It’s the end of a long work week, the kind that seemed as though it would never come to an end. For most 23-year-olds, Friday night is just the more acceptable beginning to the drinking that began on Wednesday night. So how do you kick back and relax without a drink in hand?
It has been a year since I stopped drinking and I remember the exact moment when things changed. It went a little something like those ads on TV, the ones where the wise friend confronts the slightly hungover friend after a night of partying. Except in my case it was the drinking itself as well as how I was drinking that was the problem. It was the pounding my body was taking as well as the friends I was bringing along with me. It wasn’t exactly that I brought along “hit on everyone’s girlfriend Sarah” or “almost get arrested Sarah”. It was that the alcohol just clearly caused more harm than good.
For me it’s not about saying no altogether, it’s about knowing that alcohol doesn’t mix well with my body makeup and learning how to negotiate social situations that I would usually be drinking in; knowing that I can have a drink every now and then, if and when I feel it’s right for me. It was less about the absolute need to stop drinking and more about making the conscious decision to take care of myself. And it was the best decision I could have made.
Being young, queer and (mostly) sober isn’t an easy feat. We live in a country with a huge drinking culture, which is hard to escape. As a young person coming to terms with your sexuality, the desire to fit in with the GLBT community is often met by exploring the “scene”. It is the easiest way to meet other young queer people and reinforces a positive sense of community. It just so happens that the scene tends to centre around a party culture. It was only a few years ago that I was drinking four or five nights a week; it was just what we did and how we related to one another. A lot is centered around the act of drinking – we celebrate, relax, mourn and feel sorry for ourselves with a drink in hand.
We live in a society where drinking is the norm, when someone doesn’t drink we can’t seem to accept that, we try to understand why, we try to come up with reasons for it. People ask, am I pregnant? Am I on antibiotics? Is it because I’m religious? There seems to be a need for an explanation. When you add those pressures with the pressure to fit into the ‘scene’, it’s no wonder that the queer community is three times more likely to use alcohol and drugs in a harmful way.
For me it’s become a bit of a game that I play when I’m asked why I don’t drink – my sole objective is to come up with a more far-fetched reason each time whilst trying to keep a straight face. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a very attractive upside to being sober. Not only can I get up on a Sunday morning without feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck, but I have no doubts about exactly what I said or did the night before, or have to find my bank account looking a little worse for wear. I’ve begun to appreciate my weekend for different reasons.
I’m quite lucky to have a very supportive partner who never puts any pressure on me to drink. Although we met after we had both had a few too many, we have never needed alcohol to keep things exciting. My friends now know that I can come out and have a good time without the booze. Nearing the end of the night I may not find things as funny as they do, or get as wild as they do, but I still hold my own.
Being sober is not about who you are but about the decisions you make. I don’t necessarily see my decision as a final one, but if/when I do decide to drink again I just know that I won’t be bringing my “friends” along for the ride.
| Sarah Murphy