on not drinking: alcohol and self-fulfilling prophecies

Back in April, I wrote a blog post about gray area drinking, drinking that isn’t ‘troubling’ or dangerous by official standards, but that can nonetheless have negative impacts on individuals. To revisit that, I’m talking today about my experience this past month not drinking.

Some of the conversations I’ve been following on this issue (EDIT Podcast, @tellbetterstories2018, and @drybeclub to name a few) have been really motivating and empowering. In a way, they’ve given me ‘permission’ not to drink in a world where drinking seems unavoidable.

This experience has been going very well so far. Although I was drinking (minimally) earlier this year, it has been amazing not to deal with any hangovers on the weekends, and not to be wasting time on any other physical or emotional side effects of alcohol. It has also saved me money, especially in a city like Washington DC, where drinks are not cheap.


photo by Russ


going out and not drinking

It has also been fairly easy to go out and not drink. In just the past month or so, I’ve been really surprised at the number of events I’ve gone to where I didn’t drink, almost everyone around me was drinking, and it simply wasn’t “a thing.” I went to a baseball game one beautiful spring afternoon and got no comments at all about the fact that I was the only one without a beer in my hand. I was at the Embassy Chef Challenge not drinking and at a friend’s housewarming party sipping sparkling water the whole time, and no one questioned this.

self-fulfilling prophecies and alcohol

This was so refreshing, encouraging and such a departure from the pressure I have felt from people to drink in the past. I wondered why that was. What was it about these times that was different? I think it had a lot to do with my own level of comfort and security surrounding that decision. I walked into all of these situations knowing that I wasn’t going to drink and not being open to changing my decision. Honestly, I didn’t really think much about it in any of these circumstances until now, as I’m writing this.

I think that is key: not placing too fine a point on alcohol, who’s drinking, whether or not it is “needed,” and how people will react if you choose not to participate. When we have this idea in our heads that alcohol is so important, and everyone will notice and think something is wrong with us if we don’t drink, we’re bringing that story to life. This isn’t our fault when we are constantly bombarded with information reinforcing this story (that drinking equals enjoyment, relaxation, and so much more), but it is our job to think critically about the messages we receive about alcohol.

when people do notice

Most of the time, people aren’t thinking too much about what others are doing, but sometimes they do take notice.

I was at an art gallery opening a couple weekends ago, and my friend and I were talking to a group of guys there. One of them noticed that I was not holding a drink in my hand and was very insistent on getting me one. We quickly realized that the bar at the event had closed, but I wondered what would have happened. I didn’t really feel the need to announce to this random person “I don’t drink,” or even “I’m not drinking tonight,” although I could have gone that route. I was planning on ordering a sparkling water from the bar and letting that decision speak for itself. Given how presumptuous he was that everyone drinks and that I “needed” a drink, I was bracing myself for some reaction from him.

curiosity versus condemnation

If people ask me with a genuine curiosity why I don’t drink, I am happy to discuss and open up a potentially interesting and productive conversation. I touched on some reasons in my last post on this topic, and really, it’s quite simple – the downfalls outweigh the benefits for me.

On some occasions, this why question is delivered with a note of aggression, or shock, or some other sort of snideness. It’s hard to know how to respond in these cases. I don’t want to be preachy or judgemental (and I don’t think I am), but I also don’t want to “justify” something that’s actually a positive health choice. I don’t feel the need to defend going to yoga, for instance.

it’s not personal

For now, I think one way to deal with the occasional negative response is to realize that it probably has much more to do with that person and how they might feel threatened or insecure or whatever. This doesn’t only apply to peoples’ opinions about alcohol – it’s not always (and usually isn’t) personal.

Have you ever tried to or do you navigate the #drylife? Know anyone who does? I would love to hear from you.

– la fille americaine



2 thoughts on “on not drinking: alcohol and self-fulfilling prophecies”

  1. I’m also not one to drink, but always buys a beer nonetheless in gatherings because I thought it was ‘polite’. At first it was so awkward being the only one ordering water during dinner with friends! But so glad to read your post and actually realize that it’s okay :)x

    1. Glad it was helpful 🙂 and it is totally OK! I have definitely felt that before and ordered drinks to appease or be polite. Good for you for standing your ground with the water… it isn’t always easy to do! xx

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