I don’t drink. Like, at all. Zero. Zip. Nada.
In fact, I have never drunk a drop of alcohol in my life. Before you feel sorry for me, do know that yes, I am doing OK.
It wasn’t much of a big deal growing up because I grew up in a religious context where no one really drank. It was a bit weirder when I joined the Army because, well, everyone drank. A lot. For many years, my main reason for not drinking was simply the result of my conservative religious upbringing. But in recent years I have sought to define my life and choices on relationships and personalized faith as opposed to what others taught me. One of the questions to emerge was, Why don’t I drink? And after some time contemplating this oh-so-weird reality of mine I have arrived at some pretty exciting answers (for me that is. Hopefully, you’ll like them too). Oddly enough, none of them are all that religious.
1. Centeredness. The first is centeredness. Now what do I mean by this? Rather than define it myself I’ll just quote from the article “Sober is the new drunk: why millennials are ditching bar crawls for juice crawls” (mostly because Angelina Chapin [the author person], captured it way better than me).
Most attendees [of this booze-free event called Shine] are millennials with new-agey reasons for socializing sober. Ask and they’ll say they “love real, authentic relationships”, and want to “open up to others on the same journey” and be “centered and calm to appreciate the day”. In plain-speak, they think booze makes interactions less meaningful and that hangovers get in the way of their goals.
Now, I am not a new-agey person but I have to say, I resonate with them there. For me, centeredness is not some religious thing. Instead, its about being in each moment, appreciating the narrative unfolding all around me and remaining alert to capture whatever it wants to give me be it relationships, memories or the chance to speak life into another messed up person like me. Alcohol robs people of that. Maybe not 100% of the time. But often enough. So no thanks.
2. Humanity. According to professor Matthew Rushworth (of Oxford University’s Department of Experimental Psychology) there is “an area of the brain that appears to be uniquely human”. Pretty cool huh? We’re so unique.
The area of the brain that makes us so “unique” (and useful I might add) is known as the frontal lobe. Suffice to say, this area of our brain is what makes it possible for us to reason. Now why is reasoning so cool? Because reasoning is what enables us to ask questions. And not even Kanzi (the worlds smartest ape) can ask questions. And I love asking questions. It’s what makes me human.
Unfortunately, alcohol affects the brain by causing a “[l]oss of reason”, in addition to a loss of: “caution, inhibitions, sociability, talkativeness and intelligence.” In other words, alcohol turns off the very thing that makes us human. And I don’t know about you, but I quite like being human. It’s definitely a thing. And I want to celebrate it always. Not turn it off.
3. Social Justice. Now I have to be really careful here because people start to feel all guilty when you start to talk social justice. I am NOT saying that if you drink you are an evil person. Everyone is entitled to make their own decisions, so please don’t take this the wrong way. I am just sharing why I, personally, don’t drink. And this one is one of my biggies.
The top two reasons are the reasons why I don’t drink alcohol at all. The final reason is why I don’t support alcohol one bit, not even with a sip. Truth is, the alcohol industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that thrives on broken families, societies and individual lives (there, I said it). If I were to buy alcohol ever (and I won’t because see above) it would be from a local guy with a vineyard, not from the big companies.
Now some people simply respond to this by saying something like, “its not the alcohol industry’s fault. People are responsible for their own actions.” And that’s true! But what most people don’t realize is that marketers know, understand and exploit one simple truth about the human condition: the vast majority of people can’t actually control themselves.
So the industry doesn’t get to pass the buck here. They don’t escape judgment by saying “they should drink responsibly”. The industry knows that “[m]any consumer choices and decisions involve the need to exert self-control, and often consumers fail to exert such control”. In other words, people should have self control but people don’t. The alcohol industry exploits that reality for profit and then tries to justify itself with the “drink responsibly” commercial. Sorry dudes. Absolution denied.
So for me, not drinking and passing that value onto my kids is one way that I stick it to the man, the alcohol-industry man that is.
So that’s it guys! Top 3 reasons why I don’t drink. And no, none of them are religious. But I do thank my faith-tradition for at least giving me the foundation that has enabled me to be counter-cultural in this and other areas of my life. At the end of the day, my abstinence from alcohol is really a story about my love for “real, authentic relationships”, my desire to “open up to others on the same journey” and be “centered and calm to appreciate the day”. It’s also a celebration of what makes me uniquely human which alcohol damages. And ultimately its a rebellion and a protest against an industry that destroys more than can be measured. Do I judge others who drink? Never. If you want to come to my house to watch a footy game and enjoy a few beers I won’t tell you to leave the bottles outside. I also recognize that many awesomely cool people will disagree with all 3 of my point’s above and offer some counter-views of their own. That’s cool too. This is simply what works for me. Hopefully, it can work for you too.
Now if you’ll excuse me. I think I’ll go make a smoothie.
Note: This article was originally published at www.pomopastor.com
 Consumer Emotion-Regulation and Self-Control: A Strategic View. Duke University [click here for access]