Thinkyness was designed as a space for ‘thinking aloud’ where the inner theorist inside of us all can escape and talk frankly about what keeps our minds entertained in those short moments of stillness. For me, I spend a lot of time thinking. I have a friend/colleague who suggests that I spend ‘far too much time thinking’ and analysing every single situation I encounter. One thing she has recently caught me on a few times is overthinking about whether I have offended someone inadvertently through email, twitter or facebook text. I worry about this because I don’t like to offend, nor do I like people to feel as though I purposely go out of my way to degrade someone’s character, opinions or feelings. I guess it’s one of my many weaknesses.
Interestingly lately I found myself apologising for who I am at a dinner where there were several of my lovely colleagues and others within the academic fraternity. A rather polite individual (who shall remain nameless) approached me and asked me gently ‘what are you drinking? We’ll share one’ To which I responded ‘sorry I actually don’t drink’. I felt quite awful initially about this and spent some time explaining to said person that I made a personal choice some years back to quit alcohol for which was responsible for (and I freely admit this) some of my more regretful actions in life. The woman who is exceptionally smart turned to me after my long winded explanation and said ‘why do you feel the need to explain yourself on this?’
It’s a question that no drinker has ever asked me previously. Rather the usual tone of the conversation when people find out I don’t drink turns to one of intrigue. I distinctly remember during my life four poignant moments where people have displayed significant horror at my choice not to drink. Once a fellow work colleague said ‘How do you survive without beer?’ At another occasion a fellow PhD student questioned ‘how do you relax without drinking?’ And yet still a relation of mine (no names J) once said to me ‘we drink so we can have a good time’. I even had my long time family GP say to me ‘there’s nothing wrong with a few beers’. To which I responded, ‘no there isn’t but I’m sure you wouldn’t be saying that to the family who has an alcoholic in it.’ He huffed and puffed and said ‘you’re not an alcoholic though’ to which I responded back ‘how do you know?’
I recognise that people drink and many who read this will undoubtedly be drinkers (maybe even while reading this). But I have a problem with people’s assumptions about alcohol that I would like to challenge. As I’m a terrible organiser in my writing, I’ll dot point to save your eyes!
1. ‘Don’t you need alcohol to relax and have a good time?’ – this is to me (and only me) a terrible assertion. Do we seriously need a drug to relax us and help us enjoy each other’s company? German Sociologist Georg Simmel (who may or may not have been a drinker) once commented in an essay in the early 1900s that sociality free from ulterior motives is enjoyment unto itself. Conversation together, and enjoying the company of friends or family free from the interjections of status building, establishing distinction at work, climbing the corporate ladder, etc, enables some of those precious moments of pure interaction that stay with us and create mutual enjoyment of one another’s social interactions long after the moment is done. Does alcohol really engender this? Or like me, do you see alcohol as turning these moments into something else? Many a time have I witnessed a good night turn very sour when alcohol loosens the tongue a little too much. I find it a little sad to think that we need a drug to create sociality.
2. ‘Don’t you miss the taste of alcohol?’ – To this I usually respond yes. There’s something exquisite about the taste of a cold beer during a hot summer day while watching the cricket on television. Or the smooth taste of Baileys in the evening as I settle in to read the latest issue of the Journal of Sociology. But fortunately, one can easily find beer that is non-alcoholic (in the UK I enjoyed several named beers that are non-alcoholic) and Bailey’s realistically can be replicated with chocolate milk (ok…not quite but you know). Red wine I hear you say? There’s non-alcoholic red wine presently available on the market which I enjoy occasionally. And I don’t have to wake the next morning with that horrible dry mouth and the headache to boot.
3. ‘Don’t you feel like a little weird being around drinkers?’ – Ok so this one I don’t hear often, but it’s one that I have heard a few times over the last few months weirdly. This is a difficult question to answer given that most of the time the people drinking are the one’s asking it. So how do I respond? Ah yea you’re really weird? No not really. There is something however rather uncomfortable stepping back and watching some people get blind while you sip coke on ice (the hard stuff!). And it stems from the fact that you’re gradually watching them (not all) lose control of themselves. Sentences and non-verbal actions that people would otherwise not do appear in untimely fashion. I’m sure that many a person could testify to the phrase ‘oh no I’ll never drink again’ when they see the YouTube clip the next day plastered on their computer screen. So while I do feel weird, I also feel strangely satisfied that I won’t be making a fool out of myself at the same time.
4. ‘There’s nothing wrong with alcohol’ – False. This country continues to lie to itself that alcohol is somehow just part of our culture and that like Europeans (Germans in particular) it’s just part of who we are. I’m sorry but if that is the case we need to talk Australia. We know all the stats, all the problems and all the detrimental impacts that alcohol causes in this country. And yet, we remain abnormally quiet on alcohol advertising and furthermore, believe that the people who abuse it just don’t have control. I won’t go on – this isn’t supposed to be opinion!
5. ‘Alcohol helps me get through life’ – I hear people use this to justify their use. I don’t judge them on this at all. I abuse Pepsi Max and have done for some time to help me get through the day (though I’m trying to get off it). But as another non-drinker once confided in me after she quit, ‘it was because I needed alcohol to help me get through my life that I quit’. I agree with her reasoning. As a sort of confession, I have to say that drinking would be my friend too much should I turn back to her as a source of consolation from the ‘heartless world’. However, it’s a friend with a poisoned barb for many – potentially me included.
It’s been interesting to see people gearing up for ‘Feb Fast’ as though it’s some serious challenge to give up alcohol for 28 days. I have a more serious challenge for myself and that is to remain free from it for the rest of my life. Occasionally I have to remind myself of this and my reasons for staying away. But I have a challenge to anyone who reads this, ask yourself seriously why you need it. If you can’t find a serious answer to this, quit. Would anyone be bothered? I doubt that. Not only will you be doing yourself and your liver a favour, you’ll also be removing your support for an industry that I personally think is ethically challenged in today’s society.
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Thinkyness came about from the charming @Perorationer who often tweets Jan & Noely in the morning with a random article he has found that would make you think, could be anything from Women in the 1800's to a potential world wide wine shortage which we would then discuss, obviously this led on to us tweeting each other #Thinkyness articles [...] more
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