My husband and I are freaks. We don’t drink. Well, we drink water and juice and I love coffee and he likes to indulge in the occasional coke or V. But we don’t drink alcohol anymore. And this seems to bother people.
Whenever we are offered an alcoholic drink and we decline we are looked at with suspicion. People scrunch up their eyebrows, trying to decode whether we are strictly religious or recovering alcoholics. And we feel compelled to explain ourselves, ‘I used to drink, but now it gives me a headache and I’ll regret it the next day,’ my husband will say. ‘I just haven’t drunk much since I was first pregnant,’ I’ll try to explain. ‘It just doesn’t agree with me, nowadays. It makes me tired. It gives me a red rash up my neck. If it made me feel good, I’d drink,’ I try to assure them. Somehow, we want to convince them that we can still be ‘fun’.
We are not anti-alcohol, it’s just that the negative effects outweigh the positive effects of alcohol for us. We may get that initial high that alcohol brings, but it is quickly followed by us feeling tired, headachy and grumpy. And having two young children, it’s simply not worth having a glass of wine with friends in the afternoon, if it means nursing a headache that evening while hurrying the kids through their evening bath and snapping at each other to feed the dog.
I’ve been known to Google ‘alcohol that won’t make tired headache,’ or ‘alcohol highs no lows,’ but that perfect beverage doesn’t seem to exist. And so I abstain.
It has taken my own family about two years to stop asking my husband if he’d like a beer. They simply couldn’t get that he’d stopped drinking. Now they just don’t seem to offer us anything to drink. I think that my husband has struggled more than I have with the feeling of being socially excluded. He feels as though his choice to not drink alcohol raises questions about his manhood in the eyes of others. I’ve been lucky to have the perfect excuse for the last few years, I’ve either been pregnant or breastfeeding. But now I don’t have either of those things to exempt me. So what is it with our alcohol-obsessed society and why do we feel like we have to explain ourselves?
Lately my husband and I have been contemplating whether it would be easier to just accept the offer of a drink. No one would even notice if we took half sips and left the glass almost full. It would be far more socially acceptable to just say yes, rather than partaking in an awkward conversation about all the negative effects of alcohol with people who are enjoying their drink.
Recently, I was driving back from Rosebud foreshore where my parents camp over the summer. The shoreline is dotted with Kae Sanh devotees holding a beer in one hand and throwing a tennis ball to their toddler in the other. There was a booze bus pulling over cars on the highway. ‘What are they doing?’ my four-year old daughter asked from the back seat. ‘They are testing whether people have been drinking,’ my grandmother, who was in the car with us, replied. ‘But mum has been drinking,’ my daughter said. ‘No they are testing if people have been drinking wine or beer,’ my grandmother said. But these words meant nothing to her. ‘These are different drinks,’ I tried to explain, ‘they can make people happy, but stop them from concentrating on driving.’ It was very hard to explain to her.
And it made me worry. Will my children be more curious about alcohol because we don’t drink it? Are we setting them up to be rebels via liquid? This is a big question, and one that I am not prepared to tackle just yet.
For the time being, I’ve accepted that alcohol and I are simply not a good mix. I wouldn’t eat something that makes me feel tired, cranky and gives me a headache – so why would I drink something that does this? For me, it makes no sense.