Today marks the 16th day I have had no alcohol. This is not because I have any problem with my alcohol consumption but more of a test of personal discipline. When I recently found out my brother had gone six months without a drink (again, just by choice) I decided to see if I could do it, too. I don’t know if I have any particular goal or timeframe in mind; I’m just going go without until I decide otherwise.
I’ve never been a heavy drinker. I usually average about one drink, either wine or beer, per day. On rare occasions (once every two weeks at most) I may have two. But in this experiment, even a modest drink would break the rules.
What this experiment has shown me so far is how alcohol is at the center of so much of our socializing. Of the parties and events Kelly and I have attended lately, I’ve felt the subtle but noticeable peer pressure to have a drink in my hand. When I politely declined a beer at one recent event, a guest who’d already tied a few on blurted out a sarcastic “I’m sorry.” It does feel a little awkward to mingle with party guests and being the only one not toting a wine glass or a beer.
I know people with alcohol problems. The best thing they could do for themselves and their families is to swear off alcohol. Yet anyone brave enough to do that is bound to feel the social awkwardness that comes simply from being the non-drinker at the party.
My experiment as a non-drinker has given me a small taste of the social pressures that a recovering alcoholic might face. In a society where alcohol is everywhere it can be lonely opting out.