I don’t drink and it’s ruining my social life!

24 Jun

I was out with work friends recently for drinks. My friend offered to buy the first round. She asked everyone what they’d like and when she got to me I said, “Can I have a mineral water please?” Everyone laughed. They thought I was joking. I mean, what was I doing at work drinks if I wasn’t planning to drink, right?

I don’t know why I don’t drink. It’s not a moral or dietary choice. I’ve just never taken to alcohol. It tastes horrible and it usually leaves me with a massive headache.

As an Italian, I’m more used to eating my alcohol. Sparkling wine in my spaghetti sauce, beer chicken and desserts soaked in Tia Maria. My parents drank. When I was little my dad was always offering me sips of beer and a little Tia Maria mixed in with milk. So it’s not like I was raised hating alcohol.

When I reached my late teens and early twenties I got a job in breakfast radio. Getting up at 3am each day is definitely not conducive to drinking alcohol. I rarely went out and when I did it was usually a work function. I didn’t dare drink. Sleep deprivation was hard enough to cope with without adding alcohol to the mix.

I’ve been drunk twice in my life and it took quite a bit of effort on my part to get there. The first time was at my sister’s hen’s night. I forced down two shots of tequila and was PLASTERED. I had a massive hangover the next day. I wanted to die. The second time was when I was at a friend’s boyfriend’s house and they served a bottle of peach schnapps. Yum, but ouch once again the next day. These two ‘incidents’ happened in the same year.

Shortly after, I got a job as a bar tender (ha) and learned a lot about alcohol. I could pour the perfect beer, mix cocktails like Tom Cruise and I could even recommend suitable wines to compliment people’s dinner choices. Still, I didn’t become a drinker. I was openly ridiculed by my colleagues.

Then I met my husband. We loved going out together and I tried to develop a taste for alcohol. I tried vodka and orange and after gagging I tried vodka and orange in a tall glass. I tried drinking sweet white wine, several mixer drinks….they all tasted like medicine to me. I just couldn’t do it.

So I don’t drink. But my husband and some friends do. My husband bought expensive imported beer for a dinner party and I used the leftovers to make beer chicken. He was horrified. “Use the cheap stuff next time,” he yelled. “But wasn’t it delicious?” I said.

We decided to go to the Hunter Valley one weekend because that’s what couples from Sydney do. My husband the genius (not) came up with the idea of cycling to the start of the road and stopping at each vineyard on the way back. He did fine but by my second sip of wine (and I mean sip, it barely touched my lips) I was wobbling and had a massive headache. He was so freaked out that he rode next to me the entire way back. We stuck to the cheese and chocolate shops after that. We bought a couple of boxes of wine back with us which I used to make spaghetti sauce. “Where’s all our Hunter Valley wine?” he asked one weekend. “You ate it,” I answered him.

So I don’t drink. I’ve accepted it now. I don’t drink, I don’t try to drink, alcohol tastes like crap to me and I’m never trying it again. But please don’t hassle me. I accept your choice to drink so accept my choice not to. I’ve been abused several times while out for my choice not to drink. One ‘friend’ actually looked at me with pity, as though I lacked sophistication. Maybe I do. But it’s better than forcing myself to do something I hate.

Think of the positives – you always have an designated driver and random breath tests are fun (I got to do the one where you count to ten on Friday night AND they gave me directions home – it’s easy to get lost in Balmain).

I know I’m in the minority and I will always be the non-drinking freak in my circle of friends. But I’ll match you glass for glass when it comes to lattes and soda. And I’ll always serve it at dinner parties. Bottoms up – just not mine!

For beer chicken, fry chicken thighs and onions in olive oil. When brown pour a can or bottle of beer in the pan and simmer until the beer goes sticky. For spaghetti sauce with wine cook your usual sauce but before you bring it to the boil add two cups of white wine, preferably sweet sparkling. For great cake bake a butter cake and then brush each layer with a mixture of coffee and Tia Maria. Add a layer of cream, cover in more cream, sprinkle with chocolate and over the sides with toasted almonds. Think of me fondly as you devour it.


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