Why I Don’t Drink

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com

This is not going to be my most popular post ever, especially right before we start off the holidays of 2020. Was there ever a holiday period that screamed ‘Give me a drink!’ more than this one? I doubt it.

I’ll start off with a disclaimer: I don’t have anything against people who drink alcohol. Most of my loved ones do and I have never loved them any less for it.
On the other hand, I do consider alcohol to be a hard drug, much more harmful than other drugs that are currently illegal. So there’s that.

Back to my personal story.

This year we’re celebrating Christmas and New Year’s just in our close family (which means me and my kids, my partner and his kids, and my parents, since they live in the same house). This means I probably won’t get the ‘Do you want a glass of wine?’ every half hour.
For most of my life, that was rather the case.

I grew up in a country famous for it’s truly excellent beers. I also grew up in a family in which alcohol is very much a guest at the party. I think I was about 12 or 13 when I had my first sips of alcohol. I wasn’t much older when a friend of my parents’ poured me a bit too much at a school event and I got rather tipsy for the first time. There was never any malicious intent, it was just part of the culture.

In my teenage years, I definitely drank more than I should, and more than once. It was cool if you could hold your liquor, and I was blessed with good genes in that regard. I did stupid things while being drunk, hurting my own body and hurting other people’s feelings. Alcohol has an immediate effect on your ability to inhibit yourself, which can feel great and liberating at the time, but does mean you’re not always making the smartest choices.

I was about 26 when I threw up from a hangover for the first time. It was also the last time. I’d had too much Jägermeister and Brazilian BBQ at a Western Bar in China. I’ve never consumed either of those since. But still, it didn’t stop me from drinking other stuff.

When I got pregnant, things did change. I didn’t drink during my pregnancy, and also didn’t when I nursed my children (and I was one of those mothers who breastfed for a loooooooong time). I sort of lost the taste for red wine for a while, though the occasional glass of cava or raspberry beer was still a welcome treat.

When my children grew a bit older and nursed less, I started drinking more again.
And then, in 2017, my marriage ran into its biggest crisis (the one it wouldn’t survive). I suddenly noticed myself looking at that bottle of wine in a different way. In the grips of depression, feeling deep pain and anxiety or completely empty and numb, I felt the temptation to fill that hole inside of me with alcohol, letting the buzz take over my mind so I wouldn’t have to think anymore. I wouldn’t have to feel anymore. I saw the path that could lead me to becoming dependent on this substance.

I didn’t. I had had my last glass about a month before the deepest low, so I didn’t really keep it in the house anymore. I also knew I am genetically vulnerable to addiction, and it’s a path I didn’t want to go down, no matter how horrible I felt.

My zero-alcohol policy is tailored to my personality: there is some flexibility. Alcohol in deserts is okay by me (my favorite desert is tiramisu and it just doesn’t work without the Amaretto). I’ll try the occasional sip of wine if my dad says he’s got an excellent bottle. That’s it.

Does that mean I’ll never drink alcohol again? I don’t know. I’m not a big fan of ‘never’. Ultimatums tend to push me into rebellion. At this moment, however, I don’t see any good reason to give up my no-drinking-policy.
Social pressure doesn’t ‘press’ quite as hard anymore, there are so many great alcohol-free drinks and I can get buzzed in much safer and fun ways than with a hangover hanging over me.

Are you looking for the perfect festive Christmas drink that the kids can share as well? Why not give eggnog a try? This traditional holiday drink is good without the added booze as well, and won’t give you that January 1st (or december 26th) headache.
I’m definitely putting it on our menu for the holidays!

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