Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Taking a break from alcohol

No, I am not. I have just read Janka's entry and am thinking of social implications.

Janka said that the news of somebody taking a break from alcohol are not usually met with encouragement but with cider, amusement and disbelief that one can do it. This made me feel vaguely guilty - I sort of suspect that this is the fault of people like myself, who sometimes say "I am not drinking any alcohol ever again!" after a night of excessive drinking, and don't mean it even at the moment when they say it. I never really mean it - for me it's sort of like saying "I am not eating anything ever again!" after having eaten too much.

There is a conversation in that entry about whether or not people ask more questions about a person having a long-term (weeks or months) break from alcohol or about a person who normally drinks just not doing so at some party. For my part, somebody's break from alcohol almost always makes me wonder why (although very often there is no why - a person just wants a break) whereas a person just not drinking at some party does not usually attract my attention at all. Sorry if I ever asked nosy questions from anyone. From the other side of the issue, I really have no basis for comparison, because I've never taken a long-term break from alcohol, but I have been to many events where I opted not to drink alcohol, usually without causing much reaction in anyone.

Personally I find it most difficult not to drink when just spending an evening sitting down at home chatting with somebody. These are the situations when drinking is expected, not drinking is noticeable and questioned, copious amounts of good alcohol are available without getting up, and I sort of have this need to be drinking something all the time, and these are also the situations when I don't normally want to avoid alcohol, just to drink less. I usually resort to drinking a large cup of tea after each glass of wine, this works. Not drinking - or drinking little - at a party or a bar or anywhere where I have to get my ass up in order to refill my glass is easy. Ordering a water instead of a beer with a meal in a restaurant is even easier.

I've never been in a social environment that disapproves of totally alcohol-free people. People ask curious questions, of course, but not drinking alcohol at all is taken as a harmless personal eccentricity. I've never felt any disapproval for abstaining from drinking for some particular night. The only time I ran into serious disapproval for not drinking alcohol, I was, in fact, drinking:

When I was young (19 or 20) and used to hang out with seriously-drinking Russian, American and Russian-American people in Boston (on the second thought, they probably did not drink much more than my Finnish friends, but somehow my Finnish friends never get the bright idea to piss on the floor, break the wall of the house or try car-racing with police when drunk), I did not drink often. I liked alcohol quite a lot, though, and the fact that I rarely drank it had a little to do with the quality of alcohol available, a little to do with the need to watch out for my friends' tricks, and a whole lot to do with the fact that I mostly moved around by car. I drove so often and drank so rarely that most people who often saw me at the parties but did not know me well tended to think that I don't drink at all. I remember one party where I did not have my car with me and promptly got very drunk. Immediately I started getting a lot of questions and comments from a lot of people about having started drinking. "But I haven't started drinking," - I explained to them, - "I've always liked drinking, it's just that usually I am driving". The general reaction was "what's wrong with you? All the normal people drink and drive!" I am still not sure why not drinking at all was accepted in that group of people, but temporarily abstaining from alcohol for the sake of public safety was not. Go figure.

1 comment:

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