I'm Tired of Constantly Explaining Why I Don't Drink

I never get bored of not drinking, but I *am* completely done with my sobriety prompting so. many. damn. questions

A wineglass filled with water on a pink backdrop

(Photo: Stocksy)

“Good for you. I could never do what you do. You’re so brave.”

I hear this comment often, *especially* around the holidays, and no I’m not a soldier or a cop or a firefighter—I’m just sober.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve never liked the taste of alcohol. I’d force myself to sip on a mimosa or try a swig of champagne—the most I’ve ever drank—and almost immediately, I’d feel nauseous. It was largely in my head; one of the main reasons I don’t drink is because I have a debilitating fear of vomiting. (Yes, this is something I’m working through with lots of therapy.) Not drinking alcohol is one area of my life that I can control the chances of me being sick, and I want to keep it that way. Simply put: being sober brings me comfort.

So yes, I’m the girl at the party you see sipping on ginger ale in a red Solo cup, the blonde at the club with a glass of water in my hand. And while I honestly never get tired of not drinking, I am awfully tired of my sobriety being the reason for. so. many. damn. questions (and comments).

I’ve been called everything from a prude to a buzzkill, and yet, I seem to have the last laugh when I don’t have to spend my Sundays nursing a hangover. It was tough during university when alcohol was synonymous with campus life, but the more I defended my choice, the prouder I became of my sobrietyand now, I want to share it as much as I can in the hopes of normalizing this still-weirdly-taboo status.

Please don’t assume I’m pregnant or an alcoholic 

Drinking has seeped into every aspect of society to the point that when I refuse a glass of wine at a dinner party, people jump to conclusions that are never true—and it gets really awkward. (Nevermind that I can’t think of a social scenario in which it *wouldn’t* be straight-up rude to ask someone whether they were expecting, or had a drinking problem.) Why does turning down a drink need justification in the first place?

As a sober 20-something, I’ve noticed how much alcohol has become synonymous with modern womanhood. We trade our apple juice boxes for glasses of Sauvignon Blanc as big as our heads, and integrate drinking into so many different parts of our lives: rosé with The Bachelor, boozy brunches after SoulCycle and wine-mom play dates. So much so that occasionally I struggle to relate to other women my age because I don’t have a glass of wine in my hand.

And sometimes, I struggle to relate to my family, too.

During my 18th birthday party, two of my family members tried to pressure me into taking tequila shots with them as a “rite of passage.” I can’t remember how many times I told them no, and they still tried to convince me that it was no big deal. And so, I pretended to do a shot—I licked the salt off of my hand, took a tiny sip, sucked the juice out of the lime and tucked my mostly-full shot glass behind a plant—just to shut them up. I remember looking around at my horrified relatives and family friends (who all knew how important my sobriety was to me), feeling ashamed that I didn’t stand up for myself.

I’m OK if you drink, but don’t make *me* uncomfortable for being sober

All of this said, just because I’ve made this choice for myself, doesn’t mean I try to shame people who do enjoy drinking. Most of my close friends drink casually—and I don’t mind, especially since they understand my sobriety. But usually, if I’m not drinking, they won’t either.

In university, I tried to push myself to go to bars and clubs with my friends—and it was mentally and emotionally draining. It’s hard to be the only sober person in a room, and it’s also extremely isolating, especially when my peers would say things like, “You’d be so funny drunk,” or “Really? Just try one sip. It won’t hurt you.” Since I graduated this summer, I haven’t been to a bar—and I honestly don’t feel like I’m missing out. It hasn’t compromised my friendships because those who pressured me in university aren’t in my life anymore.

But even now, in the working world, I still have to explain my sobriety. In the media industry, I attend plenty of press events that are flowing with alcohol and it’s incredibly awkward to say “no” in a professional setting. One time, I was at a work lunch, and the woman I was with ordered two cocktails for us without consulting me first. I felt *so* awkward telling her I don’t drink in front of our server—especially because I didn’t want to compromise our professional connection.

But it is getting better.

Last summer, I hosted a Bachelor in Paradise viewing party and I decided I didn’t want to serve alcohol. I was seriously worried that no one would want to come, but it turned out that my friends were actually relieved to be sipping on Perrier on a Tuesday night. I got the impression that what mattered most was being together rather than what we had in our glasses, and as a result, my sobriety actually felt normal for once. Talk about refreshing.

So, as we head into New Year’s Eve, I have one request: if you notice someone not drinking on December 31, keep your questions and comments to yourself—chances are, they’ve heard them all before.


Anne T. Donahue: What Buck-a-Beer Feels Like to an Alcoholic
The First Time I Had Sex After Getting Sober
We Asked 6 Millennial Women Why They Don’t Drink & How They Navigate Sobriety