There is this vague memory I have of me asking to taste beer, as a child, and having my request met with probably the worst thing I had ever tasted up to that point in my life. The tiniest sip, my Dad knew, would make me hate the stuff and cause me to never want to drink it again. He was mostly right.
The next time I drank alcohol was on New Years Eve at age fourteen when I begged my Mom and aunt to let me drink a partial flute of champagne. Extremely hesitant, they finally gave in knowing that I was a good kid and wouldn’t take advantage of the experience.
I had my first can of beer in high school at a beach party but that hardly counts since I only remember taking a couple mouthfuls, holding back my disgust. An older coworker who was there pointed out that we (a friend and I) didn’t need to drink to look cool and that people wouldn’t care, either way. I immediately felt silly for falling into the “everyone-else-is-doing-it” trap and didn’t drink again until I was 21.
Even after having my official initiation into adulthood on my 21st birthday, drinking was never really a huge deal for me. Because of this I often ended up being the DD among my friends and it always made me feel good to get people home safely. I was typically the one to have no more than one drink during a night out and no one ever pressured me to do otherwise. Why would they? They knew I was going to take care of them. I even kept snacks and bottled water in my back seat… you know… group-mom type stuff.
Throughout my adult life, I have had many different groups of friends and with each of them, alcohol has always been present but I just never seemed to have a desire to drink. It wasn’t until some time after college when I met a fun group of people that I started partying more frequently, which eventually led to consuming more and more alcohol. It started out small; one or two drinks each time we’d go out and turn up (I couldn’t help myself, there). But as my tolerance grew, so did the number of beverages I was consuming. While there were still plenty of nights I only had one or two drinks, the issue was that I was going out a minimum of five nights a week.
Anyone who has been a 20-something in San Diego within the past decade or so is probably aware that there is something going on every night of the week. There were Taco Tuesdays and Wednesday nights when most of the bars would play 80s music in Pacific Beach (read: drink specials!)… Thursday through Saturday the free party buses would bring us downtown from PB where we would, then, get into a club for free. And depending on the club, we might also get a free glass of champagne as soon as we walked into the place. Oh, and don’t forget about drinking on the bus… AND the pregame before the party bus before the club… It wasn’t unusual for a few shots and a beer to be consumed before the bus even arrived…
♪ After the show it’s the afterparty, then,
After the party it’s the hotel lobby, then
After the Belve then it’s probably Cris… ♪
And then there was always Sunday Funday… Though I don’t recall there being a specific event on Mondays, we really didn’t need a reason to get hyphy (ok last one, I swear, haha). So even if I only had two drinks a night, that was still ten drinks during a slow week. To a lot of people that might not sound like much but if you’re someone who is health-conscious, you’re probably cringing so hard, right now.
At first I only liked fruity drinks; Midori Sour, Sex On the Beach… After a trip to Havasu when a friend and I decided to separate from the group on the boat and hike up a random hill, with only beer on hand, I acquired a taste for Shock Top and Red Trolley. And then there was my I-only-drink-champagne phase…
I’m not sure how many times I uttered the words “alcohol makes me sick, no matter how much or little I drink.” Yet, for some reason, I kept convincing myself that I just wasn’t doing it right. Perhaps I was allergic to an ingredient and needed to find something that agreed with my chemistry? Certainly, I was fine without drinking but found I had so much fun when I allowed myself to be part of the group and have a fireball shot… or four… in a row.
♪ Drink all day
Play all night
Let’s get it poppin’♪
The group was a good mix of girls and guys but I wasn’t one to decline an invite if I happened to be the only girl going out, that night. And the guys were always generous; providing whatever drinks I wanted simply because I was hanging out and having a good time. I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I’ve actually purchased my own alcohol, with the exception of bringing a bottle to a party to share or give to the host. I’m sure if I was buying it for myself it would have affected my consumption level but this was no concern for me.
Looking back, I do have some fond memories. That’s what being young is all about, right? Worrying is for old people. Yolo, and all of that. But you know what else I remember? I remember “getting sick” more than a handful of times. Either I didn’t eat enough food or my Irish heritage wasn’t enough to withstand the damage I was doing. In reality, I’m lucky my stint with drinking was short-lived. For some people, drinking in excess never gets old. I obviously didn’t have a real problem with it; I was just “fitting in”.
If you were to ask my younger self I would have never admitted to caring about what people thought of me. Besides, my friends accepted me for whatever version I was giving them at the time, whether I was drinking or not. But if I’m being honest with myself and you, if I didn’t care what people thought, different choices would have been made. There was at least one time I know I shouldn’t have gotten behind the wheel. Sure it was the middle of the night, there were no cars or people on the road, and I wasn’t swerving, speeding, or experiencing blurred vision. But that’s obviously not the point.
I was always insanely present when I was drunk, for some reason. “Oh my gosh, I love your dress; it’s so cute!” was a classic line of mine. Of course, I only said it if I meant it. It was that or, “Give me your keys, you shouldn’t be driving.” And I don’t even know what “blacking out” feels like. But I do know what it feels like to be hung over for an entire weekend.
Being a vegan, now, I can clearly tell the difference between being fun and feeling good. I’ve always known liquor isn’t good for the body, despite the claims various alcohol companies will make to the contrary (you know, the whole “everything in moderation” nonsense). That buzzed feeling we get when we drink, it’s our body having an allergic reaction to something that is toxic by its very nature. It’s when that poison hits our blood stream that we get that feeling of inebriation a lot of us like to associate with “good times”.
Now, I’m certainly not saying that all people who choose to drink have a problem nor am I denying that I quite liked the feeling that allergic reaction was giving me. But I never felt good afterwards. When I put the right foods into my body, though, I always feel good (except for that night last week when I got food poisoning after eating raw vegan food at a restaurant chain… a story for another time). Just the other night I had vegan pizza and a vegan doughnut and I felt UH-mazing.
These days I often find myself saying, “I’m so glad I don’t drink, anymore.” I say this because I know that moment of fun would inevitably be followed by nausea and maybe even a nice little headache on the side. I also say it because I know the things I’m putting into my body are feeding health and not whatever disease would have certainly manifested, had I continued doing what I was doing. And the cherry on top is that even though I no longer drink alcohol, some of those fun people I use to party with will still come around or invite me out because they weren’t pretending to be my friends, they actually like me for who I am.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is anyone who deserves your attention will accept you. Make yourself a priority. If you’re struggling between being “social” and treating yourself well just know that your body is the only real home you’ll ever have; if you treat it like a tent you can’t expect for it to look and feel like a mansion.