I Quit Drinking & My Friends Treat Me Like An Outcast Because Of It

Drinking is everywhere. Go to a restaurant, a party, a gathering at someone’s home, even a movie theatre and there’s alcohol. Almost everyone’s funny stories start with drinking or someone who was drunk. But you don’t notice how prevalent alcohol really is until you stop drinking completely. Here are some things that have really sucked for me since I quit alcohol cold turkey.

  1. People see me as less social. Drinking has been a social behavior in humans for thousands of years. We drank in groups because there was little else to do. In modern times, little has changed. From bars to clubs to gatherings to parties, everything is about drinking. “If you don’t have an open bar, is it even a wedding?” I remember someone asking me when we made it clear there’d be no alcohol on our big day. Rude much? The answer is yes. Two people who love each other are still getting married. The definition of wedding says nothing about you getting drunk while it’s happening.
  2. They no longer know what to bring to my house for dinner. “Oh, I’ll bring a bottle of wine with me for dinner!” Then there’s an awkward pause. “Or I don’t have to!” Just because I don’t drink myself doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy it. As long as you aren’t passing out or throwing up in my house, have a great time. But then that always makes things a little weird because…
  3. They assume I’m judging them for drinking. The nondrinker in the party can be having all the fun in the world, laughing, joking, telling stories, but everyone seems to think that secretly we’re just there to judge how much you’re drinking. Did you really need that third glass of Rose, Brenda? In real life, no one cares.
  4. Everyone has an idea of why I’ve stopped and they’re usually wrong. Every time you say, “I don’t drink, but thank you,” you can see the wheels spinning in people’s minds. They’re silently trying to decide if you’re now secretly a Mormon or if maybe it’s a health thing. You can see them staring, looking for your “I’m sober” AA pin somewhere on your shirt. Most of the time, whatever weird ideas they have about why I’m not drinking are almost always wrong. The honest truth is that I just don’t like alcohol. And yes, it really is that simple. I like my drinks to taste good.
  5. Parties are still fun, but everyone thinks I’m not having any. “Are you sure you don’t want a glass of wine? You seem bored!” Trust me, I’m sober for most of the rest of my day and don’t get bored. If you know I don’t drink, don’t feel the need to offer me any. And certainly don’t try to spike my drinks to get me to loosen up, either.
  6. People can be seriously rude AF about it. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone equate “no alcohol” to “no fun,” I’d never have to work again a day in my life. People wrinkle their noses at you like you just told them you have decided that you aren’t showering anymore. My favorite rude response is, “That sucks!” I don’t think giving up drinking sucks; in fact, I like being able to drive myself home every night instead of pouring myself into a $40 cab. I’m all good.
  7. Sometimes I wish I drank just to fit in. For someone who doesn’t know the difference between craft beer and PBR, some alcohol-related conversations can get really awkward. If you plan a night out to a nice restaurant with a big beer list, there’s always the inevitable argument among those gathered about the virtues of one over another. Nothing like feeling like a third wheel at the table! Sometimes I wonder why I can’t be like everyone else just so I could have something to contribute to the conversation.
  8. First dates can be awkward. Ever tried to hit on or date anyone without a drink? Bars are some of the most socially acceptable places to ask people out or take people on dates. Without the alcohol, though, I’m left with asking people out at other, weirder places, like bookstores, work, and even friends of friends at dinner parties.
  9. Everyone’s always dying for me to slip up. “Doesn’t that count as drinking?” someone asked me once while I was eating a plate pasta in a wine sauce. The answer is no, most of the alcohol cooks off when heated. But even if it was, are you seriously sitting around staring at my food, hoping to “catch me” messing up? Don’t you have better things to worry about?
Christina Smith is a writer from NY. She likes books and is politically active. Her and her husband regularly stay up too late and eat too much junk food.