Why I don’t drink – Pros and cons

I don’t drink alcohol.

The first reason is that I don’t like the taste.  I’m not sure why people enjoy alcoholic beverages or have a taste for them.  Mostly, the stuff tastes very bitter.  I think regular simple beverages like juice taste infinitely better.  I suppose this is one of those areas that you can chalk up to personal preference.

I’ve been told that if you keep trying drinks you eventually acquire a liking for it.  But given that whole alcoholism thing, I’m not particularly sure why I would want to do that.  Where’s the upside?

The second reason is that it feels like a cop out.  Taking a drink, to me, is like admitting I can’t have fun without some sort of external help.  I’m not sure why, but this feeling of having to have earned something to make it worthwhile is so strongly ingrained into my personality that the whole idea of drinking just makes me uncomfortable.  Again, completely a personality thing.

The third reason, and one which I only discovered recently because of the first two reasons, is that I have what is commonly known as the “asian flush“.  About half of all people of Asian descent have an inactive enzyme which is normally responsible for breaking down one of the byproducts of metabolizing alcohol, acetaldehyde.  In “normal” people, the acetaldehyde is broken down…in me, it builds up.  Since acetaldehyde is a toxin, the experience is different for me from what you would normally be expecting.  My heartrate goes through the roof, I get dizzy and nauseous, and I turn bright red to boot.  Completely unpleasant, but cool, right?

The first time I bothered drinking any significant amount of alcohol, I was in college and decided to drink 2 cups of some spiked punch at a party just to see how it was.  Basically, I ended up feeling dizzy and sick.  My friends told me I just needed to push past it until I got a buzz, but I didn’t really buy that story.  Funny guys, though. =)

The second time was about a year and a half ago.  I promised everyone that I would drink after BTV 3.5 went out the door.  Well, it went out, and true to my word, I drank several shots and some Long Island Ice Tea’s during the outing to push past the buzz…which, incidentally, fell on Election Day, 2004.  All the drinks still tasted terrible.

As the drinking progressed, I certainly got a bit more loud, but I could also tell something wasn’t sitting right.  I knew that alcohol was a depressant…but that ran completely counter to the fact that my heartbeat was skyrocketing as a result of the drinking.  Also, my friends told me I was turning bright red.

I felt pretty crappy after just an hour, and after getting a ride back to the office, I sat down and nursed a huge headache while watching for the results of the election from the couch.  The results, if you recall, never really came that night.  I eventually just gave up and went to sleep.

Then I did some internet research on the topic.  Lo and behold, I am now able to write about it today.

I’m not adamant about my teetotaling ways.  I still take a sip here and there if the situation warrants it, or even a gulp once in a while. Invariably, I’m still OK.  But the basic point is that it doesn’t do anything for me.  In fact, due to the taste, it’s slightly unpleasant…like drinking medicine.  I prefer to avoid it.

There are a few problems with not drinking. though.

First of all, drinking is a pretty social activity. In many cases, if you’re not drinking and other people are, it often makes them slightly uncomfortable…as if you are implying something about them and their debaucherous ways.  It may also just imply that you haven’t gotten a drink yet.  However, just holding a drink and not partaking from it will often put people’s worries at ease.  Alternatively, the “asian flush” can be a pretty legitimate excuse for why you can’t drink anything.

Second, it’s quite hard to converse about the act of drinking if you don’t actually drink.  Unfortunately, since drinking is rather intimately tied to the act of socializing, you get a naturally disproportionate amount of discussion revolving around beers and wines no matter where you go.  In such cases, one is forced to sit around and smile gamely while people comment about what beers they like, why they like them, what everyone is drinking, etc.  I hate that scenario with a passion, but there’s not much one can do about it in the middle of those situations except wait it out or try and change the subject.

Anyway, although I’m quite comfortable about not drinking on a personal basis, for me I’ve reached a point where I need to balance my utter disinterest in drinking with the more beneficial social aspects of it.  If I didn’t need to make any human contact ever again…then sure, I could just ignore alcohol completely and be done with it.  But that’s not what’s going on.  First impressions do count.

So I ponder what the correct choice is.  Hold water and just say hey, I don’t drink?  Nurse a tiny drink and pretend like I like it, but still be oblivious to the intricacies of various beers and wines?  Spend time learning about beers and wines…time that could be spent learning something else?  Or just go full bore, drink whenever the opportunity requires it, and the hell with the asian flush and subsequent instant hangovers?

I’m sticking with water for the moment, but every so often, I still wonder if I’m missing something.

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