I never really liked alcohol and partying which seemed all the other young kids ever did when they first hit puberty. So, of course, I kept this statement to myself most of the time. It wasn’t looked kindly upon from any side.
To say I was confused about this unanimous ritual among my peers is an understatement. I’ve never felt the need for alcohol or getting wasted; my brain is my most treasured quality, I’d never want to sedate it like that! Besides, I’m too physically sensitive regarding alcohol; I get too tired too quickly or just get silly in a way I don’t like. Yes, for a moment I just don’t give a damn which can be freeing, but I’ll never allow myself to get entirely wasted, thus I do remember what I said and did while intoxicated and I just don’t recognize myself. I feel ashamed. I’m not totally opposed to alcohol and can enjoy regulated amounts when the occasion calls for it, so I have been slightly intoxicated but never drunk as a skunk; reeling and puking and waking up with a hangover and no memory of the night before. I’m utterly repelled by the thought of going through that. Of course, some would argue that being slightly intoxicated ‘unfortunately’ means one remembers ‘last night’ and how one behaved – and who would want that? Well, if ‘getting fucked’ is the only point of drinking I pity you, but I do not blame you nor do I want to moralize about individual choices. I can only speak for myself, where that places individuals who dare oppose such ‘rituals’ and what I see as a larger, societal problem – at least, in my country – but I’ll get to that in a bit.
I like to believe I can have fun without intoxicants. Normally, at parties, I prefer observing and participating with a clear head and I can still have a great time. However, I never was a party animal; I can only manage for so long. Being an introvert it is quite draining to be social, no matter what. I’ve felt the need to forget about life and its worries, but never with alcohol. I’ve never felt the need to let loose like that. And I do not need alcohol to disappear; I just go into my head, use my imagination. I can get drunk on music, books, films, art, good conversations, etc. and the only kind of true hangovers I have are these ones.
Not to mistake this with a ‘holier-than-thou’-attitude, but I simply cannot understand the incessant need my peers have for the kind of oblivion that involves walking in a constant alcohol-induced fog – without thinking at all! I get that it is the most common option for having fun, but I can’t help finding it somewhat problematic that so many find it so necessary to let loose like that so often. Why is that? Are they too worked-up by worries and problems in their daily lives, of always presenting the best version of themselves, always performing to the fullest, too insecure, too many expectations to live up to? Well, I get that, since that is our currently fawlty society in a nutshell, and I don’t see myself without worries and insecurities either, but again, I’ve never felt the need to drown my sorrows. Maybe I just haven’t lived a full life (well, I am only 25), maybe I don’t have the great need for socializing in the first place, maybe I’ve been fortunately spared from most sorrows in life, maybe I’m just so lucky to be content with other ways of ‘intoxicating’ myself without the help of alcohol and drugs. Maybe it’s just that.
But it still baffles me that people say they drink to loosen up, open up, be social, have fun and, well, get laid, when too often afterwards they complain and regret time and time again having done all this while being drunk, because it rarely was the outcome they’d wanted. If they even remember what they did to the persons around them, that is. I’ve witnessed many shrugging off that paricular aspect with frightening frequency. As long as they had fun. Didn’t they …?
Sure, alcohol loosens the tongue, but I’ve seen very different types of drunks, up-close even, and not every person benefits from having their tongue loosened. I’ve seen otherwise lovable, sweet people turn into ugly, sneering, bitter people, too depended on their drink and too oblivious about those around them and the subtle hurt they inflict on them by ‘opening up’ and become careless. Boy, the list of things I’ve witnessed and overheard in my young life-time: Broken arms, cracked skulls, ruined livers, young kids dragging their drunk parents home, others finding themselves abandoned by the road and nearly asphyxiating in their own vomit, and some close-to-irrevocable consequences for generations to come following intense drinking binges and escapades among grown-up school mates and friends. And this isn’t even the worst on the list.
And here I wonder: Is that really the price to pay? Should alcohol give cause to this? To so much damage? Some of those former ‘drinking buddies’ argued that smoking was more dangerous or that getting hit by a car was a more likely cause of death than alcohol. Sure, I thought listening to their unsurprisingly unanimous rant. But weren’t they overlooking the giant elephant in the room?
The gulf between me and everybody else on this subject sometimes seems so great. I’ve only met a few people who felt the same way as I did and even they were reluctant to admit it and stand by it when they were at parties with friends. Because we still want to be there; at the parties – with our friends! (No matter what I say about partying not being my nirvana, I don’t necessarily despise it either). We just don’t like not getting to choose or being judged or shunned by standing by our choices. We too want to enjoy ourselves and party – just without alcohol. It is possible, you know. And we don’t want to ban all alcohol, simply because we say ‘no‘ to alcohol. We just want the right to choose. Just like everyone else.
In my country, alcohol is so integrated in basically every tradition, festivity and celebration across all generations with great historical resonance, equalling coziness and good times, that saying ‘no’ to it is extremely taboo – and I’m not understating this. You cannot have a festivity here without having a drink! Alcohol is simply a part of the community. And if you say ‘no’ to alcohol, in some sense, you say ‘no’ to be a part of the community.
It is a severe problem that young kids (and we’re talking down to 12-year-olds) think the only way of letting loose, having fun and get together is through alcohol and they begin to drink often and heavily all through their teen years and well into their 20s and even 30s. And when those who say a single ‘no’ this one time are more or less regarded as freaks…
How misguided is that?!
I’m not kidding. I’ve experienced first-hand, again and again and again, from schoolmates to family, friends, colleagues, even total strangers etc..
The people of my country are generally very liberal and relaxed about things many countries would go off the deep end about, that’s sorta the way we roll, but there’s a catch to this, of course. If you resist the rituals contained to this relaxed culture, you are already ostracized even if you try to moderately and politely participate. Even those who say it’s entirely okay not wanting to drink (the typical response, besides ‘Whaaat?!’. As if I needed their permission in the first place!), I see it in their eyes and behavior that they’re not used to people actually saying ‘no’ to alcohol. (You should see when you say no to cake or sweets … It’s like you’ve suddenly grown a second head or something). That I’m regarded as somewhat of a prude, that I’m not a risk-taker, that I do not allow myself to have fun or want to join the community. Really? Because I said ‘no’ once or twice? Because I simply don’t fancy alcohol all that much I’m suddenly a anti-social prude who can’t have fun? Only those who don’t know you would say something as careless as that. And you suddenly realize just how important alcohol is to so many people when you meet this reaction again and again. Suddenly, the oh-so-celebrated liberal-mindedness becomes a bit hypocritical.
There’s a lot of (unspoken) peer pressure going on in every generation concerning this. It’s funny to see how other countries make it out as such a big deal when it happens, whereas in my country it’s totally taken for granted and laughed at when studies show just how much we drink. Parents often encourage their kids to drink because it’s already so heavily integrated in family and holiday gatherings in the first place. It’s sickening! And when it becomes a part of the sense of community, a cultural ritual, it is so much harder to let go off. If we had been talking about a religious ritual it would have seemed less significant and scandalous to refuse because our country is already so secularized. But this is a highly socially integrated ritual and not as easy and legitimate to excuse yourself from.