The Thanksgiving Advent Calendar, Day One: Not Drinking Alcohol

When I was heading to Germany last month, people were very excited for me. “You’ll have a blast at Oktoberfest!” they said. “Germany has awesome beer!” That’s nice, I would say, except that a) Oktoberfest actually mostly happens in September, and b) I don’t drink alcohol in any event. People were stunned at the lexicographical betrayal involving the dates of Oktoberfest, but even more stunned at the idea that I don’t drink. If you don’t drink alcohol, and you’re an adult human, it’s usually because you’re either an addict in recovery or because you have some religious prohibition, and often it’s assumed you either can’t be around people who drink because of the temptation, or because you look down on those who imbibe.

But, really, no. I’m not a recovering alcoholic; I don’t avoid booze because God told me to. I just don’t drink — never have and at this late point in my life have no intention of doing so. I can count the number of times I’ve drunk alcohol on a single hand (they are: Half a beer when I named editor of my college newspaper, half a glass of champagne at my wedding, a shot of uzo the night before a friend’s wedding and a polite amount of wine at a dinner hosted by my French publisher). And to be clear, I don’t care if you drink, as long as doing so doesn’t make you an asshole. Everyone who’s ever seen me at a science fiction convention knows where I am almost all the time: I’m in the bar with friends. This is not the mark of someone who has a low tolerance for other people imbibing.

Be that as it may, I am thankful I don’t drink, and here is why.

Because I would be an alcoholic if I did. Oh, my, yes I would. And I know this because I come from a fine and illustrious line of people who are. Mind you, it’s not just alcohol, it’s pretty much everything that you might put into your body, to which your body responds with “Wow, whatever the hell that was, you just keep bringing it to me.” This is why, incidentally, in addition to not drinking I also have never smoked, taken a hit off a joint, dropped acid, snorted a line or have embarked on any other sort of pharmaceutical adventure. Because there’s very good odds that I really just wouldn’t want to stop. And I would kind of hate that. Not just for the obvious “d00d ur an addict” aspect of it, but because secretly, deep down inside I am a total control freak and it would just kill me to be in the thrall of a bunch of psychoactive molecules bouncing up and down on my dopamine receptors like a trampoline.

There’s also the fact that since I would inevitably become an alcoholic, I would equally inevitably have to process through the recovery culture that hovers around addiction. And while I wish to be clear that in my opinion this recovery culture is useful and necessary for those struggling with addiction issues, and I have nothing but admiration both for those who reach out for support and those who offer support to those in need, speaking as someone who attended Alateen meetings like other kids went to church, there’s very little that makes me want to stab myself through the eyeball more than sitting around talking about this stuff. I’d inevitably be the jerk in the support group who everyone else wants to put out their cigarettes on. If not drinking did nothing else for me than keep me from these meetings, and (more importantly) from being the turd in the punchbowl for other people genuinely trying to get clean and stay clean, then I would be thankful for that alone.

Because I would be a complete asshole drunk. There are happy drunks. There are silly drunks. There are moody drinks, and angry drunks, and philosophical drunks and horny drunks and sleepy drunks. Huggy drunks, talky drunks, quiet drunks. And then there’s the drunk I would be: The one who says, blurringly, “Now, I know I shouldn’t say this to you, BUT…” and then goes on to say that thing that everyone knows but doesn’t say, because saying it will only make the person it’s being said to completely miserable, and everyone else is annoyed because now that shit’s been said and everyone’s got to deal with it. And you know what that would make me? That’s right, a complete asshole.

I don’t want to be a complete asshole. Or at the very least, if I’m going to be a complete asshole, I want it to be because I made the affirmative and sober decision to be so. I don’t want to have the (bad) option of later trying to excuse my behavior by saying “Oh, Jesus, I was so drunk.” Because that’s a terrible excuse. One doesn’t spontaneously become drunk, after all. One generally makes an effort in that direction. And one generally has, by personal awareness or the reportage of others, some idea of what sort of drunk one becomes.

Now, it’s possible that I could be wrong, and I would be, say, a happy drunk. But, look. Historically speaking, I’ve have a hard enough time not getting punched in the head for saying That Which Need Not Be Said when I am entirely sober. The first thing to go when you’re drunk is your impulse control. I’m laying good odds that I’m not a happy drunk. I’m laying even better odds that the first time I were to get drunk, I’d end the evening flat on my back, trying to breathe through a nose that someone else just tried to punch through to the other side of my skull. Because I would have been a complete asshole, you see. And they would have been right to do so. Better to avoid that altogether.

Because I would get fat. I know this because I got fat in my late 20s when my metabolism slowed down and then suddenly all those Cokes I was sucking down turned into a jiggling tube around my abdomen. Fortunately for me I was able to switch to zero calorie sodas in order to continue my assiduous attempts to make my bones porous through excessive intake of phosphoric acid. However, there’s no such thing as Glenfiddich Zero. Alcohol is inherently caloric. Drink enough of it (and I would — see above) and you get fat. This is especially the case when you spend much of your time sitting at a desk, typing, as I do. I mean, hell. I got up to almost 190 pounds without the help of alcohol; throw in three or four of beers at the end of the day (and I would — see above) and suddenly 220 pounds would not be out of the question. I would have to jokingly suggest I was lovably cuddly. And then I would want to kill myself.

I don’t want to get into an argument about whether certain weights on people are inherently unhealthy, incidentally. I fully support the idea that there are different healthy body shapes, weights and that not everyone is meant to be Skinny McBeanpole. But I also know what I should weigh, and I gotta tell you, 200+ pounds ain’t it. If I drank, I would be unhealthy fat.

Because I’m cheap, and drinking isn’t. And considering how much time I spend in bars at conventions and with friends otherwise, I’m guessing that I’d end up spending a stupid amount on drinks every time I went out. As it is, I spend a few bucks a night on diet colas, and sometimes I don’t even get charged for those, on the idea that I’m the guy driving everyone home at the end of the night (which at a convention means pointing them in the direction of the elevator; even so). This comports swimmingly with my cheap nature.

Because I like giving myself permission to do what I like. Or, as I more usually put it, “I can get stupid on my own.” In my experience a fair amount of drinking happens because someone wants to do a thing they can’t do when sober because they’re terrified, or chicken, or worried about being embarrassed or whatever. So they have a couple of drinks, lower the inhibition shield and then they can enjoy themselves. Which is fine, and often an elegant solution for that person. But I personally think it’s better just to sack up, recognize that anything that drinking to give yourself permission would solve could probably also be achieved while sober, and then do it. Then you actually get to be totally present for that thing, which is even better.

And in the case of dancing, which I love to do, and which is often a thing people need a couple of drinks in them for, you’ll also be a lot more co-ordinated. Which is a much better state of affairs than the alternative, when it comes to the dance floor.

(Yes, people: I dance. And you know what? I dance well. Deal with it.)

Because I like being the designated driver. This is true. It’s a nice service I can offer and presents no imposition on me because, after all, I wasn’t going to drink anyway. Most of my friends, however, do drink and enjoy drinking. It makes me happy to let them do so, enjoy their company and get them back home in one piece. It’s nice to be useful.

And that’s why I’m thankful that I don’t drink alcohol. It’s good for me, and good for others. And it’s easy, since, really, it requires me to do nothing. And I’m already doing nothing already! I love it that it works out that way.

151 thoughts on “The Thanksgiving Advent Calendar, Day One: Not Drinking Alcohol

  1. I drink more than you do, but not much more, and for similar reasons. except I dance badly and I don’t really drive. I often end up tending bar at parties where i’ll either drink diet coke or nurse a cuba libre all night, while making sure no one gets totally shitfaced, because that way my friends are more fun.

  2. If you changed every “alcohol” to “coffee” in the first two paragraphs, you could be talking about me. My reasons, otoh, are because I find coffee rather nasty tasting and I don’t feel the effects of the caffeine. At least not consciously. So in the end I say to myself “it tastes bad and has no positive effect. Why on earth would I drink it?” I still find people looking at me oddly, though. Their problem, not mine.

  3. Finally, someone who expresses my viewpoint. Aside from the Alateen (it was an uncle, not a parent), you just exactly expressed my viewpoint. I’ve had alcohol about three times in 31 years, and I’d be just fine if I never had it again. Thank you!

  4. I love drinking. Always have.
    Not sure if I qualified as a textbook alcoholic, but I did love the booze.
    One night in my mid-20s, I walked into a bar after a rough night and ordered a drink. Because I needed one.
    That was the night I learned the difference between wanting a drink and needing a drink.
    It was also the last night I drank for about 6 months.
    And to this day, 20 years later, I’ll drink if I want it, but never if I need it. And I’ve never found it hard to tell the difference.
    And as I get older, the impulse for either gets less and less. Most of the last 11 years, I’ve drank less per year than I used to per night.
    Because hey, I can be stupid all on my own too!

  5. Oh my. The idea of Glenfiddich Zero is terrifying. Because if I could drink scotch without fattening my belly I would be sure to simply fatten up my liver in its place. I like beer and scotch. Too much. But I have never, not at 17 and not now at 41, have I ever understood the impulse to impose any sort of social pressure on anyone to drink.

    [That said, I admire this. Both of my grandfathers were alcoholics. My parents drink, but I can't think of my mom ever being drunk and my Dad perhaps twice in my life, and one of those a happy post-daughter's wedding tired sort of drunk. The grandfathers, one was happy, nice drunk. One was mean grumpy drunk. Mean grumpy drunk died much earlier, so alas too much of my model for functioning alcoholic is not very realistic.]

  6. My feelings are pretty much identical, with the addition that I don’t much like the taste of alcohol to begin with. (Possibly due to a scarring encounter with my father’s Scotch when I was two. If so, I thank him for accidentally leaving it within my reach.) I’ve had more drinks than you — there are a few things I think are tasty, mostly on the “but there’s barely any alcohol in it” end of the spectrum — but yeah, the money I save by not having wine with dinner or beer in the bar adds up over time, and I get the comfort of knowing my brain chemistry isn’t trying to do a headstand. If I do something I’ll regret in the morning, at least I’ll have a better idea of why I did it.

  7. I am always the designated driver, I also enjoy doing so, I like watching everyone else act silly and stupid. My wife likes that it does not bother me not to drink, I drink every once in a while however, as an example my preferred drink is Rum and Cola I have a 16oz bottle of Rum that I have had for nearly 4 years. and its not even half empty yet (half empty because i am emptying it, had it been filling it, it would be half full)

  8. Good for you for not wanting to find out the hard way if your assumptions are true. You sure seem to have plenty of fun without it.
    What kind of dancing do you do? My wife and I took east coast swing lessons a few years ago, and it was awesome.

  9. My wife tells me that I am a complete asshole in the middle of the night when I’m not fully conscious. My spin on this is that I am not a nice person by nature, and that I therefore deserve *even more* credit for the thin veneer of civility that I display when I am awake.

    Sounds like you’re the same way with booze.

  10. I’ve had, maybe, half a cup more in my life than you accounted for in yours, but no I don’t drink/smoke/use either and never have. Like you, the thought of being out of any more control than I can … um, … control, is anathema.

    And, too, it all tastes like shit to me. Or medicine. Shitty, shitty medicine. My wife will vouch that I am a total child in this regard; I will not eat or drink anything I don’t like the taste of.

  11. This is true for me as well! Although I would add that I have never developed a taste for alcohol (or coffee; I have the beverage palette of a 9 year old).

  12. You’re not only smart, you’re wise.

    I do drink and I do know my reactions to alcohol. Fortunately, I don’t do addictions. I even stopped caffiene a couple of years ago with none of the usual side effects. However, I have discovered that I often have atypical responses to drugs, and I’m not talking about the recreational kind. Valerian root makes my skin crawl. Lisinopril gives me panic attacks. Edarbi makes me massively ADD and unsafe to drive I am so distractable. Other kinds of blood pressure meds do other bad things to me. Flexeril does make me an asshole the day after I take it. I metabolize other drugs at widely varying rates. So sometimes, it does just happen, even when under a doctor’s care.

  13. Except for the last bit, all of these are reasons I quit drinking for the most part. (Except that I do know for an unfortunate that I’m the complete asshole drunk.)

  14. The last 4 reasons apply to me too. I don’t think I’d be an alcoholic — I still have the occasional glass of wine with a nice dinner, and probably drank about a total of a case of beer before deciding that I probably wasn’t going to acquire a taste for it.
    Also, lots of bars/clubs will comp non-alcoholic drinks (and sometimes even some food) for designated drivers, which is even better than getting cheaper drinks.

  15. One of the good things for you as a never-alcoholic is that you can with impunity eat foods made with wine and beer. I cook for a homeless shelter, most of whose inhabitants are in recovery. I do some pretty fancy cooking, but I can’t make Boeuf Bourgignon or Carbonnades à la Flamande for them, because the smell is triggering.

  16. Ah, thanks for writing it out well. Next time I have to explain to somebody why I don’t drink, I’ll just point them here. I had a few sips of Guinness when I was studying abroad in Ireland, and sip the occasional drink just to see what it tastes like, but I just flat out don’t like the taste of alcohol, I’m cheap, and I like to be the driver, and I have the kind of personality that would just love to be addicted to something, etc. But mostly, yeah, I don’t feel like I need alcohol for any particular purpose, and I happen to like the taste of strawberry soda much, much better, so that is what does it for me. And yet like you I hang out in the bar at conventions and conferences.

    And I very much enjoy serving wine with dinners at my house if guests like it. But man, trying to become a decent connoisseur of wines without actually drinking much of it is tough.

  17. Like the force with Skywalkers, substance abuse is strong in my family so I’m happy to have never been much of a drinker. Then I got prescribed an arthritis medication that can be rough on the liver and it just seems so much smarter to not stress that nice little organ. It does so much for me.

  18. Because of an anesthetic I was given when my wisdom teeth were removed, I know I would be a happy drunk. An obnoxiouslly happy drunk. So although I don’t avoid the stuff altogether, I keep the amounts low. Both I and those around me are better off that way.

  19. When I was 16, my mom let me use the car to go to parties. Also, I didn’t drink at the time. I was the designated driver at all parties and I liked that. Same as you. And yes, in Quebec, people get drunk at 16. 18 is the legal drinking age, but it’s just a suggestion.

  20. I haven’t developed alcoholism despite having a family tendency as long as my arm. I have been a drinker, though. I’m a friendly, mellow drunk with the occasional side order of happy/sloppy. Nowadays, the stuff is wasted on me. I’m on the cymbal anti-depressant. It clashes with my ability to get drunk. Hell, I can’t even catch a buzz anymore without working at it. And by working at it, I mean binge drinking. Not worth it at all. I dislike losing a tool in my arsenal for deliberate mood alteration. I can’t say that’s more than a petty grievance, though.

    BTW, John, you do need to be sure to be happy with your body. If that means doing what you do, then run with it. I wouldn’t insist you should relax and turn into Santa Claus any more than you’d insist I should buckle down and try to look like Heidi Klum.

  21. There is as much a psychological component to becoming an alcoholic as there is a physical. I don’t see you becoming psychologically addicted to alcohol. However, I respect your decision. My husband doesn’t drink because he doesn’t like the taste of anything alcoholic. He doesn’t particularly like fruit so fruity drinks don’t appeal to him. (I don’t get why people are upset/offended by this, though. I met him in college and there were people on his dorm floor that literally threatened to hold him down and pour alcohol down his throat!! Luckily they did not follow through.) I love that he is my DD and he doesn’t mind it. I don’t drink very often as my stash of wine will attest. I usually end up taking wine with me to share at parties. Also, one of the best wedding receptions I ever went to was dry. While I would definitely want to try beer that was brewed and served in Germany, and may even want to experience Oktoberfest, it wouldn’t be for the effect of alcohol because that may dull my memory/perception of the experience.

  22. It’s wonderful to know there’s someone else out there who has simply chosen not to drink without being an alcoholic or being offended by other people who drink. I made the same decision when I was high school after watching an alcoholic uncle. I just never wanted to have anything to do with it and never really acquired the taste. I’ve also found that other people just don’t get this. Even my ex-husband would get really annoyed with me because I just didn’t see wine as romantic when he would give it to me with dinner.
    I’m glad to know I’m not alone.

  23. All hail the designated driver!

    A thoroughly maligned yet utterly necessary role that is sometimes taken on with much bellyaching and shame and blaming, and never gets enough respect (but frequently gets all the soda pop they can stomach, at least at certain sporting events I frequent).

  24. As a Libra, I feel the need to balance out these comments:

    I like to drink.

    …and I’m grateful for all of you who drive people like me home.

  25. I wish I understood what it is about not consuming alcohol that weirds so many people out. I do drink, but lightly: glass or two of red wine with a meal when we eat out, maybe a fancy cocktail on a special occasion. But sometimes I just don’t feel like it — or it’s important that I stay in full control of my faculties. I am a Happy Drunk, but also a Blurty Drunk, and probably haven’t been punched in the mouth only because soon after I become a Floozy Drunk. Somewhere there are photos of a 23-year-old me pole-dancing in a NYC subway car. If you find them, send them my way so that I may burn them. :)

    Um. Yeah. So that’s why I usually stick to a glass of wine with meals.

    I rather enjoy sobriety, and being a responsible designated driver. And there are other benefits. One of my best friends is my friend because, when she was just out of rehab, I offered to go with her to a party with her former drinking buddies armed with Diet Coke and Not Drink in moral support.

  26. I agree somewhat with the others that have said that you probably have the willpower not to turn into an alcoholic, but good on you for not taking the risk. And for explaining your reasoning so well.

    I discovered beer in college and thought nothing of my drinking habits until I drove home from a friend’s wedding (open bar) and realized I had no memory of the period between starting the car to go home and the sheriff flashing his lights at me when I was 2 blocks from home. Fortunately, he just wanted to go around me to get to a call, but it was a very sobering moment. I realized that every time I was in a drinking situation, I got completely wasted. So I stopped cold for several years. These days I’ll have a beer or wine with dinner, but that’s about it. Maybe once a year, I’ll drink to a point of being somewhat tipsy, but that’s it. I and possibly some other innocent people got lucky and made me think.

  27. As my sponsor taught me, you don’t need a reason not to drink. A simple “no, thank you” is sufficient. (Not an easy lesson to learn for an alcoholic.)

  28. Hi,

    Interesting. I do something similar. My family [both sides] has some very serious drinkers. Amazingly enough they often live to extremely old age – and manage to make everyone else’s life miserable over the many years. One friend who is 18 years older, thought I would never make it to 30 [he met me when I was 19] without someone shooting me for my big mouth – consider carefully John Scalzi’s remark about being mouthy, drinking, inhibitions and getting punched out, that would have been me too…

    So I have avoided stronger drugs than alcohol – I know I would like them. Probably way, way too much. My friends like me as is, I have no intention of making their lives miserable.

    So far I have done well with alcohol as I strongly limit it. I only drink when I am happy. Me mixed with anger [or other negative emotions] and alcohol would be very ugly, bear in mind I have done martial arts for over half my lifetime. I also decide beforehand roughly how much I should drink and I stick to that limit. IF I could not control that, I would eliminate alcohol entirely. My limits are there, and at times they still spook me.

    My hat’s off to you John. You know your limits and live well because of it.

    cheers

    Michael

  29. Awesome list, Mr. Scalzi. I should print it out and hand it over whenever somebody asks why I don’t drink.

  30. John, you laid out my own reasons for not taking mood enhancers, although I’m afraid I can’t claim to be comfortable among people who are drinking. Too many bad experiences added up to what I like to call “my childhood” for me to relax in that situation.
    I get quite a kick out of people reacting to the revelation that I don’t drink. Or do anything else. Abstainers seem to be incredibly rare, and the disbelief of others is pretty funny.
    I remember my new doctor asking me the usual initial interview questions: “Do you drink? Smoke? Take drugs?” He ran down the list and at the end of it stood there looking at me for a moment.
    “I don’t do much,” I said. “Just sort of sit there.”

    My dancing, however, has been mistaken for an epileptic attack, and so I don’t do that anymore either.

  31. Out of interest, did you enjoy the taste of the alcohol you have drunk? I ask because when I first tried wine, and then beer, and then spirits, I was frankly astonished and amazed at why on Earth people would drink something so supremely disgusting. Now I like beer, but not so much spirits.

  32. What gets me about the flavor thing is the way lots of people will say, “well yeah, I hated beer/wine/whatever when I first tried it; you have to develop a taste for it.” I always counter with, why should I? This isn’t like vegetables, where learning to like them is good for your health; there’s no benefit other than the social for teaching yourself to think alcohol is yummy. I see not liking the taste as a feature, not a bug.

  33. For me, I generally avoid alcohol simply because I don’t like it. For starters, I don’t like the taste of beer — though on a trip to Munich I discovered that we don’t actually have beer in America — and the general sensation of inebriation feels very much like having the flu to me.

    So, pass me that foul tasting brew so that I can feel like I’m coming down with a bug? No thanks.

    And I often get the same questions. “Are you in recovery?” etc.

    No, I just don’t like it! It’s like brain-okra! Leave me alone!

  34. I am in a similar situation – although I have tasted various alcoholic beverages over the years, I have never been motivated to have anything more than a sip. I find many of your reasons also apply to me, although I would suggest a couple of others.

    1) I have never found an alcohol whose taste I enjoyed. Since I am basically a hedonist, this is an important consideration for me (not that I’m soliciting suggestions, because…)

    2) Of greater importance, though, is that I have come to believe that the myth of the great alcoholic writer is just that – a myth. I studied the lives of writers when I was an undergrad (and continue to read up on them when I have the time), and I have found that most great writers do their best work when they are (mostly) sober; the quality of their work tends to suffer the deeper into alcohol (or other drugs) they plunge.

    In a similar vein, because alcohol affects your perceptions, I have always worried that drinking would make it harder for me to ideate. I have more than enough inspiration sober (what I need are more hours in the day to write); I do not need to alter my perceptions to create. Just the opposite: because I fear altered perception would stifle my ability to create, I avoid it as much as I can.

    ONE OTHER OBSERVATION: Because I’m not really tempted to drink, I don’t have a problem being with friends in a bar or at parties where alcohol is being served. However, I have found that many people in such situations have a problem with ME being there; they seem to take it as a personal insult that I am not willing to drink with them. (In fact, more than one person I have known has threatened, however playfully, to switch my water with vodka just to see what would happen.) As best I can tell, people have this reaction because, unconsciously, they believe that my not drinking is a moral judgment on the fact that they are drinking. When I see this happening, I point out that not drinking alcohol is not a moral judgment, it is a lifestyle choice. Most people are cool with that; as for the others, well, I am careful what I drink around them…

    PS: John, I’m looking forward to meeting you at SFContario. I’ll look for you in the bar…

  35. I’m really pleasantly surprised by this thread. I’m about the only person I know who doesn’t drink. I don’t even drink pop or coffee. Water and lemonade are my only poisons.

    For me, it’s the control issue. I don’t think I’d become an addict, or an obnoxious drunk. There is a little alcoholism in my family. I just don’t want to lose control of myself, my reactions, my emotions, etc.

    Also, alcohol (and coffee) smell like ass. And I don’t like the feel of carbonation in pop, nor does it taste particularly interesting.

    But yeah, there’s usually at least some social pressure to drink or raised eyebrows if you don’t. People assume you’re a recovering addict, and respect you for taking that seriously, yet don’t seem to understand people who don’t want to try it in the first place.

    Much love.

  36. i like the taste of a well made beer. theres a pub nearby that serves something like a hundred or more different beers and no other kinds of alcohal. I ‘ll meet a freind there once in a blue moon and we’ll talk, eat salty treats, and drink tasty beer. I like the feeling that comes with being ever so slighy buzzed. I exceed that occaisionally, but its usually not as fun. I also do the designated driver thing sometimes. its usually not a big thing either eay for me. i drank like a fish in college, probably making up for not drinking when all the cool kids were doing it in high school.

    If I have an addiction, it is video games. they can actually start to negatively impact my life but I still feel compelled to ‘finish’ them. except they usually dont have an ‘end’ anymore.

  37. This pretty much sums up why i don’t drink. Dad was an alcoholic, his whole family are addicts. I don’t like loosing control thus no drinking for me.

  38. Darn it. I meant to add a tangential question:

    It has sometimes been suggested to me that I should try drinking a little bit in order to be a better parent. My kids are near the age where they’ll be tempted to try alcohol, smoking, etc. If they’re not there already without my knowledge.

    I’m sure it’s true that I could talk with them more knowledgeably about these things if I had tried them. I think I can make a case anyway, but I may be wrong. Given typically rebellious teen behavior, they may not take me very seriously if I say I’ve never tried it.

    I’m hoping my teens don’t become typically rebellious…but what do others or our mighty overlord make of this aspect of it?

  39. I’m a lightweight (more than one drink and I’m ready to sleep, or spend some quality time with the porcelin goddess) and I’m not fond of the taste of alcohol, so after a few drinks in college I pretty much said no every time. Thus I became the designated “sober person” in my dorm/circle of friends (there was more than just me). What a job! You can laugh at the antics, take pictures, imply things the next day, all for the occasional price of hauling someone into the recovery position.

    I think that is something that should be more widly braodcast to college students. “You don’t have to be drunk to have fun. Watching the drunks is fun!”

  40. As a recovering alcoholic and a member of AA, I can relate to the baffled looks people give when you tell them that you don’t drink, and that you’re not only fine with that, but you’re also fine with whatever they want to do. I often get those same looks when I politely decline drinks, saying simply “No thanks, I don’t drink” — and leave it at that. I don’t explain why I don’t drink — it’s really none of their business anyway. If they want to think I’m a Mormon (I’m not), or have weird medical issues (I don’t), or am a recovering drunk, or whatever, well, I can’t control what goes on in other people’s heads. I have enough to deal with in terms of what’s going on in my own head. ;-)

    At SF cons, I find that the above strategy works well, and that most people don’t mind the fact that I don’t drink, and don’t press for details. I do of course avoid some of the boozier room parties (esp. the ones featuring a punchbowl of “Romulan Ale”), and don’t stay long if I do go. More often, I prefer to retire to my room and read some of the purchases I made earlier in the dealer’s room. :-)

  41. I have never understood why people get offended by those who don’t drink (or smoke, or whatever). I mean, if you choose not to, for any reason, it’s your choice and not my business, right? Another of those fairly common human reactions which I just don’t get. (I dunno, maybe I’m an alien or a changeling or something… actually that would explain a lot.)

    I think Glenfiddich Zero sounds like a FABULOUS idea.

  42. Well, . . .

    Probably worst would be knowing that anyone who would have known me when I was a drinker, if they remembered anything about me at all they would remember me as that drunk. And that would be more than I could bear to think about, sometimes.

  43. M.A.:
    I don’t understand people getting upset at non-drinkers either, unless they’re militantly evangelistic non-drinkers. That can wear thin quickly. As a light drinker who enjoys good beers and has dabbled in home brewing, I do have to occasionally resist saying, “but this beer is so tasty. I bet you’d like it.”

  44. And this is a not-asshole post about not drinking, too. I kind of came over here ready to be annoyed, from very short summaries, but nothing here justifies any annoyance on my part (and I’m not annoyed either :-) ). (Perhaps, if I’d managed to be annoyed, *my* don’t-be-an-asshole spell might have kicked in. I guess we’ll never know this particular time.)

    Those sound like eminently sound reasons for not drinking. It’s true you don’t absolutely know you’d have addiction problems at the slightest opportunity, but that’s a pretty big risk to take, and you have good reasons for suspecting that you might. Best not to mess with it!

  45. I’ve had a bit more experience with ethanol than our host, but not that much.

    I got drunk once. And got hung over the next day. Gah. Like a loan shark for fun.

  46. @David: I drink and my husband does not. My daughter didn’t even like the taste of cough syrups with alcohol in her early years. About age 12 or 13 she and I went to a Bar Mitzvah for one of her friends and the tradition at the reception following is to drink the very sweet wine afterward. I let her have one glass to try and she liked it. I always discussed drinking responsibly and the legal implications of underage drinking with her. In addition, my best friend took my daughter aside and told her to call my friend for a ride if my daughter didn’t want to call her parents and my friend would come any time of night, no questions asked (my daughter could also stay the night and sober up) and my friend made it clear that my daughter had no excuse for driving drunk because she had that option. (I didn’t know about this until after the fact, but I heartily approved.) I wish our society would make it less of a taboo (which makes things attractive to rebellious teens). If you have friends or relatives who drink and are willing to talk to your children about it, that is a good option. And it might be a good idea to see if one of them would make the same offer. I know that I will should I have the chance. It will save lives.

  47. There’s a strong history of alcoholism and addictive behavior in my family, but it’s never occurred to me to be thankful I seldom drink alcohol. Avoiding alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine was a really easy choice for me, made for many of the reasons you discuss.

    On the other hand, I have often been *very* thankful that I won the part of the DNA lottery which made me not addicted to these things, and that my addictive behaviors have never involved illegal substances.

    But, if books or dark chocolate were controlled substances, I would be living in a cardboard box somewhere. No joke.

  48. I’m a happy and talkative drunk, but I also have a tendency to make an ass of myself. Therefore I restrict myself to a shot of single-malt, sufficient to relax but not to become stupid.

    Single-malt is a bit of an expensive taste to have. :-/

  49. Nicely written, John; and practically a merging of my and my wife’s reasons for not drinking (she has the alcoholic family, I would be the drunk asshole, the addictive personality, and enjoy giving myself permission to do what I want, both of us would gain weight and are too happy spending money on other things to spend it on alcohol).

    I will say that one of the most helpful things for me has been my wife not drinking (and we met in Burton-Judson as students, before either of us could legally drink). I have several times thought that I probably would drink if she did – largely because I don’t have all that much will power on my own, but do for her for some reason. Neither of us have ever pressured the other to not drink, and it certainly wouldn’t break up our marriage if one of us started (unless the alcohol turned me into an asshole of course…), but being able to not drink together has made it much easier for both of us, especially in the face of so many other people drinking, particularly in our families.

  50. Even a small amount of booze makes me horribly sick and the taste& smell of it always reminds me of the poison that it is. My doctor told me to say to people I’m allergic to it to help keep them from trying to peer pressure me into drinking and to intercept hidden alcohol(oh god the chocolates from hell night). Now that I take medication often and have other health issues people have given up on the trying to convert me to booze. The spouse sometimes forgets and tries to kiss me after some beers and then mopes when I get repulsed by the smell.

  51. Word! You’ve neatly described my own attitude about drinking. I mostly don’t mind if other people drink (so long as I don’t have to clean up their messes or deal with the bullshit they spew while roaring drunk), but drinking as a lifestyle isn’t me. I’ve relaxed my ‘no drinking’ policy a small amount in the last year, but still mostly limit myself to a glass of wine at special dinners.

    (An aside: Put a soda, a lemonade or a glass of water in front of me, and I inhale it. Not a good behavior to have with liquids that have a higher chance of killing me).

    I occasionally get the squinty eye from folks trying to pigeonhole me into some religious bucket, but I can usually talk them down from that. :)

  52. I’ve tried drinking, and I’ve tried not drinking.

    I like not drinking better.

    Never had a problem controlling it, and stopping was easy. I don’t enjoy the sensation of being even slightly tipsy, because it impairs my ability to do all the things I like most. Now I don’t drink at all, because I DID like the flavor of the things I drank (red wine, Guinness, the occasional liqueur), and little sips just keep me wanting it, and wanting more. I use liqueurs in chocolates, and sometimes wine in cooking, and don’t worry about it, but I don’t actually drink.

    I’m told this is typical of people with ADHD: we like things that increase control, and are likely addicts for stimulants, but not depressants.

    Unfortunately I don’t drive either, so I can’t be the DD. Pity.

  53. Also: It always puzzles me when people say things like, “I’d love to see you drunk some time.” WTF? It’s not like I’ve never been drunk. And guess what? It makes me philosophical, then maudlin, then sleepy. Woohoo! Let’s go get drunk, discuss life, the universe and everything, weep over absent friends, and then experience the equivalent of turkey coma! Par-tay!

  54. I’m a non-drinker as well, and not for any particular reason, just because I don’t like it. I don’t like the taste, and I don’t like being drunk. I know some people enjoy being drunk. It feels good or something. I don’t feel good when drunk; I just feel clumsy and stupid. I can only guess that everyone’s biochemistry is a little different, and what works for some people doesn’t do a thing for others.

  55. Preach it!

    When my freshman roommate looked me over and announced “you’d be the girl crying in the corner eating her hair” that pretty much erased any sense for me that I’d be the cool, fun, party girl (and I can’t dance sober, drunk would be horrifying). When my sister threw up, punched a wall, and chucked her engagement ring into the brush during a party a few years later, any thought that anyone in my family might have it in them to be a cool, fun, party girl were completely put to bed. Instead, I was the nice person who will walk you back to a safe place, hold your hair back, and make you a cold washcloth for your forehead. Also, I was always more than happy to go out for hangover tacos at 2 the next day when everyone finally woke up.

  56. I do drink occasionally, I actually enjoy the taste of some drinks, but for many of the reasons you outline I counciously restrict my drinking and try to not drink too much.
    My wife takes many of your positions too (also she doesn’t like the taste of most drinks).

    Kudos for taking this position and sticking to it. Its hard work (at least here in the UK) to be a non-drinker. Most people think there’s something wrong with you and almost every social occasion seems to revolve around alchohol.

  57. Sigh, my tongue would have long ago strangled me if I hadn’t introduced it to Bourbon, Scotch, Vodka, Rum, Irish Whisky, Canadian Whisky, several varieties of beer, and last but not least in any way, Tequila. However, my tongue has promised to strangle me if the taste of Gin or Sambuca ever makes its way into my mouth ever again.

    I’ve always wanted to drop some acid, but I also know I wouldn’t want to give it up. The most interesting time I ever had involved 104 degree body temperature, codeine, hydrocodone, and a few other things the doc gave me. At one point I fell asleep and woke up totally refreshed thinking I had had hours of sleep… looking at the clock–which I had done before closing my eyes–I realized that only 2 minutes had passed. Later on with the same cocktail in my veins and insane need to listen to “Dark Side of the Moon”, time shifted into molasses gear and I could actually hear the pulse of the Universe around me. Feel it..? HELL I could SEE it. For one tiny moment it felt like i UNDERSTOOD it all. Having talked to several friends since then–ones who have done stuff like acid or mescaline–I’ve been told I had one hell of a trip. Not up to the standards of those drugs, but still…

    Ever since then I have wanted to relive it, or anything like it. Which is why I stay away from the acid; because good trip or bad, I know I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to.

    John, if you are afraid of the effects of alcohol on your system and behavior, avoidance is the best possible thing you can do. And I can also testify that in the days when I’ve been the designated babysitter for a bunch of drunken Combat Engineers, just being an innocent bystander and observer can be one of the most hilarious moments in life. :-D

  58. Thank you John. I share your views and delight in finding someone else who doesn’t drink. It is especially pleasing to have someone publicly says I don’t drink, I don’t have to drink, and I’m perfectly fine, thank you.

  59. As an aside, I have been so shit-faced drunk that I had to turn my head to the side and close one eye to see the monitor… while talking on instant messenger. Despite this, I was told that my spelling was very good and so to, my use of punctuation. Mind you the kneeling in the bathroom floor holding on to the cool, cool toilet bowl was NOT the highlight of my evening.

  60. That about sums up my feelings about alcohol. I tend to eat and drink to excess, which is why I limit myself to water mostly. Give me a bottle of lemonade, gone in a day. Bag of cookies and no witnesses, same deal.

    I also don’t like the taste of alcohol. Give me a nice frozen margarita, but hold the alcohol.

    I don’t care if people drink, but when the whole point to an evening is getting drunk, I just don’t get it. And also think it’s pretty dumb when they cross that line and start trying to pee on stuff.

  61. I don’t drink alcohol either. It has a really nasty aftertaste that I get in even the sweetest “cover it up” drinks. (And really, if you need to cover up a nasty taste, why are you drinking it anyway?) Hubs has found a few things I can tolerate (barely), but that’s not encouraged me to add it tot he list of things I want to do but can’t afford. lol

  62. It vaguely bothers me to see you say “I know I would be an alcoholic,” and I think I’ve figured out why: I think that one can infer the sense that this is knowable (and, of course, it’s not truly knowable, though you can perhaps get a sense for the odds), and thus that people who ARE alcoholics SHOULD have known about it prior to becoming alcoholics (and they couldn’t have).

    I entirely get that this is not what you actually meant to imply.

    To people asking why others seem so eager to get you to drink: I think that there’s kind of a sense that if you get drunk — not just a little buzzed, but drunk — you’ll act foolish and stupid, and that if everyone else is also drunk, that’s okay, you’re all on the same level. But if there’s someone sober there, they’re watching you and judging you and not understanding why you’re being stupid and foolish.

    Which is, none the less, not a good people to harass people who don’t want to drink, for whatever reason, including just straight up, “Doesn’t conceptually appeal to me.”

  63. I have never touched any recreational drugs for exactly the same reason — I’m terrified I’ll like them too much. And like the commenter above, I make damn sure to only buy alcohol when I want it, but never when I need it (I almost never have any alcohol in the house).

  64. DA, in the Pagan community of old, we called that “worshipping the god Ralph at the porcelain altar.”

  65. Hi John,
    Curious how people reacted to your non drinking when you were down here in Australia – being that we have such a big drinking culture?

  66. I am a drinker, but I was a dancer first, and I will never believe that the two should mix. I have had drinks and danced in the same evening, but it just doesn’t feel very good.

    If you ever need a partner for swing, a waltz, a polka, two-step, foxtrot, etc., in the SFBA, I’d be happy to step in. :)

  67. @Xopher:

    Luckily, being an atheist, I’ve done my best to avoid worshiping at that alter. As is, during the aforementioned “incident”, Ralph is the one god I would have happily invited to attend me, however the only spirit that possesed me (other than the alcohol) was the Dry-Heave demon… a truly evil and capricious spirit at a time like that. sigh.

  68. You know, I do drink. I like drinking. Frankly, the world would be a darker place without my beer. Or vodka based cocktails.

    But I do know my limits. Dad always said drink as much as you want, but stop as soon as you don’t enjoy your drink anymore. It stuck. And works for me. Result: I have been drunk exactly ONCE in my life, on my 20th birthday. The rest of the time? Tipsy at best.

    (I don’t do coffein at all, though, something that confuses a lot of people, too.)

    But there are people for whom “know your limit” doesn’t work, and they’re not fun to have around when they get access to alcohol. Seen that first hand. I don’t care if the personal limit is “no alcohol” or “a bottle vodka” – as long as you know it, I’ll respect it. Otherwise the results aren’t pleasant.

  69. Well, good. Now I know whose share of alcohol I’ve been drinking for the last 20 years.

    I’ve got a whole list of why I don’t smoke weed that is in the same spirit as your list. Not exactly identical, because I don’t seem to have the genetic propensity to addiction. I go months without drinking when the mood strikes me, and I managed to quit smoking more or less on a whim and it has been 5-6 years going back to cigarettes.

    Also, I’m 100% supportive of you not drinking, not that you asked or anything. :) I’ve always believed that anyone who wants other people to drink has some issue with their drinking that is assuaged by bringing other people along for the ride. It doesn’t hurt that I’m not out getting smashed every night… or really any night these days. You get old, and if you get smart along with it and you’re not an addict, you realize that you can get a nice little buzz off a few drinks and then knock it the hell off.

    If the day comes where I’m unable to function as though I don’t drink, I guess I’ll stop drinking. If you can’t function like you’re not drinking at all, you shouldn’t drink at all.

  70. I drink lightly and very occasionally, but I have many (the majority) friends who do not drink. I have never asked why; it is none of my business. We have a great time together and silliness ensues entirely unlubricated. I’ve never understood the desire to get drunk. From the descriptions of the resulting sickness and hangovers, let alone the risk of driving drunk and injuring someone, I don’t understand why anyone would get drunk more than once, given free will and no chemical addiction. Like you, John, I prefer to remain in control and make my mistakes with both eyes wide open. When pressed, I can explain that I don’t like beer, and can’t drink wine due to migraines. That usually stops the questions, when I have to be more polite than “why do you need to know?”

  71. I drink a bit now and again but I do not let myself get to the “I actually can dance” stage. I’m with Feynman on this one– I like thinking, why should I make it harder?

    I’ve never been pressured to drink when I didn’t want to but here in the Midwest I have been ridiculed for preferring fruity cocktails that I like, instead of beer, which I don’t like. The message seems to be that a real man drinks unpleasant drinks to prove that he can take it. I even had one female coworker chide me at a Christmas party for drinking a “girl’s drink”.

    I do hate being the only guy at the party who isn’t three sheets to the wind. It’s like being the only one not in on a joke, and it’s just weird watching a woman get maudlin about the redesign of a character class in World of Warcraft.

    I second the motion that there is no point in acquiring a taste for something that is bad for you or expensive. I don’t like scotch or caviar and see absolutely no point in making an effort in learning to like them. There may be a few benefits to drinking a small amount of alcohol, but some of them seem to come from the alcohol and some seem to come from the flavonoids in red wine (yuck). I am not aware of any such benefit found only in scotch.

  72. John: Thank you for giving me something else to be thankful for: another adult nondrinker who is neither a recovering addict nor opposed to other people’s imbibing.

    Represent!

  73. It pleases me to know that we share this choice to not drink alcohol, and for many of the same reasons (alas, I missed the boat on the “fat” reason). That said, I will resist your evil mind control tricks to lure me to give up my sacred Diet Coke in favor of own zerolicious brew. I look forward to toasting you, sir, sugar-free cola to sugar-free cola in a Toronto bar in the near future.

  74. I wrote a blog post earlier this year about how I don’t drink, and by the end of the discussion, it was amazing how many examples I heard of people who made unconventional choices that made other people uncomfortable, ranging from dietary (vegetarians, vegans, etc.) to transportation (people who don’t drive and don’t want to learn) to one man who never wore shoes. I think sometimes making these choices can shake things up more than we always realize; for some people, being exposed to such things calls into question their own choices or makes them worry that they are being judged (even when that is not intended).

    John, I have always been encouraged that you don’t drink, and that you have been able to make that decision without seeming to suffer through any particular drama or repercussions around it. I hope for the same for myself.

  75. Love this post! Love it love it love it!
    Althought I do drink, I’ve never been tempted to over-indulge because of how horrible I feel the next day (and sometimes even the same evening, as a few ill-fated collegiate experiences taught me very effectively). But everything else you said about your history and your reasons for avoiding intoxicants rings very true to me.

    I’m also a mental health professional and have cause to interact with substance abuse treatment providers regularly. I’ve seen the devastation that substance abuse can bring about and how difficult it is to help people with addiction issues, so I have the greatest respect for people who can do that full-time. That being said, there is a subset of addiction treatment providers, usually those who are in their own persona and very aggressive recovery, that verge on militant in their views and who are not shy to state loudly and often that no one who isn’t a recovering addict can ever help someone get or stay clean. I personally have always suspected that this was similar to saying that I can’t help anyone who has ever had a psychotic disorder because I’ve never been psychotic, that an oncologist who has never had cancer can not effectively treat his patients, the enocrinologist who isn’t diabetic….well, you get the idea.

    And so I, like you say you think you would, fight a frequent battle not to be the fecal matter in the punchbowl

    Finally, the fat thing: we’re about the same age, so we both know that Metabolism is both a fickle mistress and an absolute Bitch. Adding flame to that fire doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me either.

    Again, wonderful post. I’ll be sharing this with a lot of my treatment provider friends. It isn’t often that we have a nice, reasonable description of why it makes sense to stay clean and not use intoxicants in place of medication (if needed), much less one that is written in clear prose rather than treatment-eese.

  76. John, thanks for the great post. I enjoy drinking in moderation, but I have lost my willingness to get drunk after I learned that my great-grandfather died after falling drunkenly off a farm wagon &breaking his neck. I would rather enjoy life responsibly and know that I won’t be embarrassed if I don’t lose control and forget what damage I can do with no moral or physical restraints.

  77. Fair enough. I used to hang out with a lot of people who smoked weed regularly (ie, “my college classmates”), who were always baffled by my refusal to smoke. I grew up in North Carolina, surrounded at all times by my cigarette-smoking relatives and the omnipresent blue haze of that smoking — as a result, I’ve never smoked *anything*, be it pot, opium, cigarettes, or crack. I refuse to deliberately suck smoke into my body. The times I’ve had pot brownies they didn’t do much for me, either, but I have no objection to those.

    I do have something of an addictive personality, though. I can and do drink casually, and enjoy it. But it’s a good thing I don’t have an infinite field of psychedelic mushrooms growing in my yard, or I’d never make it to my day job or write another book again…

  78. @M.A.

    I have never understood why people get offended by those who don’t drink (or smoke, or whatever). I mean, if you choose not to, for any reason, it’s your choice and not my business, right? Another of those fairly common human reactions which I just don’t get. (I dunno, maybe I’m an alien or a changeling or something… actually that would explain a lot.)

    We must be from the same planet. I prefer to surround myself with people that look and act differently from myself. Many Earthlings seem to find deviance disconcerting. I think they call it tribalism.

    I think Glenfiddich Zero sounds like a FABULOUS idea.

    If they can do it for pot, why not Scotch?

  79. “Care for a drink?”

    “No thanks, I’m the designated driver.”

    “Wat, you think yur bedder ‘an me?”

    “No I…whoa!”

    “Quit moving around! I can’t hit you!”

  80. “Because I would be an alcoholic if I did. Oh, my, yes I would. And I know this because I come from a fine and illustrious line of people who are. ”

    I really dislike this statement, and the resulting behavior that it causes. I’ve known many people who were moderate drinkers who come from a long line of hard-core alcoholics. Biology is not destiny; it’s probability.

    In one instance I had a girl I was dating as a Junior in college in ’96. She’d drink 1 or 2 beers on Friday or Saturday, never got drunk and never “needed” it. We had dinner with her mother and brother at a restaurant. She ordered a glass (not a pint) of ale and her family started into conniptions. It turns out her father, aunt, uncle, fraternal grandfather, grandmother, and even great grandfather all died young because they were fall-down drunks who couldn’t go a day without at least a six-pack (or pint of booze). They pestered her endlessly from that point about me (I was the “corrupting” influence in their eyes), and we eventually ended it just so she could have enough peace to get back to studying.

    I recently spoke to her now 15 years on. She’s never been drunk in her life; tipsy a few times. And she never (except for those few times she’s been tipsy) has more than 2 drinks and never drinks during the week.

    I reiterate: biology is not destiny; it’s probability.

  81. Neither my husband or I drink much either. He has the worry about alcoholism in his family, while I was raised religiously, but as adults, neither of us worries about the religious prohibition. I just failed to acquire a taste for wine or beer, and while I like port and various harder liquors, I tend not to drink, since I prefer to eat my calories. :)

    The funny thing is that while I have an alcoholic beverage on the average of once a month to every other month, my very Mormon mother is convinced I’m on the road to alcoholism, and delivered me a lecture about the dangers thereof. Here’s a sample of that conversation: http://pixelfish.livejournal.com/788683.html

    Actually all your reasons seem to be similar to mine.

  82. Ethanol is – unlike most but not all drugs of addiction – a GABA agonist (and works fastest in the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum, explaining both why you are dancing on the table and why you fall off). Absent the dopamine spikes that you’d see with cocaine or nicotine or whatever, lab animals will not in fact self-administer alcohol; they have to be lured into it with sugar (insert commentary on alcopops here!). What appears to be addicting is in large part the social effect of mutual lowered inhibitions.

    That is the explanation, at least in part, for the annoyance of others at non-drinkers: the absence of shared state. Same applies, somewhat, with different neurochemistry, to marijuana use.

  83. I have never asked why; it is none of my business.

    As someone who does drink, I agree with this and find the sentiment to the contrary…puzzling. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s an interesting post, but “I don’t drink” is a complete sentence. I sometimes have the opposite problem as some here, where a person who doesn’t drink (and who has clearly been hassled about it) will go on to give me a long explanation why….and really, dude, that’s nice, but I didn’t ask how many years you were sober or the precise horrible effects alcohol has on your gastrointestinal system, I just wanted to confirm that in the future I should stick to offering you soft drinks.

    The one exception is, as somebody has already mentioned, that there are types of food containing wine or beer as an ingredient, and I do want to know if that is or isn’t a problem for a nondrinker as that varies. But, again, “should I leave alcohol out of dinner as an ingredient?” is a yes/no question, not a narrative prompt.

    Perhaps some of this is because I’m a lawyer, and lawyers as a group have a culture where drinking absolute fucktons of alcohol is the norm; such that the ones who don’t, generally don’t because they’re in recovery, and 99.9% of the time if a colleague says “Just Pepsi for me, thanks” one can safely assume it’s an addiction issue. (Why can one safely assume? Let me put it this way: in my state, our State Bar cards, on the reverse, have a handy reference of phone numbers, including the ethics hotline and the substance-abuse hotline. Right on the card. Yeah.)

    Oh, and for the folks who have mentioned friends or relations who ‘joke’ about spiking your drink or throw a fit if you don’t like them to stick their tongue down your throat after a big swig of booze? Those people are being assholes. Alcohol is for grown-ups, and part of being a grownup is being comfortable with your choices, i.e., not pouting when other people dislike alcohol or decline to join you in doing Jell-O shots.

  84. Sounds like you jumped straight to recovery without the hassle of addiction. (Though I guess you can’t call it recovery since you never lost it to begin with.)

    While I do drink (and do a few other things) there are Certain Substances of an Illicit Nature that I refuse to touch for roughly the same reasons–because I know I’d mess myself up and I’m really too broke to sustain a drug habit right now anyway.

  85. Why I don’t drink:

    I have a seizure disorder, for which I take medications. Let’s just say alcohol doesn’t tend to mix well with those.

    I’m a control freak. I couldn’t stand the thought of doing stupid things while drunk. I particularly couldn’t stand the thought of not remembering any of those things because I was drunk.

    I just don’t like the taste. Back when I could drink (I was off my meds, because I didn’t need them, for a number of years, and during that time I occasionally sipped a drink socially), I very rarely had a very weakly made Fuzzy Navel (leaning more heavily towards the OJ and away from the peach schnapps). But even the sweetness of the OJ and the peach flavoring in the liqueur wasn’t enough to eliminate the underlying taste of the alcohol. Yucko!

    Unfortunately, because I can’t drive I never had the opportunity to be the DD in a social situation.

    As many others here have opined, it continually baffles me that there are so many people out there who think there’s “something wrong” with *me* because I *don’t* drink. I’ve never passed judgment on my friends who drink socially, so I find it more than a little hurtful that people assume I’m a “stuck up bitch”, instead of simply accepting the apparently very difficult concept to grasp–I just don’t like the taste! When I’m pressed for my reasons not to drink, I’m more than happy to begin my standard lecture on hydrocephalus and epilepsy, at which point their eyes glaze over (if they hadn’t already) and they end up wishing they hadn’t asked.

    Great post, Scalzi!

    :-)

  86. scorpius@10:01 pm: Biology is not destiny, but I can really respect someone like John looking at his family history and concluding that it’s not worth the risk.

  87. I reiterate: biology is not destiny; it’s probability.

    And? Why take a risk for which there is no payoff, but a huge potential downside?

    Particularly given that you don’t appear to have read the rest of Scalzi’s post. He didn’t say “some people in my family are drunks, therefore I don’t drink”; he pointed out that there are factors in his psychology and past experience with other brainhappies that suggest alcohol might be problematic for him, and since he has lots of other reasons not to drink, it’s not worth the risk.

    Seriously, Scorpius, I sometimes think Scalzi could put up a post saying that puppies are adorable, and you’d come stomping in to sneer that only weak-minded, dishonest liberal jerks would say such a thing, and anyway you personally know somebody who owns a puppy uglier than a bag of assholes.

  88. Absent the dopamine spikes that you’d see with cocaine or nicotine or whatever, lab animals will not in fact self-administer alcohol; they have to be lured into it with sugar (insert commentary on alcopops here!).
    Well, that’s not quite true. If you put unshaped rats in a shock cage for 40 minutes a day, and supply them with both water and alcohol all the time, they’ll tend to drink alcohol after the stress (just like humans–the stress, I mean, not the shock cage). I know this because I spent days on end one summer measuring the drinking graphs of different rats (yeah, they were needles on paper, it was the 70s) with a ruler, in my dad’s lab. (HATTON, G.I., AND VIETH, A Stress-related and diurnal alcohol drinking in rats. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 4(3):195–196, 1974.)

    I agree that rats won’t drink alcohol for no reason. But then neither will humans.

  89. @Xopher: Were it that I could, I’d award that comment my personal ‘Got the T-shirt’ badge of internet excellence :).

    And: yeah. The depressant effect of alcohol (see: GABA agonist) is a major cause of human drinking: just to make it *all go away* – and that absence can become addicting; but the individual variance in dopamine receptor expression and subtypes that might predispose to becoming an addict to other substances is probably often orthogonal to whether one is likely to decide that crawling into an alcohol-induced hole is a good idea. [Hence treatments can and should vary by substance.]

    Did your rats continue to choose alcohol after the stress was no longer part of their daily routine?

    I might argue with your last line: I (and it seems many others) enjoy the taste of (some) alcohol and the effect of small doses. OK, that’s not ‘no reason’ but it is ‘no external reason.’

  90. Fine with me, John. More than I needed to know; if you visit, I may have forgotten and offer you beverage choices including alcohol, please just decline those.

    My parents don’t drink and when I went to college I drank a lot of beer, eventually became concerned about it, and mostly quit. Drank alcohol rarely. Years passed. Tired of being quietly accused of being an alcoholic, I became known for nursing two fingers of single malt for four hours (actually, I’d drink about half of it and start adding ice cubes.) I’m frequently the designated driver. Other drugs didn’t interest me; there was a time I was going to try LSD; circumstances interfered and others did instead with very bad results. I took that as a message — and am still curious about it.

    Cigarettes … it took me twenty years to quit. It’s been twenty five years now, and when I walk by the smokers outside a building, I still get cravings. If you haven’t, don’t start.

    Parents who don’t partake … they can’t speak from personal experience of consumption, but they can speak of their experience of non-consumption. Children will experiment, usually. Hopefully they will come safely through those.

  91. I don’t drink for most of the reasons you’ve listed. I don’t have any alcoholics as blood relatives, and I am grateful for that. (My in-laws, on the other hand…)

    I remember when I decided not to drink. My father offered me a beer when I was 16 or 17, and I said no. I thought it was a trap to see if I was drinking at parties. It was funny to see my dad get defensive.

    It’s funny (to me) that your picture for the post has Genesee Beer. That’s the stuff my grandmother drank back in New York. She saved the cans for the deposit money, and they built up in her house. Just the sight of half a label brings back the smell of it.

  92. I, like oddly many people in this thread, don’t drink more than tiny amounts. I had a glass of wine with dinner a couple of nights ago, as I do maybe once or twice a year; it was only two splashes when I started and half that left when I was done. I only started having that much when I was 30.

    I think a lot of this came from my parents; neither of them (as far as I know) ever drank very much, and my mom apparently decided that she would stop drinking entirely when I was a child to set an example. She never actually told me about that decision until I was an adult, but I just grew up with this idea that drinking was something other people did. I was surprised when my dad had a beer with lunch while we were out fishing with one of his coworkers one day. And I never had much of a social life in high school or early college, especially in the evenings, so there was neither opportunity nor social encouragement there.

    (So, there’s one example of the results of parents not partaking of alcohol — as htom says, they can speak from their experience of non-consumption, and kids notice. Perhaps especially when it’s non-preachy, but just a thing.)

    Actually, the time that I did end up trying a tiny glass of wine when I was 30 (and deciding that I liked it in quantities somewhere between moderation and homeopathy) was because I was out at a dinner party — and everyone else there didn’t know that I didn’t drink, so they wouldn’t comment on my having a bit or even notice it.

    For similar reasons, I don’t drink sodas or coffee. Sodas are pretty much absolute abstinence because I can’t stand the taste of carbonation, and I have never actually tried coffee (though I don’t really like the flavor in ice creams or most coffee-based desserts). This leaves me with a bit of a conundrum when I’m at a social occasion at a bar and want something more interesting than water with a slice of lime. Suggestions?

  93. @Brooks

    Don’t worry, I’ve done my best to take up any slack you may have tossed into the loop by consuming significant quantities of caffeine/sodas, and alcoholic beverages. ;-) between you abstinence and my fondness of tequila, I figure we balance the scale ;-)

    I know I won’t give up caffeine, although I did have to give up sugar soda a long while back. Funny thing, type 2 diabetes don’t care too much about booze… but add in a regular everyday soda and it pitches a hissy fit for some reason. heh.

  94. @Ewan: thank you, sir!

    And yes, my point was that rats and humans really drink for similar reasons. Humans are more sophisticated in their flavor preferences, but there are other reasons for drinking. (And yeah, flavor enjoyment counts as a reason.)

  95. I never did drink very much; I never really developed a taste for it. And now I’ve cut it out altogether, as it exacerbates my gout. And you know what? I don’t miss it. And at least now, at parties, I can avoid drinking by having a Legitimate Medical Excuse(TM), and no one will look at me funny or try to persuade me otherwise; they’ll just think, “Oh, sorry, well, that’s all right then.”

  96. As far as I’m aware, loss of self-control is a social choice. There are studies on the effects of drinking in various cultures. Otherwise, the points are well-argued, and I must agree that it’s easier to avoid addiction than to recover from it. Don’t start, and there will never be an issue with not stopping.

    Of course, there’s the question of whether we’d be missing Lao Tse, Ernest Hemingway, and Hunter Thompson.

    Two paths diverged in the woods…

  97. Scorpius:

    “I really dislike this statement, and the resulting behavior that it causes. I’ve known many people who were moderate drinkers who come from a long line of hard-core alcoholics. Biology is not destiny; it’s probability.”

    And I know myself well enough to know the probability is high enough to be indistinguishable from destiny. And in any event given the genetic (and environmental) tendencies in play here, it’s a form of Russian Roulette I don’t have the slightest interest in playing.

  98. Thank you.

    My great-grandmother didn’t drink; my mother doesn’t drink; I don’t drink. There’s probably something genetic here, because nothing about it appeals to me even a tiny bit. I’ve tried it exactly twice, once when I was a teenager in the spirit of trying new stuff, and once at university when bullied into it (and promptly spat it back out into the guy’s glass as revenge).

    Oddly enough, I feel more frequently pressured into drinking than I do into sex or romance (I’m asexual). Seems people are perfectly fine with obscure sexual orientations these days, as long as their expectations are met in social settings like pubs. Which is… weird.

    (Though I’m sure there are some folks who think I’m just a prude and would magically develop a sexuality if I got drunk. These people have clearly never heard me tell dirty jokes.)

  99. I don’t know why there’s often peer pressure to drink but I believe (on the basis of no research whatsoever :-) that humans have been making and consuming alcohol for several thousand years, and it is an integral part of many cultures. So drinking is “normal” and abstinence is “abnormal”, at least statistically.

    I do wonder how alcohol was first discovered, given that making it seems to be a fairly involved process. But I don’t wonder quite enough to actually look it up, obviously :-)

  100. Living in the South I’ve noticed people tend to make more of an issue of the fact that I’m vegetarian. But when they find out I don’t drink or smoke either, they often assume I’m some sort of monastic Hindu ascetic. To which of course I laugh, considering my predilection for confectionary (or anything with sugar, really). Nice to see someone like yourself, Mr. Scalzi, who can put their apathetic distaste for the stuff far more eloquently than I can.

  101. If you don’t drink alcohol, and you’re an adult human, it’s usually because you’re either an addict in recovery or because you have some religious prohibition, and often it’s assumed you either can’t be around people who drink because of the temptation, or because you look down on those who imbibe.

    Well, I am an alcoholic. I’m also a manic-depressive who is on medications that interact spectacularly badly with alcohol and also rather likes being able to (politely) decline a cocktail without having to disclose to a total stranger my entire medical history.

  102. Jim: humans have been making and consuming alcohol for several thousand years, and it is an integral part of many cultures. So drinking is “normal” and abstinence is “abnormal”, at least statistically.

    Only if you assume that, in cultures that include the making and drinking of alcohol, everyone (or nearly everyone) participates.

  103. Funny enough, people on both sides of my family are drinkers, sometimes quite heavily, sometimes to excess; I, on the other hand, have been known to have half a beer with dinner, forget the rest of the beer until it goes flat and needs to be disposed of, and go for weeks before having another beer. (Generally, I only go for the beer when I figure I want to ensure I can get to sleep after dinner.)

    I was actually advised once by my psychologist to get slightly drunk on occasion, under the logic that I was far too inhibited for my own good; the few times I’ve had more than one drink, I ended up a morose drunk, not enjoyable enough to repeat the experience.

    I do keep sort of a liquor cabinet at home, but it’s almost entirely for company (usually my family visiting from Stateside); there are unbroken tax stamps on some of those bottles that are several years old, easily. (My folks back home, on the other hand, regularly cross the river into Jersey to pick up beer by the case, and will, I suspect, split most of a bottle of wine between them in one dinner.)

    You never know how the lottery will shake out. I can’t fault anyone for shying away on the basis of not wanting to play Russian roulette with their own sanity; I’ve seen enough people on mind-bending substances (ambulance tech in my teens and twenties) that it frightens me to think that might happen to me.

    How’s the saying go? “First you have a drink, then the drink has a drink, then the drink has you”? Thankfully, not always the case…

  104. As best I can tell, people have this reaction because, unconsciously, they believe that my not drinking is a moral judgment on the fact that they are drinking.

    I’m a member of a religion known (erroneously) for not drinking, so everyone assumes I’m judging them. At this point I’ve gotten so tired of assuring people that I don’t care what they put in their mouth that I usually just make fun of people who get on my case about it. I stole a routine about it that my brother says he got from a comedian: “you’re not eating your coleslaw? Why not!? Is-is it ok with you if I eat my coleslaw? Oh god, you don’t have a slaw problem, do you? Well, I’m sorry, but I like coleslaw just fine and I’m not going to stop eating it!”

    When I manage to convince somebody that I really, seriously don’t care what’s in their cup, they tend to apologize profusely and tell me it’s just because they’re so used to those people. I always have to resist the urge to ask them where they’re meeting all these sanctimonious tea-tottlers they feel the need to tell me so much about, because I’ve yet to come across one.

  105. I’ve never had to worry about drinking to excess on a regular basis mostly because of the expense, as you mentioned. That said, if I ever do have more money, I’m aware I’ll have to be careful of my drinking. It’s one of those things I can tell might get out of hand if I could afford it. Being aware of that danger is good. Props for your self-awareness and resolve.

  106. That is the explanation, at least in part, for the annoyance of others at non-drinkers: the absence of shared state. Same applies, somewhat, with different neurochemistry, to marijuana use.

    Ewan, that’s interesting stuff. I posted before that alcohol has no feel-good effect on me, which is why I don’t bother to drink it. I also have a family member who confessed that he tried smoking marijuana, and it did absolutely nothing for him. Which is why he never bothered to smoke it a second time.

  107. I often find myself in opposition to John — on many things. But on this I am in 100% accord, and find John’s comments straight down the line with my own feelings. I do have a religious proscription against drink — really, mind-altering recreational substances of any sort — but even when I wasn’t churchy, my aversion to drink (and rec chemicals) didn’t waver. Quote Austin Powers, “It’s not my bag, baby!” And yes, it’s been strange encountering people who assume, ipso facto, that if you don’t drink this means you’re a snob. *shrug* Also: it means you don’t know how to have fun, you don’t know how to loosen up, you don’t know how to party, get laid, yadda, yadda, yadda.

    Of course, the frequency with which I encounter this attitude has been dropping steadily as I head towards my 40s. The Booze or Snooze culture seems very much centered on 20-somethings and, more specifically, HS and college antics. I get it. I was that age once. I had friends who thought the ideal Friday night involved getting smashed to the point of physical illness. I just never saw the appeal in any of it, even if it did mean social awkwardness. I’ve also watched a few of those friends discover — through the school of hard knocks — that boozing it up had a lot of unintended side effects. And now they’re either dry, or close to it. I don’t think they regret the old days, but I do think they’re happy for the lifestyle they live now.

  108. Right on! I didn’t start drinking until I was 31, and even now at the ripe age of 36, I drink only a little bit (once a month, tops,) and never to the point of over-indulgence. My reasons have varied through the years, but I’ve always been amused by the reactions of others who immediately assume I have a problem with alcohol and those that drink it because I opt to limit my intake voluntarily. I admire your strength of character to NOT drink and not have to make excuses or find a better reason than simply not caring to.

  109. With regard to peer pressure, particularly among the younger ones, I suspect there’s a considerable “forbidden fruit” element involved. Our family had no (known) problems with alcoholism, and me and my brothers were permitted a smallish glass of sweet wine, typically cream sherry or muscatel, after dinner, long before we reached our teens. Between that and my being essentially an asocial loner in my teens, there was little or no temptation from peer pressure.

    I was quite thin until my late 20’s or early 30’s, and typically alcohol would make me drowsy long before anything resembling high, so that pretty much shaped my drinking habits for the rest of my life. Basically, I preferred drinks that were sweet — my favorite, if not exactly weak, was White Russians, if I had the energy and ambition to crush the ice. Invariably I’d want a drink for its taste rather than its kick.

    Just before I turned 50, I suffered brain injury from a bad fall down the basement stairs, and that changed things drastically. While I’m not an absolute teetotaler (sp?) now, I might as well be because of two factors. Firstly, and more obviously, I’m on meds that don’t agree with alcohol so I have to watch timing fairly carefully. Secondly (and this may be news to the vast majority who’ve never been involved with head injury), alcohol has a much stronger effect on me now, almost exactly the same as drinking aboard an airliner in flight. So my alcohol intake is now pretty much limited to the liquor-center chocolates which have become a staple Christmas gift to me.

    Segueing to other recreational drugs — much like someone else in this thread (sorry, it was so far back I couldn’t readily find it again), I tried marijuana just once at a party, got absolutely nothing from it but a miserable sore throat, and never bothered with it again. For many years my only addictions have been cigarettes and coffee, and my docs agree that given my family history, I’ve little reason to be concerned about health problems from them.

  110. Kind of nice to know I’m not the ONLY tee-totaller for many similar reasons. My main reason for not drinking? I can’t stand the flavor of alcohol, & I can taste even tiny amounts of alcohol. I can manage a mixed drink sometimes, but only if there’s so little alcohol or so much mix that, really? Why bother with the booze? I have found one whisky I can tolerate, Paddy Old Irish, but a couple sips once every 6 months is more than enough.

    I also have similar potential addiction concerns. I had an alcoholic grandfather. I have some issues with food. I’ve seen what a misery addiction can be (in its many forms). I have no desire to become addicted, & then spend the rest of my life struggling to escape from addiction & maintain sobriety. Much easier to just say, “No thank you, I’ll survive not knowing the joy of the high”.

    I worry about being a mean or a stupid drunk. I like humor, but sometimes I have to self-censor, because I’m tempted to go for the joke even when it’s mean or rude. I’m afraid the loss of my inhibitions & self-censorship would mean I’d cross the line. And that would mean hurting people’s feelings to try to make me look cool. I would succeed in the former & fail in the latter, & it’s not the person I want to be.

    I have enough trouble maintaining basic human grace & dignity stone cold sober. Would it be a good plan to sacrifice physical self-control for an artificially induced high? I rather think not.

    And on top of everything, I like myself just as I am. I have fun just sitting & talking with my friends. I don’t need mood altering substances to have fun. I’ve never quite understood that.

    All in all, I will occasionally taste some version of booze. But for the most part, I’m happy to be one of the ones who doesn’t imbibe.

    And, like you, I have no problem with folks who enjoy alcohol, although I have less tolerance for their screw ups if they go overboard, & I have no problem mocking them for stupid things they do under the influence when they voluntarily choose to overindulge.

  111. I have several reasons for drinking infrequently and moderately, but on major reason is that even a beer or a glass of wine almost always give me a mild-to-moderate headache within an hour. Unfortunately, whatever gene expression mediates breaking alcohol down in my liver seems to have a mildly toxic side effect (apparently this is not uncommon among Ashkenazi Jews, which I am). This pushes me further in the direction of self-regulation, and ensures that I have to have a reason to drink that is great than its negative side-effects. So mostly I don’t. Which is just fine with me.

  112. I’m lucky, I think. Most of your reasons for not drinking are also reasons for me not to drink. I have no evidence that I would become an alcoholic – as far as I know, it’s not a problem in my ancestry (but some of my ancestry was prone to hiding that sort of thing, so it’s possible there’s something I just don’t know about).

    But while all of your reasons are good ones, and are reasons that I’m glad I don’t drink, my main reason for not drinking is simply that I can’t stand the taste of the stuff. Or, if not the alcohol itself, then any product in which it occurs. To me, beer tastes like spit gone bad, wine tastes like, well, rotten fruit, and anything harder transports me to a circle of bitterness hell that takes me hours to escape.

    Like you, John, I don’t claim any particular virtue in not drinking, but for myself, I’m glad that I do not.

  113. Well said, sir! I also don’t drink, mostly because I have an intestinal issue which alcohol doesn’t interact well with, but I can say (BEING a sober person around those who drink) that I am so glad I can’t/don’t drink. I don’t really see the appeal.

    But I totally get that recovering addict look when I turn down a beer. All the time. I am also somewhat baby faced, so I have also been asked if I am under 21, lol. Made me smile. =)

  114. @ sottywan82, 2:44 PM — Wandering more than slightly off the main topic, I had the same “problem” with looking younger when I was in my 20’s and even early 30’s. I remember once I was visited by an couple of Canadian Immigration reps who were investigating a reported possibility that I wasn’t in the country legally … I showed them my landed-immigrant certificate and that took care of that. One of them then asked out of curiosity if I was a student — I explained that my high school graduation and single year of college were more than ten years behind me by then, and thanked him for the compliment.

    Somewhere along the line after that, I must have aged in appearance quite a bit. Back while I was still working (late 40’s by then), I’d often pop over to the nearby mall at lunch to get lottery tickets … a few times I kidded the clerk about hoping one day she’d flatter me by asking for proof of age.

  115. @Jim, who sez I do wonder how alcohol was first discovered, given that making it seems to be a fairly involved process.

    I think (as in, I heard this but haven’t checked it in years) the current theory is that some water got into a grain storehouse, and fermentation (by wild yeast) was well underway before anything could be done. Then the people had the choice of eating the “spoiled” grain or starve, and upon eating the grain discovered a pleasant (to them) intoxicating effect.

    I’m even less sure about distillation, though I do know that God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world.

    @scottywan82: I got carded to buy Guinness when I was 26. Since I don’t drive, at the time I had no valid ID, so my friend bought it instead. The guy at the counter said I looked about 16.

    Find me a 16-year-old who voluntarily drinks Guinness Stout, and I will say “congratulations on knowing a 16-year-old with exceptional taste.” Usually the sweet tooth (and the bitter yuck reaction) lasts longer than that. When I was 16 I was aware of what good beer tasted like—and that I hated it. I liked bad (i.e. too-sweet) beer.

    @everyone who’s talked about being sober among tipsy-to-drunk people: you know, I found some years ago, when going to The Local was an important part of fitting in at the company I worked for, that I can voluntarily drop my inhibitions and fit right in with drinking people. Except, of course, that I can instantly “sober up” if I want to or need to, I can still sing on pitch, and I don’t say regrettable things to my coworkers.

    I guess that’s the upside of having to be consciously aware of other people’s inhibitions, and of social appropriateness, all the rest of the time.

  116. What about 0% beers? I drink them in the uk and sometimes get a strange look that I drink beer for taste not alcohol. if all I want that night is flavoured water without any off the mood altering effects 0% perfects for me. and other times I will when I choose to have the stronger stuff.

  117. “(Though I guess you can’t call it recovery since you never lost it to begin with.)”

    Precovery, innit.

  118. Yep, this sounds about like me, too.

    I’ve lived in California for most of my life, with plenty of access to wine that is both good and cheap. I’ve also lived in beer-dominated areas like Milwaukee. But while I will occasionally drink small amounts on special occasions (like weddings), it really doesn’t hold any appeal for me. I can’t say I’d really care if alcoholic drinks disappeared altogether.

  119. Reading your entry, I couldn’t help but think of this, written by another blogger I have mad respect for (Female Science Professor). It’s about the reasons people give for not wanting to drink, at academic conferences. Personally? I don’t think you need a reason not to drink. It’s not something you should have to explain to people. But I’m definitely in the same boat genes-wise.

    http://scientopia.org/blogs/science-professor/2011/06/20/drinking-culture/

    This is not so much a plug for another blog, as a plug for someone else who ok with (and even required) being in a bar without drinking…

    Thanks John.

  120. @Beth, I would totally go to that dance troupe.

    @Zvi, could you elaborate more on the liver thing? Just curious, as I come from a family of Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews on my father’s side where most of us are of the “I have wine at Passover but otherwise, one drink and I’m out for the night” variety. Which seems odd given that we are, as far as I can tell, the one religious group that mandates alcohol consumption (minus a health exception) on certain occasions.

    Whoever is telling Whatever commenters “you need to drink to talk to your kids” needs a face-stab. No, you do not need to have drunk alcohol to discuss it with your kids.

  121. @mythago, the existence of the expression ‘drunk all year and sober on Purim’ comes to mind. Haman? Mordechai? Who knows?

  122. A complete agree with “because I like giving myself permission to do what I like”. My first disillusionment about college life was during orientation week, when the mentors proposed that we run around campus jumping in all the fountains (great! sounds fun! I’m up for that!) and then said “you know, it’s a lot more fun if you’ve been drinking first” (um, first, we freshmen are all underaged, and second, why isn’t it fun sober?). I ended up skipping it.

    I drink in moderation; I like experiencing the alcohol buzz and relaxation on occasion. But if I’m not comfortable doing something while sober, why the heck would I want to do it drunk?

  123. Your reasons for not drinking are precisely the same as mine…only perhaps you’ve elaborated upon them more eloquently than I. It’s nice to meet another adult person, especially one I respect, who feels this way.

  124. I have only recently become a proper grown-up (to an extent) and as a result, have only just begun to experience the shock whenever I say that I don’t actually drink. The way some individuals stare or begin an interrogation, and suddenly, a few even make it a goal to see you drunk in the future. Suddenly, I’m expected to defend my decision not to drink…when not that long ago, it was illegal for me to do so. I am totally chill with other people’s right to drink. They may imbibe as much as they like…as long as they avoid winding up ill.

    My reasons are pretty similar to yours. Addictive tendencies throughout the family, and I have decided to play it safe and just avoid it from the start.

  125. “I just don’t drink”

    Me neither. Thought it was just me. As far as figuring I would become an alcoholic – maybe. It does run in at least half my family.

  126. I also don’t drink. I have found it to be socially isolating. But at least it’s cheap.

    And people do occasionally come up to me in bars and ask what the hell that yellow stuff I’m drinking is.

  127. “I would have to jokingly suggest I was lovably cuddly. And then I would want to kill myself.”

    Thanks for reminding me why I generally don’t read you, despite your overall posts being quite decent and sane. It’s little landmines like this fatphobic gem that make me want to claw my eyeballs out.

  128. Jim: I do wonder how alcohol was first discovered,

    Most likely by watching animals eat naturally-fermented berries and fruit, which they do quite eagerly. Human brewing and winemaking (let alone distilling) has become complicated, but that’s from several millennia of optimizing the process for our convenience and taste. And yeah, grain mash will also ferment naturally (say if someone left their porridge-makings out in the yard), whence beer.

    A couple of people have commented to the effect of “I tried marijuana once, and it didn’t do anything for me”. That’s actually an oddity of that particular drug… AIUI, most people get little effect the first time they smoke MJ, but get the usual effects the second time. It’s almost as if you need practice to “learn” how to get stoned….

    I drink more now than I used to, meaning a drink most nights, or at least many nights. For a while I was specifically trying to have a drink every night (early days of the “good for your heart” meme), but I kept forgetting….

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