Why I Don’t Drink Anymore

alcohol, abstaining from drinking, being drunk, wine and headaches

This is the bar in my home. I never drink anything, but it looks pretty.

My 21 year old son, who can sometimes surprise me with his level of maturity – I still think of him as a goofy 8 year old far too often – has opted out of a 21st birthday celebration in Las Vegas with some of his friends.

“I just can’t keep up with them,” he said.

At first I was dismayed – why would any fun-loving 21 year old man not want to go on a trip to Las Vegas – especially when the room is paid for? Having just spent his 21st birthday there, I thought he’d jump at the chance.

Then I realized – I would have done the same thing. Score one for the son. Though he likes to drink and party, he knows his limits, and these friends can party far longer and harder than he can.

It dawned on me that we have a lot in common. He likes to drink, but not like his friends do.

In my case, I don’t drink at all anymore.


Before we go any further, I must tell you that I have never had a drinking problem.

When I was around 16, my father began giving me a glass of wine at dinner on Sunday nights. Almaden, Mountain White Chablis.

drinking alcohol, abstaining from drinking, headaches from drinking wine, being drunk

This was the wine my father and I drank at dinner.

He felt it was important that I learned to drink responsibly. He obviously didn’t know that when I was 14 a bunch of my friends and I got blotto drunk (my first time) on vodka and Coke while watching “Night of the Living Dead” on TV.

Fun times.

There are a variety of reasons why I gave up alcohol. Primarily it’s because I don’t like the way I feel afterwards – drinking keeps me awake at night, it gives me headaches, and I get tired too quickly when I’m enjoying cocktails. Every so often I’ll have a glass of champagne or two, but for the most part, I stick with club soda and lime. That way it looks like I’m sipping on a drink.

What’s so surprising to me is how indignant friends and acquaintances become when I’m not drinking along with them at a party or when we’re out for dinner.

“What do you mean you don’t drink! Come on, have one!”
“We have to change that.”
“Are you ever going to drink with us again?”
“What’s wrong with you?”

Believe me, if I could drink, I would. If I wasn’t sure I would start drifting off in the middle of dessert, longing to be home and in bed, I would join in by ordering an Absolut® on the rocks with a lemon wedge (my long-time cocktail of choice) or two. I used to drink, pretty much whenever anyone else was drinking. But then, three years ago, I just stopped after one particularly awful night and morning after. I was done.

I wish I could enjoy a glass of wine or two without my head pounding afterwards. Wine, on every level, appeals to me – the discussion of the bottle to order, the big, sexy glasses, the delicious aromas, the dark red or pale yellow of the wine as it’s decanted and sipped. At the grocery store I sometimes walk down the wine aisle and admire the pretty labels, the great names of the wineries, and sigh a little. It looks good to me – it just doesn’t feel so great.

I don’t care if others drink. Why do they care if I do? I’m still witty and engaging (I think).

I don’t miss it at all, really.

Score one for me.

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42 Responses to Why I Don’t Drink Anymore
  1. Susan Bonifant
    August 1, 2013 | 7:27 am

    I know people who had to have way too many of those “awful nights and mornings” before they had your resolve. I also admire – REALLY admire – your son’s judgement at only 21 years old. So, nice job x two.
    Susan Bonifant recently posted..Some brides and their mothersMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      August 1, 2013 | 7:56 am

      Thanks Susan – his decision was a proud moment for me.

  2. Pam Houghton
    August 1, 2013 | 7:31 am

    Funny you should mention this. I don’t drink;neither does my husband. Not that we’re goody-two shoes – I surely had a similar experience at age 14 that you had and my husband was a, shall we say, rather experienced partier in college. But I think we both see the slippery slope with alcohol. It’s a little too easy to become dependent on it; and if you do make a habit of having a drink or two in the evenings, it just affects your motivation to, say, exercise. Not drinking does kind of limit your sociability though – so much of adult socializing revolves around drinks. Oh, well. Good thing I’m a quiet type.
    Pam Houghton recently posted..Anatomy of a tweetMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      August 1, 2013 | 7:56 am

      My husband still drinks, he very much enjoys a beer or scotch – and that’s just fine with me. But you’re right, so much socializing revolves around alcohol. I’ve just learned to enjoy myself without partaking.

  3. Valerie Rind
    August 1, 2013 | 7:51 am


    You wrote: “Every so often I’ll have a glass of champagne or two, but for the most part, I stick with club soda and lime. That way it looks like I’m sipping on a drink.”

    Peer pressure — still, in our 40s/50s!

    Good for your son for holding his ground.
    Valerie Rind recently posted..Why I Refuse to be the Co-Executor of Your WillMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      August 1, 2013 | 7:55 am

      Peer pressure AND it helps avoid the inevitable question of why I’m not drinking!

  4. Jeff
    August 1, 2013 | 8:21 am

    Alcohol is among of the grossest, crudest, and most toxic intoxicants known to man. It’s one of the only drugs that actually can cause brain damage..I consider it a hard drug. Unlike other popular intoxicants, (cannabis, opiates, stimulants, psychedelics), alcohol actually DOES cause brain damage. Even a junkie can live to 100 as long as he’s got his supply and doesn’t go get himself AIDS or something because opiates aren’t toxic (NOT that I advise anyone to mess with dangerous drugs), but an alcoholic will quickly kill his liver, rot his brain (alcohol induced dementia) and is responsible for tens of thousands of US traffic fatalities.

  5. Sandra Sallin
    August 1, 2013 | 8:39 am

    I think the diference with me these days is that I know my limits. I can drink or sip a little, but the minute I feel it I stop. It’s not worth the headache I feel afterwards.

    How mature is your son??? I’m impressed.
    Sandra Sallin recently posted..THIS BAND OF BLOGHERS ’13My Profile

  6. judy williamson
    August 1, 2013 | 9:27 am

    and don’t forget the expense of a glass or two with dinner…..for a half-filled glass…..
    in that case, the glass IS half empty!!
    It becomes a very expensive headache. I agree with you.

  7. Amanda Fox
    August 1, 2013 | 9:48 am

    OMG I could’ve written this post myself. My husband has never drank, but I used to enjoy a glass of wine or two when we’d go out. I don’t even do that anymore. You’re right, it makes me feel like crap. Not to mention I don’t need any more unwanted calories as I age. I’d rather pass up on alcohol than chocolate. ;) Great post!
    Amanda Fox recently posted..A Few Simple Questions Can Tell You A Lot About A PersonMy Profile

  8. Amanda Fox
    August 1, 2013 | 9:50 am

    Oh yeah, and my 20 year old son said the exact same words as yours – he can’t keep up with a lot of his friends. Now, mine is no angel, but he is starting to recognize that partying one’s life away is a total waste of time. Thank God. :)
    Amanda Fox recently posted..A Few Simple Questions Can Tell You A Lot About A PersonMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      August 1, 2013 | 10:39 am

      Mine’s no angel either – but at least he knows his limits, as yours does.

  9. Karen
    August 1, 2013 | 2:35 pm

    I drink from time to time, but most of the time I choose not to, mainly because it makes me feel queasy or sleepy, and I’d rather stay awake when I socialize! I’m really not sure why my choice not to drink much bothers my friends, either–somehow, it does seem to make some people uncomfortable, though.
    Karen recently posted..7 things I learned in high school that weren’t totally uselessMy Profile

  10. Carol Cassara
    August 1, 2013 | 2:42 pm

    I’ve gotten the same responses. I drink occasionally but I’ve never metabolized it well and don’t think it’s a big deal. But if I hear one more time “have a REAL drink” I’ll have it and pour it over the speaker’s head! (Ok not really, but in my fantasies…)
    Carol Cassara recently posted..Girly-girl post in which I review beauty boxes for both men & womenMy Profile

  11. KymberlyFunFit
    August 1, 2013 | 4:05 pm

    I have never like alcohol – beer, wine, liquor – none of it ever tempted me. I got drunk in middle school and hated it. Tried wine a few times. Hated it. Lived in Berlin for two years where beer is known to be Fiiiinne, Still hated it. So I am the designated driver, though not a party pooper! You and I can hang together at the next soiree and sip our infused water.
    KymberlyFunFit recently posted..Replace Health Cares with Healthy Habits (from BlogHer)My Profile

  12. Beverly Diehl
    August 1, 2013 | 4:15 pm

    The whole thing of people pressuring one another to eat or drink something is vulgar, IMO. I can’t stand coffee, and NO, I will not like it better if I try it with X, Y, or Z. It’s none of anybody else’s business WHY I am declining bread or meat or a dessert or an alcoholic beverage. We each should be able to choose what we ingest into our bodies without getting either the third degree as to why, or the food missionaries telling us why we should or shouldn’t be eating or drinking ABC.
    Beverly Diehl recently posted..Who Are You? Who Who, Who Who?My Profile

  13. The older I get, the more I don’t like to drink even tho I was never a big drinker, but now those headaches are really not worth it. And I have neighbors who taunt me for not drinking, real jerks, I can’t imagine being mean to anyone for something like that! Good for your son!
    Enchantedseashells, Confessions of a Tugboat Captain’s Wife recently posted..Best Pennies-a-Day Beauty TipMy Profile

  14. Jill Stewart
    August 1, 2013 | 6:17 pm

    I have given up the only thing I drink- wine, for a week. I am calling it the week without wine.. I am feeling great… I loved your blog…

  15. Haralee
    August 1, 2013 | 6:50 pm

    Your son is smart and brave! Peer pressure to drink at every age is intense. I also don’t drink any longer and I was always a one glass of wine drinker before, but now headache and full body sweat while still drinking, just isn’t worth it to me.
    Haralee recently posted..Exercise as the Fountain of VitalityMy Profile

  16. don
    August 2, 2013 | 7:21 am

    I’ve been a drinker since I was 14, but never really a partier, if that makes sense. Three pregnancies and the same day after pain you reference has zapped my wife of her desire to drink anymore too, so I mostly just sit on the couch or in front of my laptop and drink by myself. It’s not as pathetic as it probably sounds, I swear!

  17. Stacy
    August 2, 2013 | 7:22 am

    I haven’t taken the road to total abstinence, but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who gets sleepy when they drink…just a glass or two of wine will do it. :/

    My daughter just turned 21 last week and as of yet hasn’t discovered that it’s okay to have limits. She has been at the bar every night with her friends. Not even an experience with having her drink drugged (thankfully her friends took care of her and nothing bad happened) seems to have deterred her. :(
    Stacy recently posted..Chincoteague Vacation 2013My Profile

  18. Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs
    August 2, 2013 | 7:32 am

    You will always be witty and engaging! And smart, too, for making the choice that works for you. I don’t drink anything like I used to (except when with one couple my husband and I get together with about twice a year). Peer pressure is still a huge problem in midlife, which is ridiculous. No one should be encouraging another to imbibe if they’ve chosen not to. With several raging alcoholics in my family, I know too well how difficult such situations are for the one doing their best to refuse the cocktail. Cheers to you for standing up for yourself… and your headache-free mornings after.
    Lisa @ Grandma’s Briefs recently posted..What I learned this week: I shoot now, tweet laterMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      August 2, 2013 | 8:04 am

      Thank you Lisa – I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to be an alcoholic and have to navigate social situations.

  19. Rebecca Einstein Schorr
    August 2, 2013 | 7:58 am

    It amazes me that people have any opinion about whether or not one chooses to drink. Even more, that they have the chutzpah to say anything. We never know anyone’s back story. Perhaps the person is in recovery. Or is taking medication that doesn’t mix well with alcohol. Or, shockingly, just doesn’t like booze.

    So much of your piece reflects my own experiences when I drink. Which I really don’t, anymore, for the precise reasons.

    You truly are both witty and engaging…and amazing for being unashamed of who you are.

    • Sharon Greenthal
      August 2, 2013 | 8:03 am

      Thanks so much, Rebecca – maybe as we get older it just doesn’t seem worth the after effects?

  20. Carpool Goddess
    August 2, 2013 | 3:31 pm

    I enjoy wine, but I rarely go beyond a glass. And even that glass is sipped very slowly. I like the feeling of warmth come over me but don’t like feeling tired or tipsy one bit. You must be so proud of your son! I think for many kids once they hit 21 much of the thrill is gone. That’s how it was with mine.
    Carpool Goddess recently posted..I Went To BlogHer And It Was Awesome, But Not Why You’d ThinkMy Profile

  21. Karen
    August 2, 2013 | 4:09 pm

    after a while, people will stop asking. but when they do ask, my answer is usually short “I have the gene” and that usually shuts them up.
    Karen recently posted..Why I Didn’t Attend That Party Offsite During BlogHer13My Profile

  22. amanda
    August 3, 2013 | 10:41 am

    Ugh! Ive soooo been there. Lost a couple friends because of it. They always got upset that i wasn’t drinking. Finally for my 28th birthday i invited them all over, cracked open a bottle of jack daniels and drank them all under the table. That night i finally got the truth. They all said im so much funner drunk. I realized that really, sober people make drunk people feel all paranoid and alcoholic-y
    I also realized true friends love me all the time, drunk or sober.

  23. Nancy Matchton owens
    August 3, 2013 | 3:23 pm

    Hi Sharon,
    Great article…. I happen to still drink and enjoy having a few beers or a bottle of wine but I know what you mean. Today that I am reading this my husband was suffering the worst hangover ever… It just does not agree with him anymore.. I on the other hand was fine but I have been there. So I understand having watched him take literally a whole 24 hours to come around.
    The article makes a lot of sense… And hey good for you…… In the end it will be better for you overall health wise! Weight wise and liver wise so fair play to you! keep up the good work enjoying your stuff immensley

    • Sharon Greenthal
      August 3, 2013 | 3:29 pm

      Thank you Nancy – give your husband some extra TLC today!

  24. Karen @BakingInATornado
    August 4, 2013 | 3:17 pm

    I don’t believe I have any right to question what choices people make for themselves. I can enjoy time with drinkers, people who don’t, or a mixture of both. I don’t pretend to know what’s best for others, so I’d never disrespect their choice. What I can’t stand is a drinker who pushes others to or a non-drinker who pushes others not to.

  25. Grown and Flown
    August 5, 2013 | 5:22 am

    So agree with you everyone should drink exactly what they want and not one drop more. I think it is tough on college kids when there is such an atmosphere of binge drinking and pressure to go along. Adam sounds very wise.
    Grown and Flown recently posted..Professor Offers Best Advice for College FreshmenMy Profile

  26. Kristen Daukas
    August 6, 2013 | 8:49 am

    I love my glass of wine in the evening.. but that’s about as far as I’ll go. I”m too busy of a person to have it slowed down by feeling like crap in the morning. I MAY have two but then I’m ready for bed. My BFF totally quit a few years ago and it stuns me when people ask those questions. Who cares if someone does or doesn’t drink – it’s no one’s business but theirs! You don’t want to have a cocktail with me? That’s fine.. I’m more concerned that you are interested in hanging out with me.. not what you’re drinking :)
    Kristen Daukas recently posted..Generation Entitled: The Spoiling of our Children. The Loss of our Values. The Toll on Societies Future.My Profile

  27. Patti Winker
    August 7, 2013 | 11:36 am

    Aren’t people weird? It always surprises me to hear those comments; “Oh, just have one.” “What? Why not?” “I’ll change that!” etc. etc.

    For some reason, other things don’t elicit the same emotionally charged responses when you decline an offer. Turn down a dinner roll and see what happens. Nothing.

    I like beer and wine and still enjoy them. I used to like mixed drinks, but don’t like them anymore. I had my over-indulging days, for sure. I admire your son’s maturity in knowing his limits, and in avoiding a situation that could be harmful.

    My husband hasn’t had any alcohol in over 10 years, for similar reasons as you state – severe headaches, feeling sick, not enjoying himself. Thankfully, he was smart enough to discover this about himself.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. And, I agree – carrying a club soda around just makes the conversation about alcohol go away. :D It’s a good tool (and delicious, too!)
    Patti Winker recently posted..Weekly Photo Challenge: FreshMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      August 10, 2013 | 5:58 am

      I like the dinner roll analogy – and now that I’m not eating any white flour or sugar, I have to turn those down, too :) But that’s a whole other blog post.

  28. Norine of Science of Parenthood
    August 10, 2013 | 6:45 am

    Loved this. I’m “in the program” so haven’t had a drink in 2+ years. I find claiming a health problem — migraines, VD ;) — or medication contraindication usually shuts down most pleas to join the gang in pounding shots.
    Norine of Science of Parenthood recently posted..The “Artisanal” School Supplies ListMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      August 10, 2013 | 7:18 am

      Maybe next time someone asks why I’m not drinking I’ll say I’m pregnant – that would be a conversation stopper!

  29. A Pleasant House
    August 10, 2013 | 7:35 am

    Really???? You had me fooled (hahahahaaaa).
    A Pleasant House recently posted..TabooMy Profile

  30. Corinne Rodrigues
    August 10, 2013 | 9:16 am

    A very mature decision by your son. My husband stopped drinking several years back and goes around with a water in a wine glass to avoid the silly questions! ;)
    Corinne Rodrigues recently posted..Kicking The Bucket List!My Profile

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