It’s Okay NOT To Drink

I don’t drink alcohol.

I don’t need to tell you why, or why not, because it’s also not about you. It’s about me.

Look, I respect alcohol.

The art of creating alcohol (whether it’s wine, whiskey, or tequila) is a long, arduous process. From harvesting, to fermentation, aging, and bottling… there’s a lot that goes into the magical elixir that humans have been savoring for centuries.

The craft of cocktail making is beautiful (though I think bartenders can put those skills to work without alcohol too).

I’ve lived my entire adult life as a non-drinker.

In college, I’d drink water out of red plastic cups while everyone around me binge drank flat beer from a keg. At bars, I’d hurry up to the bar and order myself a soda or an ice water in a “fancy glass” before anyone had a chance to get my drink order so I’d blend in.

When I tell people I don’t drink, they usually press for more information (presumably trying to decipher if I’m an alcoholic in recovery), or they apologize and say, “that sucks a lot.  I couldn’t do that.”

The language around not drinking is usually, “oh, you got stuck as the DD,” or “OMG are you pregnant!?” or “ugh, I wouldn’t survive without wine.”

Then, people usually try to convince me to have “JUST HAVE A SIP”, or even “JUST ONE SHOT!” when I say I don’t drink.

The subtext of those statements: it bothered other people that I am not drinking alcohol (despite having a beverage in my hand).

Our society makes people who don’t drink feel awkward and uncomfortable.

I don’t know why—but I’d like for it to stop being so weird. Lately, media has been covering the “sober curious” movement, which has helped a lot of people manage their desire to not drink.

I used to feel like it made other people uncomfortable to know I was sober around them; worried I’d be judging them for their sloppy sentences and uneasy balance.

I used to feel like it made me uncomfortable because people may have been judging me. I can’t even tell you how many times people tried to convince me to just “have a sip” or “just ONE DRINK won’t hurt you!”

Whether it’s their own insecurities or the feeling of having everyone around you intoxicated, I admit that it can get weird—but only when I let it.

I don’t need alcohol to have a good time, and that’s fine with me. I also don’t care about people drinking around me. It’s their choice. Just as I made my choice, and you make yours. What someone else puts into their mouth has nothing to do with me or you.

What is it hard for people to understand that you don’t need alcohol?

I know drinking alcohol in social settings is a “societal norm,” but I am all about challenging that. How do we change that?

I won’t get into the “negative effects” of alcohol here because that’s not what this is about. This is about people not drinking alcohol for any reason.

I’ve talked to friends who are trying not to drink, and they tell me they struggle to go out with friends. They don’t know what to do without a drink in their hand. They get pressured… and that’s it’s hard to say no.

So they give in, have a drink or two and regret it the next morning. I ask them why it was hard for them, and they often can’t answer. Is it that they’re jealous of everyone having a good time around them? Because they’re not able to let loose? Because it’s just one drink?

If you’re choosing not to drink for any reason, you need to let go of those feelings/judgement and know you’re doing the right thing for YOU. You can have a good time WITHOUT alcohol, I promise.

But, if you want to drink, that’s okay too. Just drink responsibly.

How To Not Drink At Bars or Social Events

You do, just not a drink with alcohol in it.

I always have a cup in my hand when I’m out. I like to ask the bartender to make me a non-alcoholic drink like a fresh lemonade or a muddled fruit spritzer.

6 Tasty Non-Alcoholic Mixed Drinks To Drink Instead Of Booze

The first element to a good mocktail is something sparkling to “fancify” your drink and make it different. Recipes with a base of lemon lime soda, club soda, tonic water, sparkling juice, ginger ale, or ginger beer make great mocktails. Like a fancy soda! Do you want it sweet or sour? Fruity?

  1. Water (duh) / Coffee / Tea
  2. Virgin Mint Mojito: Mix mint and lemonade with a splash of soda, top with mint
  3. Virgin Moscow Mule: Mix ginger beer, fresh lime juice, topped with a splash of tonic water or sprite
  4. Virgin Coconut Mojito: Coconut cream, mint, and a topped with sparkling soda
  5. Virgin Watermelon Margarita: Mix pureed or juiced watermelon, fresh lime juice, agave, top with sparkling soda
  6. Lemonade with a Twist: Fresh lemon juice, a splash of simple syrup, sparkling soda, topped with a twirl of lemon (or add other fresh fruit or puréed fruit)

BTW, ginger beer isn’t actually beer and is different from ginger ale. Ginger ale is more like soda with sparkling water and sugar. Ginger beer is fermented and has a stronger ginger flavor.

One game changer for making mocktails at home? Homemade simple syrups. Combine 1 part sweetener (sugar, brown sugar, honey, agave, Truvia, etc.), 1 part water, and some fresh fruit, herbs, or spices to add flavor. Simmer over medium heat until the mixture is completely liquid. Strain out any herbs or spices and use it to flavor anything you like (mocktails, lemonade, coffee, tea, etc!).

So, in closing… shout out to all my sober-driving, non-drinking friends out there. You deserve more credit.

I wish more restaurants/bars would focus on non-alcoholic drinks. There’s usually a “non-alcoholic drinks” section buried at the bottom corner of the drink menu, featuring soda from a gun (with no refills), tea, coffee, and maybe some kind of soda in a bottle. Occasionally, a restaurant will make their own house soda or craft mocktail, and I will always order it. Recently, I had memorable, creative mocktails at Navy Strength Bar and Sawyer (both in Seattle).

It’s okay not to drink, but it’s okay if you want to drink too. As I’ve gotten older, I realized that I give zero fucks about people judging me about what I put in my mouth or not.

Let’s all try that for ourselves, and for others.

Less judgement. More laughter.



Author: Becca Risa Luna

Seattle-based fashion writer and personal essayist. Likes designer handbags, glaring openness, and subtle vulgarity.

3 thoughts

  1. I found myself nodding along to this the entire time. Thanks for sharing this!! It seems like society’s issue is multi-part, as well as the discomfort we might feel as non-drinkers. In college, where it is a world of binging, I remember it feeling like everyone was on this planet hundreds of miles away (it wasn’t that they appeared any cooler or anything) but it was very isolating. Post-college it’s gotten a little better, where people can go out have a couple drinks (while I do my ceremonial sparkling water with lime). That being said, there is still the questioning and prodding of “why why why” and me feeling the needs to explain WHY. But you’re right, it’s not their business. Ultimately, my solution has been to just avoid going out all together, especially since it’s not something I really enjoy. People suggest drinks, and I say “how about we do coffee instead?” and that’s worked pretty well for me!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s