It's Fine If You Don't Drink, But Don't Be Too Against It On Principle
The point this article is not to say you should drink, or that you have to drink to do better socially. You don't. Lots of people aren't big on alcohol and that's fine. In fact, here are articles on how to have a social life without alcohol and how to avoid getting hassled to join in when you're out with people who are drinking.
I wrote this article to discuss how some people think about the concept of drinking, and how I don't think you should have an overly negative, uptight attitude toward it.
When I look through the trusty forums on shyness and social skills that give me so many article ideas, a fairly common view I see expressed is a dislike toward drinking alcohol. Recurring themes:
- "Drinking sucks."
- "I'm glad I don't drink."
- "People who drink are vacuous morons."
- "Most people's idea of having a good time is to go to a house party, get smashed, then brag about how much they threw up the next day."
- "I don't have friends because I don't want to go out and be a drunk loser every weekend."
- "Drunk people are annoying idiots."
- "Bars, clubs, and parties suck."
- "It bugs me that everyone seems to drink, and thinks something is wrong with you if you don't."
The idea of drinking really seems to hit a nerve in some people. It can be a lightning rod for various bitter feelings they have toward their peers, certain social groups, and mainstream society. The idea of getting drunk can seem to represent everything that's wrong with other people and their priorities, and how they, a non-drinker, are totally different and separate from them.
There are also socially awkward people who have a neutral stance on drinking, whether they do it or not. And we can't forget the ones who use drinking as a crutch to give them courage in social situations. Some of them rely on it so much they become borderline alcoholics by the time they're twenty. But this article isn't about them. It's about the people who I feel are a little too harsh in their stance toward drinking, to the point where their overly hostile attitude may be costing them some social opportunities and causing them to unnecessarily feel resentful and alienated.
Drinking isn't inherently bad
People's grandparents drink. Someone's mom might have a glass of wine after work. Plenty of respected and accomplished artists, world leaders, and businessmen drink. It's an obvious point, that there's nothing wrong with just consuming alcohol. Sometimes you can think of drinking, any kind of drinking, as being more lowbrow or sinister than it is. There's nothing all that bad about it by default. It's more to do with how you go about it.
Drinking can become associated with other negative things
Many people were more wary toward the concept of drinking when they were younger. I think part of this is due to the meaning alcohol has when you're underage. If a thirty-five-year-old has a beer with dinner, it means very little. But illegally drinking at fifteen has all this baggage attached to it, which has nothing to do with what drinking itself is like. What if you parents catch you? Are you comfortable breaking the law? If you turn down a drink will you get a reputation as a goody goody and not be invited to any more parties?
In this article I discuss a variety of ways people may think they don't like something, when their reasons don't really have to do with the thing itself. For example, someone may decide they don't like drinking because they resent the types of people who are into getting wasted, or since they went to party once and didn't enjoy themselves because they were too shy to talk to anyone.
Of course, drinking does have drawbacks
Alcohol can cause all kinds of problems when taken too far, either in the short or long term. I'm not trying to sugarcoat its pitfalls. There are the big ones: Alcoholism, destroyed families, chronic health problems, drunk driving accidents, alcohol poisoning, sexual assaults, fights, increased crime, risky sex, dangerous behavior, and property damage.
There are the little downsides: Feeling like crap the next day, throwing up, wasting too much of your money, saying stupid things you later regret, getting in arguments with your friends, breaking stuff, losing your phone, spilling wine on your carpet, hooking up with people you'd never be with sober, getting pale and chubby after two semesters, having to put up with drunk idiots when you're out, and overall making dumb decisions. The weird thing is that some people come to see these mishaps as part of drinking's charm.
Most of the time nothing goes wrong when you drink
Overall, drinking is hardly perfect. Still, I don't think that just because the above things happen to some people who drink, or that they may happen to you, that's a reason to never drink at all. Most of the time when people drink nothing all that bad happens. The alcohol has its effects. Then it wears off, with no missing teeth or car accidents or anything. For most people, if something does go wrong, it's usually from that second, inconvenient, category. Maybe someone makes a bunch of corny drunken jokes they'll cringe thinking about later. Some drinkers do turn into dangerous walking disasters whenever they sip as much as a wine cooler, but I'd say they're the exception.
People will have a beer or two on a weekend afternoon while watching television in their apartment, or nurse a scotch with dinner. They'll go to a pub with some friends and share a pitcher as they talk. They'll grab a rum and coke or two from the bar while seeing a concert. They'll go out with some friends and get drunk at a club, but not to a point that everyone getting home safe and sound is ever a concern.
There are different levels of drinking
Another one of those obvious things I like to write. Sometimes when you think of "drinking", your mind automatically jumps to an image of a wobbling, stinkingly drunk lummox puking in an alley. There are different degrees of drinking and most of them aren't as bad:
- Doing it mainly to enjoy the taste of a particular drink
- Drinking to get a small buzz
- Getting a decent buzz
- Getting mildly drunk
- Getting really drunk
- Getting blackout drunk
Not all drinking equals getting completely plastered. It could just mean having a good glass of wine to compliment your meal, or having a few beers to cool off at your cottage. You may have some drinks with your friends at a bar to make the conversation that little bit more lively. You may go to a party and drink just enough to maintain a happy buzz, but not go beyond that. In moderation alcohol isn't too terrible.
Most people behave when they're drunk
If you watched a random group of friends while they were all drunk at a bar what you'd likely see are a bunch of people being a little silly, loud, and sloppy, but overall acting like they normally would. They're just doing the usual things: Talking, joking around, dancing, listening to the music, playing a game or two of pool. Their conversation is more disjointed and goofy than usual, but they're still talking about typical stuff like work and relationships. No one else at the venue is glaring at them and wishing they'd leave. At about 2am they all decide they're tired and walk home. That's it. No one gets into a fistfight or tosses a garbage can through a store's window.
Yeah, there are times when drinking too much is a liability. I know plenty of people who have done some pretty destructive or hurtful things. I'd be lying if I said that didn't happen, but getting wasted doesn't always mean someone becomes evil. If you go out to a bar or party, most of the drunk people will be acting a little harmlessly obnoxious, if that, but nothing too serious.
Drinking has its positive aspects as well
Again, this isn't to say you have to drink, but another way alcohol isn't that bad is that it does have its positive qualities. Some people don't like to hear that, but it's true. Why else would it be such a common pastime? Some people are also against the idea in principle of having fun by altering their thinking with a chemical, but I don't have a problem with it.
- The drinks themselves often tate good, not even considering the mental effects. It's definitely an acquired taste with some of them, but once you're used to it you can enjoy a dark, bitter beer or a glass of good vodka.
- Drinking can lower your inhibitions and dull feelings of nervousness. It's common practice for people to have a drink or two to get themselves into a social or dancing mood more quickly than if they had worked up the nerve themselves. I think in moderation, and if someone isn't using it as a crutch, it's alright.
- Feeling buzzed is fun. It changes your mental state in a subjectively relaxing, entertaining way. There's a sweet spot though. Drink too much and the bad effects outweigh the good. Drink too chronically and the good also starts to drop out of the picture.
- Drinking can make other people more fun, within reason. It's a combination of you seeing them as more amusing, and the alcohol bringing out certain parts of their personality.
- Being a bit buzzed can also make different activities, like dancing, more enjoyable.