It happened innocently. I was at a meal prep class and patting myself on the back for being responsible and pulled together. I was actually getting everything ready for my family and we wouldn’t be deciding between hot dogs or cereal for dinner the next time I lost track of time working. I was chatting with the other attendees when the facilitator pulled out a bottle of wine and started walking around and offering it to all of us.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Yeah, that was definitely my first reaction. This was probably the last place I expected I would need to turn down alcohol and feel like an outcast. I just knew this was going to be another night of when everyone is drinking but me! At least I wasn’t the first one asked. Talk about awkward! I’m glad though because it gave me a chance to sit back, observe and answer a question that had been weighing on me lately – Is everyone else really drinking?
I watched her walk around from prep station to prep station offering the bottle up and I braced myself. Except something unexpected happened. Over and over again I saw a shake of a head, a polite smile or an outstretched hand saying “No.” In fact, the few that accepted the offer only took a polite amount for tasting.
What was going on here? Advertising and media are constantly convincing us that everyone else is drinking so why wasn’t I seeing that? Was this just an isolated incident?
I knew I needed to explore this further so I decided to take research it further. I reached out to friends and colleagues far and wide. I didn’t want my results to be based upon my network of non-drinkers. The answers were pleasant and slightly shocking based upon my experiences.
The Truth Behind When Everyone Is Drinking But Me
You’d think based on your Facebook feeds and the running jokes on all the blogs that everyone is drinking but me – or they at least drink regularly. These were the questions I asked –
1) How often do you actually drink alcohol? Do you need to drink when going out with friends, to dinner, etc?
I fully expected to hear that the majority of people at least drank weekly, if not a few times a week. The answers proved me dead wrong. The responses floored me.
“We might drink a total of 5 times per year.”
“I might drink a few times a year. I don’t need to drink when going out but typically I might. 50/50. Peer pressure, I guess.”
“I drink once or twice a year. No I don’t have to drink when I go out.”
“I drink once or twice a year, though I often “pretend” at social gatherings when others are drinking… grape juice in a wine glass, virgin mojitos, etc.”
“I recently “quit” drinking. And by quit…I’ll have no more than 2 drinks maybe once or twice a month, if at all. The amazing thing was that no one would even think twice about you drinking and driving, but pass on a mimosa at brunch or wine at dinner and they think it’s the end of the world.”
Most of the answers were eerily similar. In fact, out of all the responses only 20% drank weekly or more often. I wasn’t expecting that. I mean when I was drinking it was a daily thing and everyone around me was drinking too, weren’t they?
2) Do you serve alcohol when you host parties, dinners, potlucks? How about children’s parties? (For the adults obviously!)
Social gatherings. Everyone must drink and serve alcohol at parties right? I was regularly offered wine at children’s parties so that must be a thing. Surely, everyone would be drinking at social gatherings.
“We do not serve alcohol for any parties.”
“We usually do not serve alcohol at parties. Occasionally BYOB for a barbecue or reception.”
“I would not want to be a stumbling block or temptation for anyone and secondly I experienced the emotional effects that having an alcoholic in your family can bring.”
“Usually if I’m hosting I won’t provide alcohol but someone else might bring it. I can’t afford to serve alcohol to everyone!”
Out of all the responses, only one served alcohol at children’s parties. 0.05%
Those that served alcohol at social gatherings did it because they felt they needed too. It was there to make the adults feel comfortable.
I found that to be extremely telling. The same people who aren’t drinking themselves and prefer not having alcohol still feel compelled to provide alcohol to make others feel comfortable.
What if we were honest with each other about not wanting alcohol in the first place?
3) Would you feel out of place during a gathering that didn’t serve alcohol?
We all say we feel awkward at gatherings when they serve alcohol, right? So obviously, people want alcohol to be available when they are going out, right?
“I will have drinks out with friends but don’t need to and wouldn’t feel out of place if I was at a non drinking event.”
“I don’t feel out of place anymore being around it and not drinking, but my not drinking definitely makes people feel uncomfortable, maybe it forces them to look at themselves and their drinking habits.”
“I would totally not feel out of place if alcohol wasn’t served. I actually feel a bit out of place when others are drinking, hence the “pretending””
“I feel more out of place when there is alcohol, I’m really not a drinker.”
“I spent 20 years not drinking at all, and just recently started drinking occasionally so it’s not really a part of my life style.”
Can you imagine the money I would have saved for all those years if I’d known this? People would rather attend a dry gathering? Really? Don’t people need alcohol to loosen up and start talking to each other?
So if the answer to “Is everyone drinking but me?” is no – why does it seem that way and how do we change that perception?
Society and our experiences are what have trained us to believe that everyone is drinking. My norm was to drink nightly, when going out with friends and at social gatherings. You form your perceptions based upon your experiences so if that was what was normal to me it must be what everyone else was doing as well. Now that I’m not drinking – my experience and my perception is much different. If I’m not drinking – maybe everyone else isn’t either. When I have a gathering and I don’t serve alcohol, everyone still enjoys themselves. They just remember who they spoke to, what the conversation was about and what they said the next day!
Society and media bombard us with the drinking culture and that’s where our misgivings about being different because we’re not drinking come from. We’re being told that everyone is drinking so we believe it. The truth is – most people don’t drink because they don’t enjoy the way it makes them feel or they can’t afford to. One mom said – “I’m tired enough at the end of the night already. I don’t need alcohol to make it worse and then to have to deal with how crappy I feel the next day.” The same goes for those who are being health conscious or just lead busy lives. They don’t have space in their lives for alcohol. For every person hitting up happy hour, there’s just as many grabbing a latte and hoping to stay awake through basketball practice!
Flipping The Script
Friday is St. Patrick’s Day. You might be dreading it as you turn down invites to hit the bars for a night of revelry, drinking and all things green. Now it’s your chance to flip the script for this night and every other where you choose not to drink alcohol.
St. Patrick’s Day is only a drinking holiday if you make it one. Gather your friends for an elegant Irish Dinner party instead. Authentic Irish beverages like Tea, Miwadi, Club Orange or TK Red Lemonade. Craft a menu including Irish Soda Bread, Corned Beef and Cabbage, and finish with a dessert of Irish Oat Flapjacks. For even more fun set up an ice cream or milkshake bar and watch the conversation flow as everyone compares their creations!
All it takes is one successful gathering that is alcohol free to stop people from saying “Everyone is drinking but me!” and instead have them planning the next event full of friends, food and good conversation!
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