I can still remember the first time I tried an alcoholic drink. I was 15 or 16, and I was in my friend’s backyard. She had taken a Smirnoff Ice from the fridge, and we took turns taking a few sips from the bottle. Smirnoff Ice’s are sweet, and they don’t have a very high alcohol content so I remember thinking huh that’s not too bad..
My first taste of beer was less fond. Everybody always says beer is an acquired taste, and it was certainly true for me. I thought it tasted bitter and stale. It was probably not a very good brand of beer either. That’s the thing with underage drinking, you sort of take what you can get. What do they say about beggars and choosers? My first several experiences with drinking (mostly at house parties) included mostly fruity sweet drinks like Smirnoff Ices or flavored vodkas and Sprite. Anybody remember Hypnotiq? Blech..
Anyway, when I was in high school, I did my fair share of drinking. Though, I like to think I was responsible (never drinking to the point of getting sick, never leaving friends alone or with strangers, and never ever ever driving or getting in the car with a person who was drunk), drinking underage is probably never a good idea. But again, what do they say about kids being kids? During my last 2 years of high school, I worked at a clothing store called Hollister. At the time, it was the coolest place to work. You weren’t given very many responsibilities. Maybe you had to say hi to the customers or fold some clothes, but we didn’t work for commission, and our bosses were only a few years older than us. We basically spent the majority of the time socializing and organizing parties for the weekends.
This mentality carried over to college, and long story short, it was more of the same. Only this time, drinking on the weekends carried over to drinking during the week, especially during those last 2 years. I was 21 by then, and drinking in bars, buying alcohol legally, drinking at brunch, drinking in the afternoon, and drinking at tailgates were all a novelty. It was college. After studying abroad for a semester (and drinking copious amounts of wine .. it was France after all) and returning to my last semester, I was beginning to feel the strain.
Then I moved to Korea. Drinking is a huge part of Korean culture. Drinking is also a social activity, and possibly the easiest way to meet and befriend people when you’ve moved to the opposite side of the world. During my first several months here (who am I kidding, the entire year), you could find me out on the weekends, knocking back whiskies and cheap Korean beers along with almost every other foreigner in the city. To this day, there are people who I have only ever seen drunk.
For me, drinking was always a social activity. I don’t think I’ve ever had a drink alone; not wine with dinner, not a beer after a long day. It was never something that I did for myself, it was always something to be done with other people. But after years of doing this, I was tired. It was beginning to wear on me. I’d wake up late on a Saturday after a late night of drinking on Friday, stay in bed all day and go out Saturday night. Then I’d wake up feeling awful on Sunday and have an equally unproductive day. I felt like I was in a rut. It was starting to feel less like a fun thing to do and more like a chore. Plus it was getting expensive. I have a habit of drunkenly buying rounds of drinks for everybody.
So on January 1st, I woke up and said I’m never drinking again. Okay sure. Everybody says that at some point, but this time I really felt serious. I didn’t want to drink anymore. I didn’t want to waste my weekends feeling terrible. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. So I stopped. One week turned into two and then into a month and then into several. It was surprisingly easy. I still went out at night, but I just didn’t drink alcohol. I was waking up at reasonable hours. I was getting stuff done. It felt great. It feels great.
A lot of people think it’s strange that I don’t drink. A lot of people think it’s admirable. It’s like I’ve done something crazy, like I’ve taken up an insane hobby. But for me, drinking was never a personal thing. I never did it for me, and so I don’t think I ever got really attached to it. In fact, to this day I don’t say “I’ve given up drinking”. I’m not opposed to alcohol. I’m not against having a beer once in a while. Since January, I think I’ve had a total of 3 beers.
I know when it’s appropriate for me to have a drink. I’m not zealous about it. I didn’t develop an addiction, so if I was in a situation where it would be awkward or rude for me to not drink, I’ll have a drink. It’s not hurting me or anyone else. I’m not out to say Look at me! Look how strong I am for not drinking! You should do the same. People drink for different reasons. I drank to have fun. That was it. When it stopped being fun, I stopped drinking.
Phew! That’s a long post. If you read through that, you deserve a prize or something. Anyway, I didn’t intend for it to be that long, but alas, there it is.