Food'n'drink Health

I’m not a drinker

I’ve never been a drinker.

Oh sure, there were the social pressures in my uni days. But it’s a habit I just never picked up.

My parents weren’t drinkers. My partner isn’t a drinker. It’s just not my thing.

I’m not a teetotaller though. Occasionally (perhaps a few times a year) I’ll indulge in a beer or a glass of wine, but (particularly since the discovery that alcohol can sometimes help trigger cluster headaches), most of the time I’ll decline and stick to water.

So I find it a little puzzling that some people drink to excess. I can understand the enjoyable, social drink if that’s the kind of thing you like, but binge drinking, to the point of being sick? Why would you?

I suppose everybody’s different.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

23 replies on “I’m not a drinker”

I like beer and wine and some mixed drinks, but I very much dislike the feeling of being drunk…so I end up having one drink every couple of months or so. It always struck me as weird that some consider ending the night in a pool of vomit to be a good time…to each their own I guess. Not really a cheap habit to have either, as a student.

If I have one drink then I must keep drinking until I am drunk. It’s just something in me that will not allow anything different (my brother is the same). I really enjoy the euphoria but because of this weakness I cannot allow myself to drink. In my younger days I decided enough was enough and went on the wagon for about 20 years. Several years ago I thought things would be different and I could now handle it so went back to imbibing. Unfortunately nothing had changed, so two and a half years ago I stopped consuming alcohol for a second time. I will not be giving alcohol another shot (pun intended).

binge drinking, to the point of being sick? Why would you?

It’s peer pressure, Daniel, of the kind that used to get most teenagers take up smoking.

All my son’s mates from his high-decile grammar school spent their weekends drinking to vomiting. My son of course joined in. Nothing his parents might say will stop him.

At least he doesn’t drink and drive and the group he’s with do not go looking for trouble in any way — they spend a weekend drinking at someone’s house.

I trust he will grow out of it.

My daughters are quite different. The eldest will have wine with food at times and bubbles at the races (where all her peers go to promenade), My youngest, who’s on an exchange high school year in Germany (where there appear to be no drinking laws) rarely drinks, but she phoned me from a Munich tram to tell me she and some friends were on a Munich tram — and drinking apricot schnapps from the bottle as they went along the streets, because they could, and nobody looked twice.

A lot of people don’t grow out of it. I have late ’30s colleagues and neighbours who still like to drink for the purpose of getting drunk. And they assume that if you don’t drink (heavily), you’re no fun. It’s a psych related issue on which I’m not qualified to make informed comments, but it’s definitely detrimental to society. Anyone can see that.

@David, actually yeah, even in my uni group, there were no heavy drinkers. Probably because I was in a geek course, not engineering or something :-)

People usually have issues in their lives, drinking temporarily removes it.

Throwing up is just a side effect of prolonging how long you wan’t to forget about your troubles in a night.

Plus, Daniel, if you remember in uni we were the typically strapped for cash students, so could not afford to imbibe to excess!

I find that generally people’s tastes will mature, as they do, and they go from quantity to quality as they get older. Saying that, there are a large number who still go for volume, usually followed by vomit.

It does take a lot of self-control to have the brain tell the mouth that ‘enough is enough, and this is going to end badly for us both’. It seems that the alcohol slows the ‘time to stop’ message traveling from the mouth/stomach to the brain. By the time it does get through, it is usually too late, and pavement pizza will usually follow.

I’ve never been a drinker either, in fact I’ve never actually had alcohol and I’m in my early twenties. Just never started really. What I really hate is many people seem to think that you need to drink to have a good time, and that if you don’t people seem to regard you as antisocial.

One of Australia’s and probably the world’s big problems is that drinking is so embedded in many people’s idea of enjoying themselves that alcohol related problems such as violence and dangerous driving are common in society. I have no idea and I presume not many know either (or if they do, tell the world!)

I’ve never been a big drinker myself, and I’ve been around alcohol all my life! Being from an Italian family, I’ve grown up making and drinking wine- from about 11 years of age, I would have a glass of wine with dinner a night. One of the reasons I was given wine so early on was the thought that by the time I turned 18, I’d be used to drinking it, and thus wouldn’t go crazy and get drunk, and indeed that was the case. Funnily enough, a few years after turning 18, I stopped having wine with dinner altogether, in part because it used to make me feel really tired in the evening. To this day, I only have alcohol on weekends, mainly a beer with a cigar!
Like yourself, I’ve never understood certain people’s need to get drunk- the only time I’ve been really drunk was after having over half a bottle of whisky in one night drowning my sorrows- suffice it to say I didn’t sleep well that night, and didn’t feel so good the next day! I gave up booze for Lent, not that big a deal for me nowadays, but was good to know I could go without (made an exemption for St Pat’s Day)!

I’ve been a teetotaller since I turned 18, tried alcoholic drinks, and discovered I didn’t like the taste of them. None of them. Not even the finest of fine wines. That’s many moons ago now. I won’t say how many. :-)

Not liking the taste was probably the single most important factor – why consume something you don’t like, just for the effect it might have? Especially if that effect could rapidly turn nasty if you have one too many.

But there were other minor factors at play, not least the fact that there’s a strong history of alcoholism in my family. My father and several of my uncles are alcoholics, both of my grandfathers were, three of my four great-grandfathers were, and – something that horrified me when I found out, while researching my family history – two of my four great-grandmothers died from illnesses related to chronic alcoholism. That was in the early 20th century, a time when very few women of their generation drank.

So with the genetic odds stacked against me, I figure it’s actually a blessing that I don’t like the taste of alcoholic drinks. I suspect that if I did, I’d probably be like @Peter: unable to stop at one. Good on you, @Peter, for recognising that and making the decision not to drink. I’m impressed.

I confess to not understanding those articles that get printed in the paper now and again, where a journalist goes on the wagon for a month or two and says that his/her friends now treat him/her like a social pariah. (Jill Stark, of the Sunday Age, wrote such an article recently.) Well, jeez, get new friends! I mean, really! if your friends and colleagues can only tolerate you when you have an alcoholic drink in your hand, that doesn’t really say much about you, your friends, or the circles you move in, does it? I’m vain enough to think that I’m reasonably good company even though I’m stone cold sober all the time, and the various groups of friends I have had over the years seem to think so too. It has simply never been an issue. They don’t care what’s in my glass, and – provided they don’t get blind drunk and slobber over me – I don’t care what’s in theirs.

There are only two things that have ever bothered me about being a non-drinker in a (largely) drinking world. One is that some people are convinced that the only reason I don’t drink is that I’ve only ever tried cheap crappy drinks, and that if I only have a sip of This Most Fabulous And Expensive Wine They Have Brought With Them, I’ll be converted. Sorry to disappoint you, but I’ve tried Penfolds Grange, and I didn’t like that either. Some people seem to take it as a slap in the face when you don’t like what they like, as though you’re criticising their taste.

The other thing that bothers me is the feeling that I can never be a part of what I’d call the wine culture. It happens when I’m in a restaurant, especially one that makes a feature of its excellent wine list, or which offers glasses of wine matched to each dish on the menu, or which even includes wine in a set-price meal. I tell the waiter, “I won’t be drinking wine. What do you have that doesn’t contain alcohol?”, accept whatever else they offer (which is usually mineral water), and let them assume whatever they like (I’m the designated driver; I’m pregnant; I’m a Muslim; I’m on medication, I’m an alcoholic, whatever). I don’t give a toss whether they jump to the wrong conclusion about why I’m not drinking. What bothers me is that I feel sort of left out of the “wine culture”, rather like being in a gathering of people who are all speaking a language that I don’t understand, or like being a child again, in a gathering of grown-ups all talking about grown-up things. That’s what bothers me, far more than being the only sober person in a group that’s getting progressively drunk. I dunno… I’m not articulating this particularly well. Do any of you other non-drinkers (or rare drinkers) ever feel like this?

While I was growing up my parents drank to oblivion every night and I naturally followed when old enough. It was just what you did, or so I thought. When I met my husband, I was surprised to find that his parents did not drink and he drank very little. Never mind, more for me! I recognise that I have a ‘problem’ with alcohol, so these days I try very hard not to drink. I sometimes win and sometimes fail. What distresses me though, is my 19yo daughter who thinks that she cannot have fun without getting drunk and having a ‘tactical chunder’, which I have also heard her describe as a ‘cheeky spew’.

I wonder if as we get older we see the futility and stupidity of drinking but when you are young, you feel that you need to do this to be ‘grown up’.

@Stuart, true, true!

@Bonnie, I think I know what you mean about wine culture and missing out. It’s all gobbledigook to me too, but I’ve just come to accept that I’m not interested in learning about it/indulging in it, and never will be. It’s just not my thing.

Good on those who don’t feel the need to have a drink, our society has enough drug users, tea, coffee, tobacco, beetle nuts, energy drinks, there all the same.

Personally I know 2 alcoholics both started drinking too much when they moved to the country. All the people I meet when I visit friends in country areas drink a lot, perhaps it’s the boredom or fresh air?

@Bonnie, I don’t know any young person who likes the taste of alcohol, it’s an acquired taste that comes with maturity (for some).

Personally I love a drink at the right time with the right company, there’s nothing like an aged single malt whiskey or a delicious cold beer on a hot day.

Kids binge drinking when their brains are developing, indigenous people destroying themselves and their culture, violence in all forms caused by drink is really sad.

Just to add a more lighthearted note to the discussion… this is one of my favourite YouTube clips. It reminds me why I’m so, SO glad I don’t drink, and I thought all the non drinkers and rare drinkers on this thread might enjoy it too.

It’s Otis Lee Crenshaw (alter ego of Rich Hall), with his ode to Bundaberg Rum: *…it’s canned hate / liquid venom / makes you mean as a snake / makes you wanna punch women…/ there’s something in the fermentation / makes a man grow a mullet and join One Nation…”

I like a beer or some wine once in a while but I can go for a very long time without drinking anything alcoholic. I only ever got drunk enough puke once in my life. I was in Uni at the time (about 1989-90 ish) and said never again after how bad I felt the next day.

Since the drinking age in the US is 21 I think there is a challenge for younger people get hold of and drink alcohol. Being able to score some alcohol is a way to show off and look cool to friends.

Before I was 21 I had no trouble drinking at house parties and even sometimes being “served” in a restaurant or bar without being “carded”. At the time (late 80’s) usually within a group of my friends or classmates someone would have a fake ID to buy alcohol. One of my roomates once found a drivers license from a person of legal age and successfully bought alcohol with it. He then lent it to my other roomate who was also able to buy alcohol with it even though the photo only vaguely resembled one of my roomates.

I think if people are introduced to alcohol earlier like in many European countries they are less interested in bingeing when they are in their late teens or early 20’s.

“I think if people are introduced to alcohol earlier like in many European countries they are less interested in bingeing when they are in their late teens or early 20′s.” – Jed

How old should these CHILDREN be when they are introduced to alcohol and how much should they be made to consume?

Prehaps Andrew V has the answer…

“Being from an Italian family, I’ve grown up making and drinking wine- from about 11 years of age, I would have a glass of wine with dinner a night. ”

In my book Andrews parents should be charged with child abuse.

And this crap about it being ‘cultural’ just doesn’t cut it.

Should Australian hippy parents have their child sucking back a joint at 11?

Should Australian parents of Islander background be letting their pre teenage kids get on the kava?

Should Australian / African parents be letting their primary school kids chew a bit of Iboga because of cultural reasons?

Letting a child drink grog at 11 years of age should bring about community condemnation of your parenting and bring your actions to the attention of the government departments responsible for the welfare of children.

And to think just recently we had outrage on this blog when Kmart ran an advert advertising chocolate that would shut up the young-un’s for a bit over Easter.

Poor fella my country.

Well judging from Howard Battler’s comments above he thinks both my parents should be charged with child abuse and condemned by society.

Never mind the fact that my father has spent virtually all of his adult life studying and working to help children (he’s a Paediatrician) and my parents have raised 4 children that are all productive members of society in a family that is and always have been very close.

I’m definitely in a different boat to most commentators on this blog, I’ve enjoyed a drink since I was about 17 and have certainly pushed it too far a number of times in my younger days, yet I still enjoy a decent red, consider myself a bit of a connoisseur of beer and like Dogs Breath above love a nice Whisky.

Judging by my family, I’ll continue to enjoy alcohol in various forms well into my adult life. My grand dad still loves a wine at virtually any family celebration and he’s 93. He also has been a productive member of society for virtually all of his life and has raised a large, very close family that are all in the same boat.

@Dogs Breath: If you’re ever in Japan or have a friend visiting, make sure you or they pick up a bottle of Yamakazi Single Malt. It’s absurdly expensive in Australia, but about the Australian price of Johnny Walker Black over there. Boy is it good too!

Beer, yuck. Some of the new ciders (not strombow) are quite nice though. Red wine… But I think I’ve only gone to the point of throwing up once, that was enough, usually it’s just a couple.

While I couldn’t stand beer in my youth, I certainly drank spirits or cider to excess on more than one occasion – have called God on the white telephone about six times that I recall. The binge drinking was a bit of peer pressure and machismo (“I can drink you under the table mate”) and because of the more pleasant pre-chunder effects of alcohol – a lower of inhibitions and feeling of euphoria. The youthful brain has trouble saying “that’s enough” as it is, without the effect of alcohol on decision making abilities. Very easy once you are at a certain level of drunkeness to go over the top and drink more. “In my day”, my friends and I were even able to purchase alcohol from a drive through on bikes – don’t think a 17 year old would get away with that today.

Nowadays, I’ll have A beer occasionally (am allergic to something in beer, it turns out, and more than two stubbies will give me an upset stomach), or a wine or two with dinner (a good red wine with a heavy tomato-based pasta is beautiful). Still have spirits or fortified wine if there’s a group of us drinking on the odd occasion. Love the taste of Bacardi and many wines, and wont drink anything I don’t like the taste of. Also, less social functions now involve going to a pub or nightclub, where the main activity is drinking. But the real difference with how much I drink when drinking now compared to my youth is my increased maturity (?): an increased awareness of consequences (such as vomiting, hangover, and worse), increased responsibilities (can’t afford a lost day from self induced illness or the cash “pissed up the wall”), and lower resilience all allow my brain to stop me going crazy and turning two drinks into twenty.

…and if my brain didn’t, my non-drinking wife’s would :-)

A very interesting discussion, indeed!

I, for my part, would have been classed as a rather heavy drinker until last September. Then *click* I suddenly stopped. Since then I’ve only had alcoholic drinks about three times and noticed that I didn’t like the taste any more. I also feel healthier and I’ve lost about 7 kg in weight.

So — absolutely no reason to start again…

[…] has gazumped once before (can’t remember what it was) so when I saw his post last week on I’m Not A Drinker I couldn’t believe he’d done it again. I’ve been meaning to write for ages on the same topic […]

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