outside my consciously and intentionally designed home life, I am surrounded by the reality of alcohol and it’s normalcy. People drink. At bbqs. The park. Dinner. House gatherings. Business groups. Holiday parties. It’s about as normal as offering tea, coffee, or water. And it’s ok. Lots of people drink responsibly and enjoy themselves.
What I find odd is the reaction when I decline to drink. Sometimes people get defensive, explaining how many they intend to have or that drinking is an exception for them. Sometimes people seem offended and assume my own decision to avoid drinking means I am judging them. Sometimes people take my exemption from drinking as reason to exclude me from future activities. Sometimes people will jump to conclusions, mocking me for being stuck up, stiff, boring, or unable to “lighten up”. Sometimes, there’s just a little twinge of discomfort that lingers in the air.
The truth is, I don’t fit in. And I am ok with that.
It isn’t because of religious beliefs.
It isn’t because of some health standard.
It isn’t because I think I’m better.
It isn’t because I have struggled with addiction to it.
It is because of the tremendous pain alcohol has caused me and because I respect its cunning power.
I watched substances take my father from me when I was 6 years old.
I watched substances devastate many of my relationships until they were totally dissolved.
I have watched substances take friends’ lives.
I have watched substances steal the priority over family, goals, and careers.
I have watched as substances hijack their host and erode their very soul.
I have watched men piss themselves like children.
I have watched children pick up after fathers like adults.
I have watched denial and recklessness and terrifying irresponsibility.
I have watched the hollow loneliness in family members’ eyes.
I have watched the tears shed when life offered no more chances.
I have watched the desperation to make it stop.
I have experienced alcohol without drinking a drop. And I can’t say I understand the draw. It doesn’t give me much of a feeling other than disgust, grief, and deep, gut wrenching sorrow. Alcohol doesn’t feel fun to me. It brings anxiety and sometimes hyper vigilance. I start calculating how I’m going to keep myself safe if someone starts crossing that fuzzy line.
For me alcohol represents scars. Alcohol was a fierce catalyst that built my resiliency. Alcohol forced me to look at the most devastating circumstances and loneliness and RISE. Alcohol broke me down further than I thought I could go and I still stood back up. Alcohol today is a remembering of the deep wounds. It is a touching of the tender scars I have developed over a lifetime.
In my sanctuary, there is no place for alcohol. I am not available for it’s pain any longer. About a year ago, I gave myself permission to require substance free relationships in my closest inner circle relationships. This is what feels safe and honoring. Strangely enough, I sometimes feel like it’s too demanding and unreasonable to ask that substances not be brought into my own home. I wonder if I am REALLY allowed to do that. I’m pretty sure that’s still my old wounds talking… ;-)
So, moral of the story is - if you have a friend who doesn’t drink, don’t make assumptions. Be compassionate. And, if you are someone who prefers a substance free home and relationships, you get to set those standards unapologetically. It’s YOUR LIFE and you get to feel as free and safe and happy as you want to. You’re a fucking Goddess. You set the rules in your home and your life. You will always get whatever you’re willing to settle for.