In Defence of Sobriety
“He tried to go to heaven but he went the other way, he went down! Down! Down! Down! Down…”
I winced, watching the nasty concoction of cheap apple cider, beer and Fruity Lexia glide down my friend’s throat with practiced ease as dozens of inebriated college kids slurred the popular ditty. Clinging to my cup, which for once was filled with a decent mixer, I silently thanked god it wasn’t me who had to suffer through the King’s Cup remains.
All of this was just another night. We filled a calm bus with our raucous laughter, drank way too many vodka oranges out of shitty plastic cups at our usual haunt and danced until the lights came on around us, illuminating the sticky floor. Often falling into bed with a face still full of makeup, my stomach would squirm as I served up greasy Mexican fast food at my casual job the next day, hands shaking and head pounding. Moving into a university residential college from a small country town at just 17, desperate to fit in, pushed me into these habits with unprecedented force.
And now, although I can’t pretend to have experienced everything, after a few years of partying (both underage and legally) the near debilitating hangovers have gotten old. All these nights out have started to feel the same, and the morning after just doesn’t seem worth it.
Now, instead of grabbing another drink at the house party, I’ll refill my can with water to give the illusion of having a drink in hand. Bars and clubs aren’t my location of choice on a Friday night. And I know I’m not alone in snubbing Australia’s rife drinking culture, so why does is still feel like I am?
Booze has somehow become synonymous with our idea of fun, and so choosing not to drink often comes hand in hand with some major social implications and generalisations about who I am.
“Oh, I forgot, you don’t really drink, do you?” acquaintances sneer over teacups filled with goon.
“But it’s fun!” well-spoken friends argue, as they surrender another couple of hundred brain cells to Absolut.
Despite the plethora of reasons for a dry or semi-dry lifestyle: health, religion, social anxiety, and downright student poverty, every social gathering and event unashamedly revolves around alcohol, often leaving those choosing not to drink out in the cold.
“Not even a glass of red, for the antioxidants?” the supposedly health-conscious quip at restaurants, sniffing and swirling their glasses with as much art as a toddler with their mum’s lipstick.
“You just haven’t found your flavour,” balding men chortle from above their button-bursting beer guts, hugged by faded flannies at family gatherings.
“This isn’t really your scene, hey?” strangers assume if I don’t have a tinny in hand at a gig, as if appreciation of the music is dependent on having a buzz.
More than 10 per cent of adult Australians have never consumed alcohol. Even more haven’t had a drink in the last year. I’m most definitely not alone. And I don’t judge you for drinking, so please don’t tell me to “loosen up,” or to “learn how to have fun”. Nobody likes to be told what to do or how to live their lives. Note: I’m not telling you not to drink.
Above everything, I’m tired of the constant chorus of, “You’ll change your mind.” Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. But it doesn’t matter.
So what if throwing a taccy in a cramped toilet cubicle before continuing to dominate the dancefloor isn’t my idea of a fun Friday night? I admire your perseverance for the cause. I just don’t think it’s for me right now. And that’s okay.
Cover by Alexander Mils