The Myth of Sober Non-Acceptance
“Oh, I could never ‘not’ drink in front of my friends.”
I cannot begin to tell you how many people I know actually think that. They get to a point in life where maybe they feel like reevaluating their relationship with alcohol, but for one reason or another, they don’t feel comfortable taking the next step of hitting ‘pause.’
I get it. I was that person at 18. (Yes, I may have fractured an occasional underage drinking law in my youth.) When I would go out with my friends, who are still my friends by the way, most of what we did revolved around drinking. Whether it was a spirited game of Three Man, The Pyramid, Up and Down the River, Suck and Blow (one of my personal fav’s), or even just Yard Glass Races, our lives were intertwined by libations.
But then around my 19th birthday, I started seeing some things that bugged me. Most of my friends were happy drinkers, but a few weren’t. And when they would drink too much, they would get mean… and I don’t do mean. So one night, after a particularly nasty occurrence, I stopped drinking cold turkey (and Wild Turkey).
At first I didn’t say anything, and no one actually noticed. When they did, a kept it simple, but direct: “I’m not drinking for a while.
Their reaction: “Suit yourself.”
And do you know what changed with those friends? Not a damn thing… which I’m not sure I expected. I thought I’d get a little blowback, but apart from the occasional, “C’mon, have a beer ya skirt,” I was allowed to live my life the way I wanted. I still had an amazing time with them, still played the games with them, but I just didn’t imbibe.
And it was lovely.
I used be a pleaser by nature, sometimes to my own detriment. I would go out of my way to do everything I could for my friends and loved ones, and would sometimes even do the same for complete strangers… thinking that I had to make people happy for them to like me. And when I would finally get around to doing what I wanted to do for me, I would rarely have the time or energy to fulfill my own needs.
I resented the way I felt, and at first I was mad at the people I was serving. But the truth of the matter is that the resentment was misplaced. I discovered that the only one responsible for how I lived my life was me. It was a hard cold look in the mirror, but it was necessary to face my own shortcomings, and to evaluate what I needed in my life to live happily.
So when I began to put my own needs first, while still being conscious of the needs of others, it opened up a door to true joy. My nature didn’t necessarily change, but my priorities did… and it was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.
At 19, I needed to stop drinking for a while, and one of the most wonderful by-products of that decision was that I found that my friends dug me for who I was, not because I could bong 6 beers in 15 seconds.
This is all to say that for the most part, we are the ones who put the most pressure on us. Real friends genuinely don’t care if we drink or not. And if the folks you are hanging out with pressure you or shun you because you’re not keeping up with the alcohol-Jones’, then are they the people you really want to hang with?
Your life is not their life to live… not at 19, not at 49, not ever.