“What I Wish I Could Tell People Who Ask Why I Don’t Drink” was originally published on The Mighty.
“What, you don’t drink? Why not?”
Whenever I tell someone I don’t drink, I always get the same responses.
“Are you an alcoholic?”
“You’re not judging us for drinking, are you?”
Then, there’s the ones I don’t hear. I’m a loser. I’m not fun to be around.
I’ve heard that question more times than I care to remember. Yet, every single time I hear it, I respond with the same few lines.
“Oh, I just don’t like the taste.”
“I have a prescription that won’t let me drink.”
What I wish I could tell them was the truth. I don’t judge them, and I’m not an alcoholic. I haven’t gone to a luxury drug rehab. It’s nothing like that, but alcohol has been the constant element in almost every major catastrophe in my life. It is the thread that strings together most of the tragedies I’ve experienced. What I wish I could tell them is I grew up watching my mother die a little more each day to alcoholism. I wish I could tell them all the times I had to walk five miles to school because my mother was too drunk to drive. I wish I could them how my family fell apart because of alcohol.
I wish I could tell them about how terrifying it is to wake up to the police breaking the windows of your house to get inside. They were looking for my brother, who had broken into a house down the road after he had driven home drunk and become lost. As much as I wish I could, there’s no way to explain to someone what it feels like to watch your brother be arrested in front of you.
I wish I could explain without the stigma and without people fearing I’m judging them.
What I wish I did when someone confronts me about not drinking is explain to them alcohol isn’t always fun. It can be, but it also can mean something different to everyone. For some of us, it is trauma and it is heartbreak. I wish I could explain without the stigma and without people fearing I’m judging them.
For now, though, I’ll just be the designated driver.