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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  1. says

    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.
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    • says

      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.

  2. Jeff says

    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.

  3. judy williamson says

    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.

  4. says

    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.
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  5. says

    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.
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  6. Jill Stewart says

    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…

  7. says

    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!

  8. says

    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. :(
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  9. says

    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

  10. says

    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.

  11. amanda says

    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.

  12. Nancy Matchton owens says

    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

  13. says

    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.

  14. says

    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

  15. says

    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. 😀 It’s a good tool (and delicious, too!)
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