If you had asked me as a child, or even as a young teenager if I ever thought I would drink, my answer would have been “No.” I came from a family of people who out right opposed alcohol due to direct family members on both my mother and father’s sides who had died due to alcohol/drug use, including my father’s biological father. Growing up, I saw alcohol as something I never even wanted to do, I had no desire to even try it. It was not that I despised alcohol or thought less of people who drank it, at that time, for myself at least, I simply thought I would never want it in my life.
I still remember my first drink, and I regret how I handled myself when I started to drink. I was only a few weeks into my freshman year of college and through some ongoing circumstances that I had been dealing with over the last several years, along with new pressures of college I found myself sitting in the middle of my college campus, on a bench, at close to midnight. I was in a bad place personally and I felt so lost and had no idea what I wanted to do or even what I should do. My friends found me and dragged me to their house right on the edge of campus where I just sat on their front porch and cried. Then they handed me a drink which I at first said I didn’t want. But after a while with their constant prodding, I felt that I couldn’t say no. They convinced me that it would help and so I had my first drink at a point in time where I hated everything about myself. And that situation influenced my drinking habits for the next few years. I drank because I didn’t like myself. I drank to avoid my life and avoid facing the world. Through that freshman year I drank several times a week and by my sophomore year I can really only remember a few days that I was not drinking. And, I would honestly say that I am lucky I was able to stop and find myself in a place where I did not ever feel like I had to drink, or that I craved to drink, because if I had, I am not sure where I would be now. I do not regret drinking on occasion now, what I regret is how I started drinking and how long I drank for the wrong reasons.
But why did I take up so much time to share this, because I always thought I would be sober, I never thought I would drink. And, I believe that abstaining is an important avenue for some people. It just becomes complicated when peer pressure and society come into play. Abstaining from drinking is something we accept on a surface level, but when it comes down to it, people are judged when they don’t participate in what everyone else is doing. When I had that first drink, I felt like I could not say no, and that is dangerous. We have to come up with ways for not drinking to be accepted.
I first thought of seeing what was out there in supporting people who are in recovering and trying to remain sober. The Recovery foundations network actually had 6 ways to help a loved one stay sober: https://www.foundationsrecoverynetwork.com/6-ways-help-someone-love-stay-sober/ Now I believe that while these are aimed at individuals who are recovering, they still frame the conversation in a light we should take to heart. They say to accept the person without judgement, this is important because why in the first place are we judging a person for not drinking? It should be a personal decision that peers do not force upon a person. There is also the focus on creating a substance-free environment. This can be so hard as even now alcohol is used at parties, business, tv shows, movies, music videos. Even at my college new alumni event right before I graduated (my college was a dry campus) all they served us to drink was sweet tea, beer, or wine. They didn’t even have water. What we need is a move towards not showcasing alcohol as the go to beverage of these industries, but instead chose a path that shows that there is a choice not to drink.
I remember an add I saw when I was in Uganda last month that said 0% alcohol, 100% fun. I tied to find a photo of it but sadly I could not. When I first saw it, I was thinking, “Oh this is cool, it’s showing an add that is promoting that you do not need to drink to have a good time. That is great!” I think that there could be a wonderful campaign using something like this to promote the idea of being sober and that you do not need to drink to have a good time. There could be the use, not only of social media, but of ambassadors and celebrities who already choose to have a sober life. It would provide a positive roll model people could turn to.
However, I recently discovered the new thing in the market. The 0% alcohol beers.
These are beers and other drinks, but, they have no alcohol in them. Personally, I am not sure if this is a step in the right direction and a way for people who do not drink to have less pressure on them within social environments where there is alcohol, or if it is increasing the pressure even more. I have included a few links about them though below: https://www.heineken.com/us/heineken00?gclid=
At the end of the day, I believe that choosing to drink should be a personal choice. You should never feel pressured to drink, but I think you should also be in an environment where you feel comfortable saying no. Nothing will change overnight, but we all need to stand and support people who chose to abstain so that the environment can be shifted.