Why I Don't Drink (Alcohol, that is)

It is pretty safe to say that when most people imagine a party with people above the age of about 17, alcohol is most certainly involved. Alcohol seems an almost integral part of the Australian culture and teenagers and young adults are no exception. Alcohol can be viewed in many different lights - some people love it, some people hate it and others blame it for everything from violence on our streets to the people filling our emergency departments. Tragically, it is true that drinking to excess can and often does lead to unfortunate events involving alcohol-related violence, abuse, general drunkenness, hospitalisations and in the worst cases, death. On a lighter note, alcohol when used in moderation, can lighten people's mood, relieve stress and improve their social confidence. As I grew up I never felt the need to try alcohol and as the years passed nothing changed. As an 18 year old (almost 19) I have made the decision not to drink. That isn't to say I have never drunk. I have, on four occasions in my life, and the most I have ever consumed in one night was two drinks. I am also not strictly going to say that I will never drink again, I will let myself enjoy a cocktail or two if I feel like it. To be completely honest I don't actually like the taste of alcohol. What's more alcohol is usually mixed into a concoction involving sugary bases including soft drink and sugar syrups. Given that I don't eat sugar, most of these drinks leave me feeling unwell, when I crash after my sugar 'high'. It is somewhat of a joke amongst my friends that it is not actually the alcohol but sugar that affects me the most. Instead, I just drink sparkling mineral water with a slice of lemon or lime, which tastes a thousand times better to me anyway.

However, I have experienced the pressure to drink and at times I have felt somewhat socially isolated by my choice not to drink. Once all my friends began turning 18, there wasn't an event or gathering that didn't involve alcohol. Next weekend I am heading off to Schoolies, an event which is sure to include ample amounts of alcohol. Generally, I am very lucky in that my friends are very accepting of my decision not to drink, so much so that I play 'drinking' games with either mineral water or a smoothie. But sometimes I am the only person who isn't drinking at a party of hundreds, and I can feel left out. There is such an expectation in our society of people to drink, with one of my friend's even telling me once, "Drinking is probably the most sociable thing you can do."

My decision not to drink was a rather sub-conscious one, as I always assumed once I turned 18 I would start drinking and I would enjoy it. That was not the case. I do have friends who choose not to drink, often for different reasons than me. The biggest reason for me, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that alcohol is bad for your health. Given that my health is one of my most cherished and important 'things' in my life, I try to avoid harming it as much as possible. In my mind alcohol = sugar, and I really don't tolerate sugar well. I am insulin resistant and so even too much natural sugar can cause adverse reactions in me. Is drinking an alcoholic beverage packed full of sugar going to make me feel my best? No.

What's more, alcohol is a Group 1 Carcinogen. Group 1 consists of substances known to be carcinogenic to humans. Known! Not assumed or probably carcinogenic, KNOWN. If you don't believe me, see this link. In order to be in my best health and to live a long, happy and hopefully cancer-free life I avoid carcinogenic substances as much as possible. In small doses their harm is minimal, but repeated and especially large doses increase the risk of cancer immeasurably.

Alcohol's most infamous side effect is its ability to slow down your mental functioning, which if you ask me does not sound like something I want! I have witnessed first hand my beautiful, smart and amazing friends be reduced to a vomiting, incoherent mess in the corner. Whilst I love them endlessly and feel very sorry for them when they are in such a situation, the cause of their pain is no secret. Alcohol is especially harmful to the developing brain, and considering most people's brains don't stop developing until they are about 25 I don't want to put mine at increased risk. It might be kind of tragic, but I really want to keep my brain cells!

Another reason I choose not to drink (and perhaps the most crucial) is that I don't need alcohol to provide me all of the benefits other people seek from it. I don't need alcohol to have fun, I have fun anyway. I don't need alcohol to relieve my stress, I have yoga and meditation instead. I don't need alcohol to give me confidence, I choose to love myself and even though I am a generally shy person I don't have any trouble talking to people at parties. I don't need alcohol to be happy, I am happy almost all day, every day. I don't need alcohol to celebrate, I celebrate in other ways. I don't need alcohol for the taste, I much prefer a green juice or smoothie, or sparkling mineral water as I mentioned above. And I don't need alcohol to dance badly, I do that anyway! I simply find that I have no need to drink alcohol, it does not serve me on any level and so it is no wonder that it holds no appeal for me.

I would like to make it very clear that I have no problem with other people's choice to drink. I accept everyone and their choices in life. My choice may be different from the majority, and that is okay. I choose to prioritise my health, always.

Do you drink? What are your thoughts on alcohol?

Keep healthy and happy,

Erica xx