This essay is for those who consume alcohol despite a distaste. Who feel pressured to drink. Who fail to stand up for their beliefs. And want to change it.
Disclaimer: I am no doctor nor scientist; just a guy with an opinion.
Here is a riddle for you. Who murders openly and plentiful, yet tags along wherever we go? Who is the primary attraction at every party, the star in the crowd? Who gives courage to the shy, reduces our self awareness and induces stupid ideas into the reasonable?
You know who I am talking about. Enjoyed by plenty, disliked by many, consumed by almost all.
It’s the Booze Family.
My relationship with the Booze Family
I am 21 years old and haven’t touched alcohol for five months, drank one beer in the past year and have been sober for the last two. And I love it.
Before you label me as a loner with no social life, I present you the opposite. I have made more friends ever since and haven’t failed to go to bars or dance my ass off on the dancefloor. I plainly do it without being intoxicated.
Do I miss out on things? Most certainly. I miss out on the sluggishness, which would keep me from getting ahead on the things I care about. On waking up with a headache, wondering where all my money went. On destroying my health and overcoming my natural shyness with artificial substances.
I miss out on all these things, and potentially more. But although I miss out on them, I don’t miss them. If you wouldn’t either, carry on reading.
The four stages of alcohol consumption
Before we look at why and how I cut the ties with the Booze family, let’s cover the stages of consuming alcoholic beverages.
The picture I drew is very extreme. In the several ways to consume alcohol, which differ in their intensity and purpose, positive aspects are to be found. I can think of one.
Stage #1.) Booze is a pleasure – joyful, moderate drinking
If you are able to pour yourself a glass of whisky, draw a jug of beer or mix a cocktail and truly enjoy it, I envy you. The burn after a sip of a great, old liquor. The refreshing gulp of cold beer. I would love to experience the joy of it. It’s just not for me.
After a hard day of work, alcohol can help us relax and release tension. We might enjoy a slight feeling of intoxication, too. We become less shy and join friends in socializing.
But there is a fine line between enjoying a few beers or drinks here and there and enjoying a few too many beers and drinks everywhere.
When we start to consume out of habit or with a different purpose in mind, we enter the second stage of alcoholic consumption.
Stage #2.) Booze becomes harmful – mindless drinking
By drinking alcohol today, we borrow happiness from tomorrow.
When we consume immediate pleasures excessively, we lose the purpose of doing so for pleasure. Food, gambling, sex – consumed abundantly, it becomes a mindless habit and need to be satisfied.
Alcohol is no different. When we go out and get wasted, we poison our body to give ourselves Dutch courage. To ask out the sex we desire, which we wouldn’t do otherwise, fearing rejection and embarrassment. Or to fit in and avoid feeling like an outsider. Drinking turns into a necessity , a central way of being close to people. It becomes part of how we manage life and we lose our ability to be close without booze.
I had but a few instances of mindless drinking. During a summer school on Malta I practiced speed drinking with Russians. Binging large amounts of alcohol in short time periods.Was it fun? Surely. Till the sudden onset of intoxication hit me. What happened next is a blurred memory.
Besides, it’s never the booze we crave here . It’s the social aspect that accompanies it. I wonder whether we need the first to satisfy the latter. If you reached it that far, I believe you do too.
Let’s look inward before our mindless consumption of alcoholic beverages cuts out the path to the next stage.
Stage #3.) Booze becomes an addiction – dependent drinking
The homeless person. The high positioned manager with shaking hands. The abusive parents.
They aim to drown their problems in liquor. If we hope to escape our problems by drinking compulsively, addiction has become a problematic reality.
The data is out there. But I am no one to judge or help in this situation. I have no idea what people go through at this stage.
Instead, I aim to shed light on the next. Having been there myself, it’s the one I can relate to and talk about the most.
Stage #4.) Booze becomes a requisite – peer pressure drinking
When we truly enjoy booze, we exchange money for pleasure. Same when get wasted (though the necessity to drink and definition of pleasure are open for debate). When addicted, we hope to escape reality. Forget our problems.
What all have in common is a purpose. That’s missing when we drink alcohol out of social pressure. And although firmly established in our society, it is often overlooked.
Here, we drink in order to fit in. Though seemingly a purpose, we forget that if we stand up for our beliefs in the right social surroundings, we will be valued. If we drink not to go against the grain, we waste money to destroy our health. Besides this glaring consequence, there are others worth mentioning.
The consequences of peer pressure drinking
Consequence #1.) You fuel a false image
Everytime we drink out of social pressure, we pour gasoline on fire. We fuel an image of a person we are not. Although we don’t like drinking, others conclude that we do. Making it harder to put out the blaze.
I frequently meet my friends for a night out. Although the majority knows that I don’t drink alcohol, some are still surprised. They expect a reason. I give them the truth.
“I feel better that way. I value my health and don’t want to waste money for something I don’t enjoy. I don’t like the taste.”
Honesty and integrity have to go hand in hand. Because my words and deeds are in harmony, people understand. If they ain’t, no amount of alcohol will help us be accepted and fit in as the person we truly are.
As the nights progress, some do not feel like drinking as much as the others. Possibly inspired by me.
But their words do not align with their deeds. “Don’t be a party pooper. You always drink when we go out.” Pressured by others, they comply. Ridiculed for not wanting to drink, they continue to do so.
Consequence #2.) You will fail to awaken the confidence hulk
When we stand up for our beliefs, we inject a shot of confidence into our DNA.
When we don’t, we deprive confidence. Every time we say yes to something we don’t want to, our true fire shrinks. Peer pressure drinking is one out of many examples.
Speaking up for disliking alcohol gave me the practice and confidence to stand up for my beliefs. These actions accumulated and gave me the courage to challenge the system and create happiness and success on my own terms.
Standing up for our beliefs sets the foundation to live in alignment with our values. And helps others do the same.
Consequence #3.) You will fail to be the hero we need
You are not alone. Society mass-produces packaged personalities which speak and act the same. But within every squeezed sausage different thoughts and opinions are being oppressed. If we stand up and free ourselves from this prison, we give courage to those who need rescue.
People who never spoke with each other discover common interests they kept secret. Words and ideas will be exchanged and true friendships developed.
Consequence #4.) Mr. Booze becomes the bouncer
Time, energy and money – these are the resources we need to live and produce on a daily basis. Alcohol wreaks havoc between all, leaving less of each for the things that truly matter.
We might not fail to enter the club of life. But with Mr. Booze guarding the entrance, it will be harder to pursue and realize our dreams, hopes and goals.
Potentially obvious, you might be aware of these consequences, but continue to suffer. Let’s look at possible escape plans.
Solutions to rise against drinking out of social pressure
Solution #1.) Cut the crap / find the flowers
When we are in stage #4, we don’t consume alone. We share the drink.
The best way to avoid dog poo on your shoe is to not step into it.
But there is a crucial problem. We don’t live consciously and end up hanging out with our friends because we are used to. They have been around since primary school. And dealing with change is not easy. We might be waist deep in shit already.
Identify the people who pressure you into drinking and choose your surroundings consciously; friends who respect your choice of not wanting to drink alcohol.
Solution #2.) Visualize the outcome of your actions
Our actions determine our future. By envisioning where the consequences of (1) boozing to oblige and (2) standing up for our beliefs will lead us, we give matter to our fears and clarity to a blurred dream (both great driving forces).
We will get a clearer understanding of our actions. And if we give voice to the images we create, so will others.
Solution #3.) Get high on life – spread love for conscious living
Abandoning alcohol enabled me to get more in touch with my body and access a deeper presence. I experience more connection with other people, avoiding the shallow “drunk talk”, and became more socially adept, choosing my words consciously. I love the state of clear headedness. And love is a great driving force towards action.
Conscious living is a drug. Once I experienced it, I was hooked. And getting addicted to life is the only welcome addiction I can think of.
Solution #4.) Point out the why
Truth holds a power in itself.
Explain why you don’t want to drink. That should be all we need. More often, it is not.
If your beliefs and actions have not been congruent, others will try to pressure you into drinking. Don’t succumb.
Say that you acted out of social pressure. A potential conversation could unfold as follows.
That’s how we picture it. From experience, most fears are not as serious as we make them to be.
Use this as a framework to guide you. If you face hate and disbelief, you will know to be in the wrong social surrounding.
Choose the right friends, visualize the outcome of your actions, spread love for consious living and express your beliefs authentically.
You will live a healthier, better life in live in alignment with your values. And ignite the same passion in others. What a wonderful booze free world that would be.