I was a freshman in high school when I first encountered alcohol. I’d heard about my friends drinking, obviously, but I’d never been in the presence of it without my parents. A little backstory about me, though: I kind of thought I would drink a lot in high school. I may have mentioned it on here before, but I was the mean girl in middle school–not in that I was an actual bully or I was actually a mean person, but every middle school had a group of girls who for some reason commanded the attention of the rest of the students and for some reason that was me and my friends. We were a tight-knit group, and didn’t really do anything to counteract how exclusive we were. I’m not proud of it, but I also can’t really change it, and also I’m still friends with kind of a lot of people from my middle school, so I guess I was nice enough to still talk to eight years later.
I was popular and expected to be so in high school, which I was, to some extent. When I was fourteen, though, I thought being popular meant that I was going to drink a lot. After all, I grew up in a household where my parents often had wine with dinner and my brother and I knew where all the alcohol was even though neither of us touched it. I think this is a huge credit to my parents–they never outright said that they forbid us from drinking, after all, the drinking age was 18 when they were kids, but they just sort of didn’t say it was bad or all that interesting so my brother and I steered clear. Then I think I got a little scared. Cut to New Year’s Eve, my freshman year of high school and rumors swirled around the party that someone had brought alcohol. My friends and I obviously gossipped about it the whole party, but somehow avoided being asked if we wanted any to drink or anything like that. It’s really weird thinking about that party, now. My friend’s parents were home at the party we were at and also we all had to leave our shoes and our purses upstairs, so it’s kind of a miracle that any alcohol made it to the basement. I still remember me and one of my best friends since basically birth, Kathy, were getting picked up from the party by my parents and we were both waiting and both decided that we would just tell my parents what had happened at the party before we got in trouble for not telling them.
We piled in my parent’s car and I said, proudly, “Just so you know and you hear it from me, there was alcohol at the party, but we didn’t drink anything.” My parents, I think, were a little surprised, I mean, how weird that their fourteen year old daughter was acting surprisingly mature. Honestly, it’s probably the most mature I’ve ever been in my life and that makes little to no sense, but whatever.
I don’t tell this story to say that I’m cool or better than anyone or anything like that. Quite the opposite, I’m pretty sure. This night set me up to be a little afraid of alcohol for the rest of my life. About two months after this party, unfortunately, my oldest brother passed away and I spent three days watching his body deteriorate. I spent most of high school using this as the reason that I didn’t want to drink–once you had seen someone’s kidneys and liver and lungs and everything shut down, I thought it didn’t really make sense to intentionally put something in your body that could speed that process up. I still sort of stand by that, but also, I had no idea what alcohol would do to anyone and the amount that most people were drinking really would not have had any lasting effects on them. I went through the rest of high school and went to a lot more parties and as we all got older, there was, of course, more and more alcohol to be found at every single party. I literally don’t know how I did it–maybe because I was less a mean girl and more the girl that was friends with everyone without dealing with the drama that went along with being a mean/popular girl–but I made it through my entire high school experience without a single drop of alcohol drunk.
I was definitely proud of myself, and looking back, I 100% thought I was better than everyone else for doing that. I’d had countless friends who had their stomach pumped or had terrible nights with little to no memory or just stupid events happen because they were drunk, much like normal teenagers.
I had my first real sip of alcohol when I was 18, I believe. Clearly if I don’t know exactly how old I was when I first drank, you can tell that alcohol isn’t really that important to me. I think I was heading in to my freshman year of college and for some reason was just okay with drinking now. A couple of my best friends who had made it through high school with me without drinking were now drinking and I guess I thought it was my time to do so. But, here’s another little glimpse into my weird, messed up relationship with drinking–I first drank at a friend’s wine and cheese party. We were so bougie and privileged and it was so weird. In the first year that I “started drinking”, I think I drank maybe four times? Maybe less?
So, I got to college, and again, ended up with a group of friends who didn’t really drink at all, until my junior year when we were all turning 21. Then we wouldn’t stop drinking. Every single one of our activities revolved around drinking–this is more dramatic than it sounded. It basically just meant everyone had at least three bottles of liquor at their apartment at all times so we were always drinking when we were over at other people’s places and also we went in search of happy hours galore, and basically were being just very “21”.
But, as I grew up, I also ran into some people who had had issues with alcohol. Real issues. The kind of issues that made me even more scared to drink. Also, I’m a control freak and always compared being drunk to losing control, so obviously I was never going to be an excessive drinker. And I never have been. I’ve been drunk maybe four times in my life and I simply hated it each time. But everyone around me got drunk and drank a lot and had a great time, like normal college students and adolescents and their all fine.
So, why am I telling you all of this? Why do I think I’m special? Why is this important?
I’m telling you this to say that I’m a normal college student and I did normal college things, I just did most of them sober. And yes, a lot of that was fear fueled and kind of general disinterest in being drunk, but a lot of it was also wanting to enjoy everything that I did. I’m still a person that won’t do something unless she really wants to, and for some reason my brain just doesn’t care about alcohol. I like drinking beer and I like drinking wine and I like drinking cocktails, but why do those things mean that I have to like getting super hot and getting dizzy and standing up and feeling like my knees were screwed on backwards? Honestly what about being drunk is fun?
Maybe my body just knows I don’t want to get drunk so any time I do, it just instantly rejects the idea and makes everything terrible. Or maybe I would really like getting drunk if I got used to it, but also who wants to get used to being drunk?
I’m not saying these things to say that my way is the best way or the right way or anything in between. I just mean it’s my way and maybe someone out there also feels like this, too. And maybe I’m sick of people judging me for not drinking a lot or for thinking that I’m judging them for drinking a lot. Here’s what I say: drink as much as you want, but don’t make someone feel bad for drinking less than you, or don’t drink at all, but never make someone feel bad for drinking more than you.
Just be nice to each other, and remember that you can live forever without drinking and still have a damn good time, and while I’m not that straight edge, I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing and that’s really all anyone can ask for.