I have never hidden the fact that I am a non-drinker; really, nothing, ever. An alumnus of one of the oldest national college fraternities – Sigma Phi Epsilon – I’ve never had an alcoholic beverage of any kind. I didn’t steer clear of the bubbly because of a religious choice or some deep, philosophical reason. It just wasn’t part of my experience growing up and, fortunately, I never developed the interest. That said, drinking is a big part of adult social and business functions and thus, hard to avoid. But it’s ok NOT to drink. Really, it is.
Some people might think peer pressure is limited to the adolescent years, but even as an adult, I know how much pressure there is on people to drink alcohol at social and business events. Despite opinions to the contrary, it really is OK not to drink and here are some ideas for anyone trying to abstain but who still wants to feel included in the fun of the party.
First, you have to be ok with yourself and your decision not to indulge. If you’re uncomfortable with yourself about not drinking then you’ll probably make others feel that way too. Ambivalence will probably result in your drinking anyway and it will be your own decision and not because of peer pressure. Remember that if anyone takes issue with you’re not drinking, or pressures you in some way, the problem is theirs not yours.
If offered, politely decline, but don’t make excuses. After all, the offer was not made to offend you. It’s not a good idea to launch into some long-winded explanation, however, or rattle off a list of excuses about why you’re abstaining. Just say something like, “No thanks. I’d really like a cup of tea (coffee, soda, whatever), though, if you have it?” It’s polite and expresses your appreciation for the offer.
Carry a decoy, but don’t pretend it is alcohol, in other words, avoid the mock-tail. There is no need to call attention to the drink in your hand, but you might carry a drink around with you. Some people will advise you to accept an alcoholic drink and just hold it all night, but that’s not only pointless and dishonest. It could actually make you feel more self-conscious. People will expect you to sip from your drink now and again during long conversations, so just have something else in your glass.
Participating and socializing will also help to keep attention away from the lack of a drink in your hand. Keeping busy will keep your mind off the fact you’re not drinking with the other guests and help you be more involved in the event. If, however, there is still a particularly high level of pressure on you to drink or be left out or ridiculed, you should extricate yourself from the situation and rethink attending activities with the same group of people again.
Whatever you do don’t try to change the behavior of others. A social or business function is not the proper setting for a personal mission or intervention. You, alone, have made the conscious decision to attend an event where alcohol is being served and to be included you must live and let live. Needless to say, if you see someone about to drink and drive, act accordingly as your circumstances permit.
There’s no “down side” to abstaining from alcohol. When you don’t drink, you’re probably less likely to do things that have negative consequences. So, provided you don’t have some kind of a deviant propensity toward misbehavior anyway, you should make it through the event unscathed. Your social position may suffer, however, especially if you typically surround yourself with partiers. I say, it’s their loss.
Negative people have a negative effect on us. What kind of a “friend” abandons you because you don’t want to use alcohol? If you were always a non-drinker, it’s probably easier for others to accept because they know from the start. But going on the wagon, for whatever reason, can be challenging. Once again, just remember that it’s ok not to drink. Just be yourself. It’s you that should matter to your friends and colleagues, not what’s in your glass.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business contributor to WDTN-TV2’s Living Dayton program. More at www.gerydeer.com.