Living in New York City can be incredibly stressful. The hectic workdays and nights chasing your dreams can grow tiring. Many people don't make it, move back home with their parents and throw in the proverbial towel. Others achieve their dreams. Somewhere in between this spectrum, though, some people like to sit down after a hard day of work and enjoy a nice cold drink.
Not me, though. I'm a 24-year-old man living in New York City chasing my pipe dream to be a comedian and I have also never had a drop of alcohol in my life. I've never touched any kind of drug (unless it was for medical purposes). I've never done it, and at this point, I don't think I ever will. Before I go any further, let me answer the most common questions that people tend to have when I drop this information on them:
No, I've never dealt with addiction in the past, whether it be drinking, drugs or any other substance.
No, my family doesn't have a history of alcohol or drug abuse.
No, I'm not a Mormon.
Now that we have that out of the way, let me explain why I don't drink or do drugs. Simply, it just doesn't interest me. I've weighed the pros and cons, and the pros FAR outweigh the cons. It's healthier not to do it, it's cheaper, I always remember where I leave stuff, I've never broken or lost a phone, I've never hooked up with a girl, who when I awoke, looked completely different than I thought, I can always drive, I've never puked in a public space, so on and so forth.
When it came to the pros of drinking, I had a hard time listing any. As far as I know, people don't really like the taste. Hangovers seem like a nightmare, especially if you are working the next day. And oftentimes, you lose your ability to speak coherently. The only positive that anyone has told me about drinking or doing drugs is, "it's fun!"
Point taken. You see, as someone who doesn't drink or do drugs, I don't have a lot of that. There is commonly held assumption that if you don't drink or do drugs, you look down upon those who do. I don't. This is just a choice that I've made for myself and what I think is best for me.
If you enjoy drinking or doing drugs, go for it! I'm not saying that I'm right about everything or that my way of life is better than any other, I just prefer to live this way. I acknowledge that drinking and doing drugs look like a lot of fun and the stories I'm told about going out drinking are usually hilarious. It's just not something that I'm into.
This path I've chosen for myself though, presents a lot of challenges. It has affected my life in more areas than I thought it would. There are a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to someone who isn't interested in drinking or doing drugs, and those feelings come from a lot of different places.
A while ago, after one of my comedy shows (I'm a comedian, look me up and help me be famous!), one of my friends told me that a girl who he knew in the audience was interested in me. He gave her my number and we proceeded to text for a while and eventually, decided to meet up. I was doing another show at a bar around where she lived, so she agreed to come.
After the show, when we were hanging out, on her way to the bar, she asked if I wanted a drink. I told her that I didn't drink and suddenly, the tone of the night was set. It wasn't about hanging out and getting to know each other anymore, it was about, "Why don't you just DRINK?!" "Come on, just have one!" "What would it take for you to have a drink?" For all the judgment people assume I put off, I felt pretty judged — and quite emasculated.
After that, I tried to arrange hanging out with this girl at another location. She seemed like she was dodging me, so I was straightforward about it and asked her if she even wanted to see me again, to which she replied, "No." When I asked her why she said, "You don't drink or do any drugs and that's kind of a big part of my life." I had been cock-blocked by my healthy and economically sound lifestyle. Curses!
I've worked as a waiter in restaurants for many years and when I moved to New York, it was the easiest job for me to acquire quickly. I applied to many places and finally, one restaurant agreed to grant me an interview. At the end of the interview, I was told to come in for training the next day so I could learn the menu and how the restaurant operates. I showed up the next day for training, shadowed another waiter, learned the menu, and was told to come in the following day.
I showed up, started taking tables, inputting orders on the computer system, the whole nine yards. At the end of the shift, the manager told me it was time for a wine tasting. I informed the manager that I didn't drink and that I wouldn't feel comfortable tasting the wine but that I would love to learn about the wines, as I've had wine training in numerous restaurants before.
He said that it wasn't a problem and that he would give me a pamphlet about the regions of origin for the wine, what they would taste like and how to describe them to guests. He told me that I should come in for training two days later. I left the restaurant feeling happy about my new job.
The next day, I received an email from the manager saying that the restaurant would no longer like to work with me. Included in the email was the reason, "We are a wine heavy restaurant and if you can't taste them, then you can't work here." There were four wines on the menu.
Four! I've worked in restaurants with upwards of 20 different wines that I sold, described and suggested to customers without issue. When I told my friends about this experience, they suggested I contact the Better Business Bureau because it seemed like a case of discrimination. In a sense, yes, it was. What if my choice not to drink reflected a religious belief? What if I was a recovering alcoholic, trying to get my act together?
I decided to just take my pay for the three days of training and continue my job search — oh wait, I wasn't paid at all for those three days of training, even though I took numerous orders and wasted hours of my life learning a menu that would mean nothing to me since I didn't get the job. Not bitter at all.
I have friends who go out drinking often — on any given night of the week, some of number of them are out. I never get invited. Apparently, because I don't drink, I don't like to hang out with my friends. I'll see them then next day and they'll always say something to the effect of, "Why didn't you come out with us last night? We had so much fun!" I'll tell you why, it's because no one ever invites me to an after-work drink. Just because I don't drink, doesn't mean I don't ever want to go out.
I like going out and being around friends, whether they are drinking or not. If I like their company, odds are, I want to be around them. Inevitably, there will be the joke to the effect of, "I'll have a beer and she'll have a beer and this guy, right here, will have a WATER!" It’s hilarious. After that, however, I do have the ability to function and speak with people who are drinking.
Abstaining from alcohol and drugs has been one of the decisions I’ve made for myself. Still, I can't help but imagine what my life would be like if I had just jumped on the bandwagon. I can't help but wonder if I'd be happier or if I'd have more friends — heck, maybe I would have even gotten that job at that restaurant!
Sometimes, I fantasize about going into a bar and being able to sit there with a beer and enjoy it. Since this is my lifestyle choice, I don't think I'll be doing that any time soon, but, boy, do I need a drink.