No Thanks, I Don’t Really Drink

Want to mess with someone at a party?  Just whip out those six little words.  It is almost comical to see how many people are derailed by that statement.  I say “almost comical” because it can also be a real pain in the ass.

When we are young, we are taught about the dangers of peer pressure.  By the time I started high school, I was thoroughly convinced that shady characters would be lurking around every corner just waiting to mock me if I didn’t take their proffered drugs and alcohol.  The one thing I have learned in my twenty years as a non-drinker is that teenagers have nothing on adults when it comes to peer pressure.  Alcohol is a precious commodity to a teenager.  You typically have to scrimp and scrape together the funds to buy booze.  Not only that, you also have to find an adult who will either sell you liquor or buy it for you.   If someone at a party says, “No thanks,” you don’t waste time making fun of them; you move on before they change their minds, thinking, “More for me.”

Hold the vodka - I'll just have Mountain Dew in a fancy glass

Adults, on the other hand, seem to have a hard time with the concept of a non-drinker.  I suppose it would help if I had a reason for my non-drinking, but I don’t.  I don’t really fit into any of the accepted non-drinker molds.  Is is a religious thing?  Nope, I don’t go to church.  Did you have a bad experience with alcohol?  Not really, some craziness in high school but nothing traumatic.  Ooooh, are you an alcoholic?  Nope.  I drank some in high school, but I stopped before I graduated.  These days I usually have two drinks a year (that’s why I say I don’t “really” drink).  I like a glass of champagne on New Years Eve and about once every summer I get the urge to have a beer at a barbecue.  More than that is extremely rare.  In the last twenty years, I have been honest-to-god drunk three times.  I’m pretty sure I’m not an alcoholic.

I don’t mind answering questions about why I don’t drink.  I understand that it isn’t terribly common, especially with the people I know.  What I do mind are the people who won’t let it go – the ones that assume I would love drinking just as much as they do if only I tried it.  I have tried it.  I don’t love it.  Let it go.  I went out for my birthday one year with a group of friends who had a tradition of buying birthday shots.  After spending half an hour convincing my friends that I really truly wasn’t going to do a shot just because they wanted me to, a friend of a friend, whom I had never met before, said, Dixie Carter as Julia sugerbaker“Oh!  You can do a lemondrop, they’re easy,”  at which point something snapped.  I believe all I said out loud was, “It’s not a question of ‘easy,’ I just don’t drink,” accompanied by a frosty-cold death stare (imagine Julia Sugarbaker, from Designing Women).  My inner monologue was yelling something more like “Are you fucking kidding me?  I was drinking whiskey straight from the bottle when you were still in grade school, you stupid, patronizing little _______.”  Since it was only in my head, I didn’t have to come up with an adjective that encompassed my condescension, feel free to fill in the blank yourself.

The other frustrating thing is that if I do have a drink it is a really big deal to some people.  I can deal with the teasing – “Oh my god, does SaraB have a beer?!?  What is the world coming to?” but I don’t particularly like the people who watch me the whole time I’m drinking said beer.  It’s like they think I’m going to take one sip and start dancing on the table with my top off.  Those people creep me out.

Thankfully, these days I have friends who have known me long enough that they are no longer fazed by my little quirk.  When we arrive at a party, Mr.B gets pointed to the alcohol and I get pointed to the sodas.  If it is one of the rare occasions when I have a drink, nobody says much, although sometimes I still feel like people are watching me to see if I will go nuts.

Vodkadew photo by AscendedAnathema, via Wikimedia Commons


By [E]SaraB

Glass artisan by day, blogger by night (and sometimes vice versa). SaraB has three kids, three pets, one husband and a bizarre sense of humor. Her glass pendants can be found at if you're interested in checking it out.

35 replies on “No Thanks, I Don’t Really Drink”

Hmmm…very interesting post. Being in my 50’s now, I don’t get much fuss over whether I drink or not. I do have a long and conflicted relationship with alcohol.

My grandfather was an alcoholic, and my parents probably were as well, but not obviously. I started drinking in college and still can’t understand how I could get drunk and suffer a hangover more than once. From here, that seems to be pretty ridiculous.

I stopped drinking in my 30’s because I didn’t like the way I behaved when I was drinking, and continued abstinence when I joined a church that didn’t like it.

When I left the church, I started drinking again a little, and now have a drink about once a month.

In my circle, nobody cares who drinks and who doesn’t. I do have a finely-tuned radar for someone who drinks in an unhealthy way, though, perhaps because of my earlier experiences. I can literally smell an alcoholic.

Thank you! I don’t drink and I do go to church-convincing people the two aren’t related is a challenge. Drinking is just not something I’ve ever been interested in-I don’t have a strong religious belief about it, I never had a bad experience with it, I just never wanted to drink. The assumptions that I’m a recovering alcoholic or a total priss are exhausting. I did appreciate finding two recovering alcoholics among my dear friends at work. When we go to work parties together, we have a grand old (sober) time.

A few months ago, I went out with some old friends, all of whom drink and know that I don’t. The waiter kept pressuring me to get something alcoholic. “I’d like a lemonade please.” “Vodka lemonade?” “No, just lemonade.” “But what would you like in it?” “LEMONADE!” As he set the lemonade on the table, he loudly announced “Lemonade, EXTRA VODKA!” I got so angry; I was just trying to enjoy my friends’ company, and this man was challenging me over and over again as to why I won’t drink, and come on, it won’t hurt anything, and UGH.

After people discover that I don’t drink or eat seafood, I’ve gotten more than once “Is there anything you actually do?”

In college, I was able to spend some time in an Amish community, learning about their beliefs and traditions. Whenever a student in my group would ask the men about why they don’t shave, the men would simply respond “Why do you? You’re the one doing something.”

I’m starting to think I could learn from that response.

I enjoy a good glass of wine, or an occasional cold beer in the summer. I even sprung for a mojito at this themed restaurant we went to on vacation. But I am usually good for one, maaaaaybe two if I’m going to be there a long time, and not when I am tired or have had a long day/week/whatever because I know it will make me even sleepier. The Mister drinks only very rarely. We are almost thirty, and our friends from college still think it appropriate to whip out the drunkade (Kool Aid powder + cheap vodka) at Halloween parties or use game night as an excuse to put away a six pack. It’s just not fun for me anymore, and I find myself hanging out with them and even staying in touch less and less because of it. (So much so that when The Mister, who works with some of them, was out of town this past Halloween, I wasn’t even invited to the party.) And it’s fine. I’m making friends who also don’t drink or only drink socially or don’t freaking care what I have in my glass. It’s not the same as the bonds that come from sharing the college experience, they’re not as close now as my other friends were then, but different is not always bad.

What’s hardest for me are fundraisers and events, where I’m expected to both drink something AND stay poised, sharp, and charming with important people (and people who think they’re important) at the same time. Another woman recommended to me club soda + lime or cranberry juice + soda because it looks like you’re drinking when you’re not. I’ll be forever grateful to her. I shouldn’t have to make excuses for not drinking in a quasi-work environment, but until the day comes when I don’t have to, I’m glad I have a cheat.

I have maybe one drink a month (I’ve just graduated college) because I’m on medication, and because it makes my skin flush and sometimes gives me a rash. I don’t get questions about not drinking much a lot, but I do get them when I say I’m a vegetarian. People are usually incredulous, say things like “not even a little bit?” and–my favorite–“Aren’t you curious??”, as though I’m likely to just, you know snap out of it and say “YES! O Perfect Stranger, I had never even considered the thought. I am now an omnivore.” I usually just ask them “Have you ever wanted to eat a shit sandwich*? What, aren’t you curious?” That usually shuts them up.

*I don’t mean to imply that I think omnivores eat shit, only that meat is just as unappetizing to me due to a life-long aversion.

It’s so interesting how diets/regimens of abstinence are taken as inherent judgment of others instead of as a personal choice. If you don’t have sex, you must think others are sluts. If you don’t eat animals, you must think others are barbarians. If you don’t drink alcohol, you must think others are drunks.
The perception of judgment seems more prevalent than those who actually are judge-y abstainers!

I get that all the time. I’m pescatarian but usually say vegetarian since I’m really particular about what seafood I do eat (it’s a whole thing with sustainability and brain structure). I’m seeing my boyfriend’s mom this weekend and I’ve already warned him that the gloves will come off if she (for the third time) pressures me about not eating meat. She’s now twice stated that God wants me to eat meat and that the bible says we should eat meat. So far I’ve just said “that’s not my interpretation. These potatoes are delicious!” but she’ll get a diatribe on all the parts of the bible I know she doesn’t follow if she does it a third time.

I will admit though, I have inquired, if a friend says they don’t drink, if they know about the nonalcoholic lounge in my area that a lot of 20some AA members go to for open mic nights and such. I might stop doing that now that I realize it might come off wrong…

I think it depends on how you phrase it. There is a pretty big difference between “Did you know there is such a thing as a bar for non-drinkers?” and “Have you ever been the the AA lounge?” I personally would be interested in checking out a nonalcoholic lounge, so I don’t think there’s any harm in mentioning it.

As for boyfriend’s mom, good luck. I’d be stumped after “I’m pretty sure God isn’t really concerned with what I’m eating for dinner.”

I don’t drink, and I find it interesting how many people demand that I explain that choice even if it’s, say, the middle of a party, and I don’t know them. I should start demanding that strangers explain why they do drink. People are very unnerved by those who make choices out of the norm, even if I don’t draw attention to it, judge others, or make a big deal out of it. Often, I will get fun mocktails if I’m out somewhere swanky with friends, so people probably don’t even notice, but when they do, man, it can be a big deal. Due to the fact that I don’t need a drink to be the center of attention, my close friends always say, “If you ever, ever decide to drink, I NEED to be there to witness it.” When I was a senior in high school, I was in Spain with a good friend and we shared a glass of sangria; I think that is one of her shining moments to this day. haha. It was my first and only drink. She still brings it up 10 years later, like Yes! I corrupted you.

Thank you so much for this!

I constantly get asked why I’m not drinking (though not so much now that I’m pregnant!). Its almost as if it is a default switch for some people.

First of all – the hangovers are getting worse. As I make my way through my mid-30s, a hangover that used to last a morning now lasts a weekend.

Secondly – the cost! Seriously it adds so much to your budget as well as other issues of having to get taxis home.

Thirdly – you know what? Sometimes I just don’t feel like it. I just don’t feel that every social occasion requires me to drink. If you don’t have juice or softdrink, I’m good with a water. I’m not high maintenance about it!

You’re very welcome :)

The cost of alcohol is my trump card when our TV hating friends start giving us crap for paying for satellite channels. In every case, we spend less on TV than they do on a month’s worth of drinks with dinner.

Good wishes on your pregnancy.

(BTW, what does Borogirl mean?)

I think at some point around high school people realize that alcohol’s an easy thing to socialize around– not just due to the chemical effects, but it’s an easily shared topic that lends itself to personal anecdotes in situations where people otherwise might not have much in common. But eventually that crutch needs to be grown out of: after college, the “oh, you like beer? I like beer!” conversations get pretty trite, and the bar for funny stories hopefully rises a higher than just “someone was drunk at the time.” (Though to be honest, I got really into drink mixing and inventing drinks for people is one of my favorite ways to entertain myself at a party, so it always threw me off if someone didn’t want one. But now I know how to make my own simple syrups and a bunch of mocktails so no one’s safe.)

I’ve gone through phases where had to avoid drinking in party situations for various health concerns, or just being up to my ass in schoolwork, and it made me realize that I only really like my friends if they can still entertain me when there’s an imbalance of drunkenness. People who are genuinely honest and uninhibited usually don’t undergo a huge personality shift either way once they start drinking; it’s often the passive-aggressive ones who turn into assholes if you don’t want to partake, it’s like they think booze is a truth serum that you’re refusing after everyone else has already taken a dose. If a party is only fun because there’s booze there, it probably isn’t a fun party.

I don’t “not drink,” but I very rarely drink “out.” At house parties or small things where I’m probably crashing in the same place I’m drinking, I don’t mind doing it, but I rarely drink at dinners and never have more than one drink, if that, in a bar. I just don’t. Usually I’m driving or just don’t want to be drunk around a lot of other drunk people (I’d MUCH rather be the sober person in a room of drunk people…I just feel safer that way).

But yeah, I get a lot of shit for it, especially from people who’ve been around me when I am drinking and can’t fathom that it might be situation-specific.

I partied and drank a lot in college (like everybody else) and now I’m just over it so I don’t really drink. I’ll have it here and there but its just not important to me. Plus booze is expensive and I have to be a real adult and use my money for other things.

I had one guy at work ask me if I was an alcoholic when I told him I don’t really drink. I wanted to punch him for being stupid

It can be obnoxious – I really don’t like sloppy drunks. Funny story, the first time Mr.B asked me out on a real live date, I said no thanks. When he asked why, I told him that he drank a lot more than I was comfortable with (Which was the nicest way I could think of to say that he was an obnoxious drunk). I would never be the kind of person who says “I’ll date you if you do such-and-such,” but he thought about it for a while, cut back on the drinking and tried again a few months later. The rest is history.
As for other people, I usually keep conversations short and light to avoid drunken philosophizing. Since I’m old and cranky, I’m usually ready to go home while everyone is still in the “happy drunk” stage.

That’s amazing that he was willing to do that. Typically I don’t have an issue at parties, because I also usually go home early, but my most recent ex was much more of a lightweight than I am (and I’m a pretty big lightweight), so even 1 drink would get him obnoxious/annoying/philosophizing drunk. I really didn’t like going out for drinks with him on dates, because I knew that unless I had twice as many as he did I would just end up dealing with someone who was annoying the crap out of me, and I never actually wanted to drink that much.

I don’t drink for one simple reason: migraine triggers.

It’s not much of an issue now as I inch toward my forties, but I’ve never been particularly self-conscious about it. Granted, people tend to be more understanding if you have a medical excuse for not drinking.


Any little sip of alcohol will trigger a nasty migraine within 24 hours. This wasn’t the case until a few years ago (I’ve had migraines since I was 7yo; I’m 28 now). It was a sad, sad day in my life. Anyway, yes, people are a lot more understanding when I chalk my non-drinking up to migraines, but I stay away from people drinking anyway because it makes me crave a drink. :-/

Have your migraines changed much, if at all, through the years (independent of alcohol)?

I really think it has A LOT to do with sociality. I tried to give up drinking last year (for two weeks) and the vibe I consistently got from my friends was that I was being a massive downer. Not so much at a party maybe, but if we all went to a bar or something and I said I wasn’t drinking the rest of them seemed to think they had to join me in my sobriety or risk being judged/shamed. Then they’d make me feel responsible for “ruining” their night, no matter how much I insisted that they all feel free to drink.

It’s the fear of the non-drinkers judging. Judging the drinking itself and the post-imbibing shenanigans. The feeling that the sober person at the party is just watching, making notes and judging. The other drunks around you aren’t going to judge, they are floating around in selfish buzz-bubbles, occasionally bumping into one another. The sober kids, though, they know. They care. They see. And they don’t seem like they’re having as much fun.

There’s a feeling of jealousy for the ones who don’t drink. Who maintain control. Complete and utter control. Because it’s this control that makes them better than you. More than you. Because you’ve got to have a drink to make the party better. To make the music appealing. To make the colors brighter. But not them. They can just sit and watch.

As I’ve gotten older and more comfortable with myself, I don’t actually think ANY of these things anymore. I get why people don’t like to or choose not to drink. I choose not to drink too, more often than not. But my young, drunk self really, actually did think these things. My young, drunk self was that girl who wanted EVERYONE to just have a drink in their hand. To do the shots when I was doing the shots.

I was obnoxious. I know better now.

As a grown-up and a less-drinker than I was, I get that, completely. I don’t judge either.

Just attempting some perspective from the drinking, pushy side of the equation. I would have wanted you to have fun (my selfish version of what fun was) and I didn’t want you to judge me for my drunken stupidity, since you’re smart enough to not drink and stay in control. And I wanted to be smart enough and confident enough to not drink and stay in control.

I think a lot of it was simple immaturity and lack of acceptance of my own choices. As Cinnamon said in response to someone else below,

“I’ll never understand why some people think that other people’s choices are a reflection on or judgment about theirs. It’s really self-centered behavior”

Which is truth. Hardcore truth.

Amen sisters.

I’ve noticed that in some people it is a subconscious fear of judgement, while in others it is more like incomprehension. They really like to drink and can’t understand how others might not. I feel the same way when someone says they don’t like chocolate. Part of respects that different people have different tastes, but part of me is just boggling at “How is that even possible?”

ugh, it’s not as much of an issue for me now, but a few years ago I decided to cut back on drinking and my friends freaked out. They were actually really kind of assholes about it. I have a huge problem with it. People were the same way when I was experimenting with cutting out different foods to see if it had an effect on clearing up my skin. You would think I had said, “I actually am going to quit being fun forever,” rather than, “I think I’m going to quit drinking/eating sugar/dairy for a few weeks to see how it goes.” ugh.

I don’t drink either – just don’t like the taste of alcohol or how my body feels when I do. It is such a simple preference, like how my husband doesn’t eat broccoli. Yet, it is such an ISSUE when I’m out socializing. Never understood the hysteria.

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