August 7th, 2008

More proof that neo-neocon is no fun at all: on being a nondrinker


I don’t drink.

Oh, I can take a sip or two of almost any alcoholic beverage—sometimes even three or four sips on an especially wild night. And I enjoy them, as many of my friends and dinner companions have discovered. But then something mysterious happens and I simply cannot drink any more.

Back when I was in college I drank with the best of them and the worst of them, but only at parties. I was never anything but a social drinker. But in school the parties come often and the drinking opportunities were relentless.

I was renowned for my ability to drink anyone under the table. Vodka was my drink of choice, probably a sign of things to come had I known anything about drinking—which I didn’t—because vodka is nearly tasteless and featureless and was a clue that I didn’t really like the taste of alcohol all that much to begin with.

I drank to impress with my boldness. I drank to cover up my shyness. I drank out of boredom. I drank because it made the parties more fun. I drank because I smoked at the time and the two looked really cool together.

Just a few times I drank till I got sick and had a nasty hangover the next day. I never drank till I passed out, although once—at a party where the liquor was mixed into some sort of hideous-tasting-and-looking drink/punch that was rumored to contain grain alcohol and was served from a huge vat into which someone fell during the course of the evening—I drank only about half a glass but still lost all visual memories of the event, although I retained a clear recollection of what had been said and what people had done.

And then one day I found I couldn’t drink any more. I say “one day,” but it wasn’t a single moment. The knowledge came on over a period of a few months when I realized I simply had lost the desire to swill the stuff down anymore.

It puzzled me. But in the end I grew to accept it, much as I later grew to accept that chocolate gave me such migraines that I couldn’t eat it any more. I had loved chocolate, though, and I’d never loved alcohol. It was just something I used to do and didn’t care to do again

It’s mostly a non-issue now, although it has the advantage of offering my friends a lot of potential for teasing me. Sometimes people who don’t know me think it means I’m an alcoholic in recovery. Sometimes people think it means I’m a teetotaler or that I disapprove of people having a good time; I’m not and I most definitely don’t.

Years ago when I was going through a divorce, I did something you’re not supposed to do: I moved to a place where almost no one knew me. And it soon became winter, snowy and cold, with darkness falling in the mid-afternoon. I decided it was high time to begin to drink again.

People drink to forget their troubles, and forgetting my troubles was just fine with me. I started with wine. Got a bottle of a nice white—I had some vague notion that red might give me headaches, although I’d never had enough to find out—and poured it into a pretty wineglass. Then I sat down and took a sip. And then another sip, and another.

And then it became difficult; very very difficult. I forced myself to take a couple more sips, but I found that that was it. My body and mind said “no more.”

It wasn’t exactly a shout, but it was very firm “no” nevertheless. I didn’t have the sort of feeling you get at a buffet after eating way too much and just can’t stuff another forkful of food into your gullet. No, I knew I had not indulged to excess, and that theoretically I could continue without any problem. I didn’t feel the least bit sick. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, and I hadn’t a clue why.

I tried changing libations. Amaretto was tasty, but a mere tablespoonful seemed to shut off any desire to imbibe more. I tried changing chairs. I tried standing. I tried putting music on, and I tried TV as an accompaniment.

And then I gave up and stopped trying, and decided to reconcile myself to the fact that I would have to go through that particular experience fully conscious and fully experiencing whatever it was I was meant to experience. Which is probably a good thing.

25 Responses to “More proof that neo-neocon is no fun at all: on being a nondrinker”

  1. Agricola Says:

    I stopped drinking because my pancreas couldn’t take it anymore and my doctor told me to stop. I was ready. And it didn’t take too long for me to discover that I could have as much fun/be as much fun without the comfort of a drink. Although I will admit to getting bored a little before my wife and our friends want to go home…

  2. vanderleun Says:

    Well I guess, as fully-crashed alcoholics say, “You’ve just had your share.”

  3. Dave Says:

    I used to drink a large glass of red wine every evening. I felt quite relaxed by the end of the glass. Over time however I stopped feeling relaxed and mainly just got a headache. Wine, beer, whatever, they all give me a headache now, so I don’t drink. Bummer.

  4. nyomythus Says:

    I spent 2.5 years in voluntary AA/NA meetings and discovered that I don’t have a problem with intoxicating substances, but a big problem with the relationships involved with these things; I almost never buy beer, or wine, or anything harder, and generally 2 beers and I’m simply full, as in why would I want to consume most liquid? As for other intoxicants; from smokable or drinkable — it’s a rare and far between blue moon, I’m just to busy having fun doing other things; I think it speaks to many but it’s the relationships that are poisonous.

  5. Paul Gordon Says:

    Through my twenties and thirtie’s, I had gone through periods of drinking where I was probably a full-blown alcoholic.

    Then, somewhere in my forties I cut down to an occasional beer with whatever it went best with, and that’s where I am now.

    I can’t claim any victory of will power; I think I reached a point where my body just got tired of it.

  6. Mitsu Says:

    I have never liked alcohol. I just don’t like the taste. I attempted on many occasions to try to force myself to like it — I went an entire year actually making myself try to drink on social occasions. The most I could manage to get down was one drink.

    Alcohol also doesn’t really give me a pleasant sensation or effect. I feel a little more voluble but also slightly nauseated. I finally conclude alcohol just wasn’t for me. I will take sip or two, but that’s it.

  7. Cappy Says:

    Vodka is nearly tasteless and featureless
    That’s why it’s my drink of choice. Matches my sense of humor and DBA techie personality.

  8. Woodlandcritter Says:

    I have always enjoyed the flavor of alcohol (good wine, good beer, cheap gin) but I have never been able to have more that 1-2 glasses a night, even in college. I think that some part of my brain does not like the feeling that alcohol produces and it cuts me off.

    As the grandson and great grandson of alcholics, I have always regarded this as a feature, not a bug.

  9. maneocon Says:

    Whether you drink or not is not an issue as long as you have the will power to stop or resist. Then there are a lot of folks who don’t and end up over-indulging in it. That spells doom to self and others around you. I have a friend who does not like the taste of alcohol, but when he drinks, he likes to binge drink. I don’t understand that. If I don’t like something, I will never do it. No matter who is around me.

    But kudos to you neo that you have been able to stay away from it. It is quite remarkable.

  10. stphnd Says:

    But, but, but, sputter……..To contradict your joshing claim to be no fun, you can still have loads of fun with alcohol Neo-Neocon.

    Just make a hearty Chicken Tettrazini with a good Sherry or a Bœuf Bourguignon with a decent Pinto Noir.

    Bananes Flambee must have rum. Crepes Suzette isn’t without a Cognac et Grand Marnier.

  11. SteveH Says:

    Alcohol as a beverage is really weird if you think about it. Exactly who was the first guy who decided to try drinking a flammable liquid?

  12. Jimmy J. Says:

    You are very fortunate to have those genes, Neo.

    I was, at one point in my life, a very heavy drinker. Maybe even an alcoholic, although alcoholics are not supposed to be able to quit.

    I quit drinking, but I’ve never been totally free of the craving for my drink of choice. In the evening, before dinner, a vodka martini was my drink. And one was never enough. Four were always too many. The hangovers were ferocious, and, in the end, not worth it. The desire to wake up feeling halfway human still overcomes the desire to have that soothing, smooth vodka martini or four. What a blessing to be able to drink just one and call it good.

    Life is full of such conundrums.

  13. Standing in the Shadows Says:

    I’m in the same boat as Mitsu, I cannot stand the taste/flavor of alcohol. I tried a bunch of types, vodka, gin, tequila, whiskey, etc. (Beer is so nasty I have to wonder how you people actually drink that stuff.) The last time I tried drinking was 20 years ago at my brother’s wedding reception. They served a sparkling white wine/champane, before dinner (for toasts). After the third sip I would start gagging at the thought of drinking more. After that, I gave up.

    I’ve been asked about my non drinking a few times at social gatherings, but they’ve always been cool with it, and it’s not like I have problems with other people drinking (go, enjoy yourself). Although, lately when people ask, I usually retort wit the joke, “I’m alergic to alcohol. Whenver I have alcohol I break out in hand cuffs.” It might be a lie, but it’s a damn funny one.

  14. Foxfier Says:

    Try Kirin, if you really want to find a beer that’s drinkable– I got started on it and can now manage even cheep beer.

    I like alcohol, the bite of it– the ones that are painful, not my style.

    Thankfully, I have my Elfie, who can counter-act my somewhat lack of judgment. -.-

  15. PapaMAS Says:

    I know exactly what you mean by your body and mind saying, “No.” These days, somewhat to my regret, there are times I would really like to get blasted, or at least get a decent buzz on, but after a couple I simply can not drink anymore alcohol. My body says I have had enough.

    As an undergrad I drank like a fish. Partly it was a point of pride to drink someone else under the table, partly it was a fun thing to do with friends, partly I just wanted to see how blasted I could get. As the years went by I drank less and less. I don’t miss it too much. What I miss is some of the feelings I would get, like how good a cold beer felt slipping down my throat on a hot summer night and how easily and quickly three or four more would go down. But that was a long time ago. Now a couple of glasses of beer or good wine is enough. I used to love mixed drinks but have not had any for ages.

  16. Rather Read Says:

    I don’t drink either. I don’t like the taste of liquor by itself, but I like it all right in cooking. I’m going to make an amaretto cheesecake this weekend.

    I don’t mind being around drinkers at all, but I can’t stand it when they get drunk and obnoxious.

  17. I R A Darth Aggie Says:

    I think I’m in the wrong blog. Set a pint of Smithwick’s (or Guiness, or Sam Adams) in front of me, and keep ’em coming. Pretty much anything except Jagermeister, grain alcohol and gin.

    And red bull, but that’s a seperate issue. Oh, and that bath tub punch you described in college as being rumored as grain alcohol? it was grain alcohol. Nothing rumored about it. Nasty, nasty stuff.

  18. Tatyana Says:

    Neo, you described exactly what happened to me and the cigarettes.
    Being a social smoker (up to a pack a day, never more), but a regular smoker, up until got pregnant with my son. Didn’t make any conscious decisions, didn’t even fight it – my body just rejected the taste/smell/high etc. Felt nauseated even near someone smoking. Lasted for about 20 yrs. I do share a cigarette break nowm on occasion, when in appropriate company. But a pack of cigs lasts me about 8 months.

  19. Tim Says:

    I don’t drink. I just don’t enjoy it, though beer and pizza do seem to go togher. The unusual thing is that when people find out you don’t drink, it takes them a bit to adjust. I don’t know if its becuase they think you might be an alcoholic or that your abstance is adjudgement (it is not) but they just act strange. go figure.

  20. Peter Says:

    Way to go Neo! You get a score +1. I think I’ve only ever given you two points though, so you’re still a bit back in the negatives… It’s ok. You can work on it.

  21. Perfected democrat Says:

    I’ll drink to that!

  22. Standing in the Shadows Says:

    A man comes home from the bar, late as usual. He sneaks inside through the back door, but he’s confronted by his wife standing in the middle of the kitchen. Seeing the drunken mess that is her husband she exclaims, “Hmpf! Well, two can play this game!” and reaches into the top cupboard, pulls out a bottle of whiskey and begins to chug it down.

    After about a second and a half the woman drops the bottle, spits the whiskey all over the kitchen and makes a mad dash for the sink while her drunken husband laughs hysterically. After the woman pulls her face away from the sink, her husband says in a slurred voice, “And you thought that I was enjoying myself.”

  23. Ymarsakar Says:

    No, I knew I had not indulged to excess, and that theoretically I could continue without any problem. I didn’t feel the least bit sick. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, and I hadn’t a clue why.

    Some people have that kind of biofeedback loop in which the body actually starts telling you, by signals, that you are doing too much of something.

    I know this, cause I’m the same way. Except I’m that way with everything. Every food, including sweats and coffee and drugs and any other foreign thing that one might ingest, digest, inject, etc.

  24. Ymarsakar Says:

    And it usually happens, Neo, right after you get way too much of something. Your drinking too much perhaps triggered something.

    I can’t stand salt, but my tolerance for sugar is much higher, but it is still capped at the end at some level. Chocolates and other things start tasting differently once I near my cap.

  25. br549 Says:

    I used to drink years ago. Somehow, I lost the taste for it, although I will have a beer or two on my birthday, a couple during the holidays when with others.

    However, Breyers Vanilla Bean Speck ice cream is dangerous when bathed in chocolate syrup, or with freshly brewed Columbian coffee poured over it.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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