Why I’ve never been drunk and never will be

6 September 2023
Garima Behal Written by Garima Behal
Garima Behal

Garima Behal

Garima is a copywriter and content writer with a penchant for...

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‘Word by Word’ is a column by Garima Behal on learning to ride the highs and lows of everyday life

“If you don’t like drinking, that severely limits your options.”

A colleague and I were talking about things to do in Bangalore. Names of a few cult establishments came up. Bob’s Bar, Toit, Loft 38, Fenny’s…

I interjected, noticing the pattern that seemed to begin and end with breweries, pubs, and bars.

“But I don’t drink!”

There’s a world outside…alcohol

I know from experience that there are a TON of other things to do in this beautiful city. It has stream-themed cafes where you can feast as water flows through your feet. It offers resplendent sunsets framed with fluffy cotton clouds by its many lakes. There are open mic nights where you can recite your poems and Saturday communities to read, write, and paint at Cubbon Park. 

Lack of options isn’t the problem. The problem is how drinking has slowly become one of the only mainstream ways to ‘have a good time’. 

The sad part is that this wasn’t a one-off instance. 

Why I've never been drunk and never will be

I remember, for instance, a guy in my German class from four years ago who asked me with sad, puppy eyes: “You don’t smoke, you don’t drink, you don’t party! What do you do?”

“I take care of my health and I meditate,” I answered, forever losing out on a potential friendship with the clueless Briton. 

But it’s plagued with social stigma

I’m no stranger to the judgment that follows when I tell people I don’t drink. 

First, there’s the look of incredulity. (It’s a good thing I don’t tell them I’m asexual, too, ha!)

“Seriously, you’ve never had alcohol?”

Then, before the look shapeshifts into pity, I tell them I’ve tasted vodka, whiskey, gin, red wine, and rum, among others. And finished a bottle or two of beer.

“It’s pretty neat, no? Why did you give it up?”

I want to tell them it’s none of their business. And that I never ‘gave it up’. I just tried it and didn’t like it as much as everyone claimed I would. I also resist mentioning that I don’t want the many health benefits that accompany drinking—weight gain, memory impairment, liver disease, sleep disruption, and an increased risk of developing anxiety and depression.

Also, I’m tempted to say, why would I waste my hard-earned money on something that tastes so obnoxious?

Why I've never been drunk and never will be

“You don’t drink it for the taste,” an acquaintance confirmed as I almost gagged while gingerly sipping vodka and apple juice from her cup. “You drink it to forget.”

Alcohol, for the most part, is a socially acceptable—even encouraged—coping mechanism. 

Got fired? Drink up and cuss at your boss, your company, and capitalism.

Heartbroken? There’s always a bottle to drown your sorrows in.

Drink it in enough quantity, and you can do the impossible. 

You can taste, together with its sharp flavor, the heady feeling of becoming someone else for a while. You get to break free from the deadliest prison in the world—the chaotic confines of your own mind.

It helps you loosen inhibitions and affords you an unspoken social license to do as you please without being held fully responsible for the consequences.

This is perhaps why there’s a ton of peer pressure around drinking, especially ‘social drinking’. 

It’s extremely hard to say no without feeling a little sorry for ourselves, without feeling like we’re outcasts. Social approval is hard to come by, let alone respect, for making a choice that we know will leave us mentally and physically healthier.

This screenshot of a Reddit thread proves just how tough it is to be a teetotaller in such a society.

We can do better

Yet, as more and more people, especially youngsters, are realizing, being drunk is not the escape it promises to be. It’s expensive. It’s temporary. And it leaves our bodies and minds worse off each time we do it.

First, one drinks to the point of blacking out. Then, as folklore goes, they make questionable choices. Later, they proceed to puke the alcohol out of their bodies as their livers refuse to comply with being poisoned. And the next morning, they wake up with hangovers that make death seem like a paler punishment. 

There are very few things I understand about human nature. Voluntarily getting this drunk tops the list. 

This is why I love how people respond to this 22 y/o male with so much kindness and support:

It reminds me of when I was 23 and talking with a colleague about having had my first-ever beer at the Oktoberfest. I don’t like drinking, I confessed, but I wanted to experience the world’s biggest beer festival just right, so I did. What I liked about the whole atmosphere was how no one was forcing anyone to drink, and there was neither peer pressure nor pity involved.

His response?

“That’s really impressive; I’m trying to quit it altogether, too. But my work involves social situations where not drinking is not an option.”

It’s been five years since we had that conversation, and a lot has changed. 

Sobriety is slowly starting to be ‘in.’ People are opening up about their struggles with addiction and alcoholism on social media. Survival stories are inspiring others to do some quitting of their own. And the stamp of social approval seems not as far out of reach.

The study, ‘Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016’, also puts a lot of arguments in favor of alcohol to rest by concluding that “while light drinking might have a modest protective effect for certain conditions among certain people, our results show that the safest level of drinking is none.” 

That said, I’m a big believer in living and letting other people live. So, if you want to gulp down that pint after work or go crazy on New Year’s Eve, by all means, please do so. But don’t force a drink down the throat of someone who doesn’t need a ‘lubricant’ to be social. 

Disclaimer: As a first-person essay, this content is not verified by our in-house team of reviewers. The views expressed here are the author’s own, and MyndStories need not endorse the same.

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