A Toast to Not Drinking

By Jason Menard,

I’m thinking of becoming an alcoholic.

Actually, it’s probably safer to say that I’m thinking of becoming an ex-alcoholic in recovery, because – oddly enough – it’s easier to explain that away than just to be a non-drinker.

I’m not against drinking, per se. It’s not like I haven’t imbibed on occasion. And I’m not an anti-alcohol zealot who regards booze as the Devil’s fire water. In fact, I’m fully supportive of the idea of selling alcohol in grocery and variety stores, like they do in Quebec.

I just don’t really enjoying drinking anymore – and that seems to be less socially understandable than if I had a more dramatic reason behind my personal preference.

I’ll have the odd drink here and there. When we go to friends’ houses and they offer a beer, a glass of wine, or a rye on the rocks, I have no problem saying yes. I also have no problem saying no.

But, personally, I’d rather have a Pepsi, a coffee, or even a glass of water than an alcoholic libation. I’m not one to crack open a beer when I get home from work – although I don’t have any problem with those who do. I’m fully supportive of those who enjoy a glass of wine with a meal, but it’s just my choice not to.

This weekend I attended a friend’s 40th birthday celebration. Upon arrival the waiter asked me what I wanted to drink. That night, I wasn’t in the mood for anything other than a soft drink, but my request was met with mild shock. It’s not like I was the DD – I just didn’t feel like a beer.

“Oh, quite the party animal, eh Jay?” was one of the responses. And the waiter kept coming back to make sure I hadn’t come to my senses and wanted something a little stronger.

I get social conventions. I understand that having a drink has been a part of celebrations, gatherings, and meals for thousands of years. I just don’t choose to partake anymore – and as I get older (OK, I’m only 37, but still), I find myself less and less inclined.

We don’t have any alcohol in our house anymore. We used to have a few bottles lying around the house, but when we moved last year we trashed them – mainly because they had been taking up space for a few years and were diminishing more from evaporation than indulgence. We’re not opposed to drinking at all – it’s just that we don’t do it enough to justify keeping any liquor on hand.

Yet it’s still hard for some people to understand. We’ve had guests come over with a few bottles of beer, which we encourage them to take home at the end of the day. Their response, inevitably, is “Oh, you’ll end up drinking them.” But I know we won’t. They sit, dormant, in our fridge – usually until the next time that person comes back.

Maybe it goes back to my youth. Back in my going-out-to-club days, I did drink. But it was usually to get somewhere – just like most people at that age would do. So now, with no interest in getting plastered, I just don’t feel the need to go the alcoholic beverage route when there are other options available to me.

Even on those rare occasions when I do accept a drink in a social setting, it seems hard for people to understand that I really don’t want a second, or third. Social conventions being what they are, I feel almost rude refusing a subsequent offer. But I’m not one to bow to social conventions, so I’ll say no and be totally comfortable with the decision.

That said, I can see that my personal preference puzzles some people, which is why it’d be almost easier if I had another motivation behind my choice – hence the tongue-in-cheek statement at the top.

If one’s a recovering alcoholic, people go out of their way to respect that choice. It validates one’s decision not to drink in a way that personal preference doesn’t. No one questions a recovering alcoholic; there’s no incredulous looks or quizzical stares. There’s no need to justify a “no thanks” in the same manner that a non-drinker by choice must face.

In the end, feel free to raise your glass, or propose a toast. Sometimes I’ll join you with a beer or a glass of wine. But other times I’ll just raise my Pepsi or water to partake.

After all, the sentiment’s the same — even if the contents of my glass aren’t.

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