On alcohol

Alcohol was a taboo topic in my family growing up. I was told in no uncertain terms that drinking was bad and that alcohol should be avoided at all costs. And I believed it, or at least I thought I did.

During my teenage years, I abstained from alcohol and observed with a sense of smug superiority as friends and acquaintances drank and often made foolish decisions.

But in the last couple of years of college, the social pull to drink was too strong, and the rationale for not drinking too weak. My mom’s voice saying “because I told you so” felt less and less effective in the face of college parties, good times, and lowered inhibitions. So I finally gave in and started drinking at age 20.

Initially, it felt like the best decision ever. Why had I waited so long, I thought. The social benefits alone seemed worth it. I could suddenly talk to a lot more people a lot more openly. I could enjoy myself with limited or no major consequences. And practically everyone around me was doing it. These people couldn’t all be wrong, could they?

Through my 20s, binge drinking became the norm. I developed a reputation as the guy who enjoyed a fun night out. If I had no set plans on a Friday or Saturday night, I’d cycle through groups of friends to figure out who wanted to get drunk (or watch me get drunk) that night.

Now I know that it was primarily a coping mechanism, a way to forget about stresses related to work, disagreements with my parents, and dealing with adulthood in general. Looking back, I realize it wasn't the best way to deal with my issues.

Over time, the negative effects of alcohol became increasingly obvious to me. As I got older, I could no longer just shake off a night of heavy drinking and move on. Hangovers became more severe, even though I never really admitted it to anyone. Blackouts became common, as did the feelings of regret and shame of not being able to control my alcohol intake. I even found myself in one too many dangerous or near-dangerous situations.

Suffice it to say that the wake-up calls got louder and more vigorous, and I finally gave up drinking at the end of 2021. Now that really was one of my best decisions ever.

To my surprise, quitting cold turkey wasn’t nearly as bad as I had previously contemplated. I was no longer the college kid who dove headfirst into drinking all those years ago. I could hold my own in social situations without needing to be inebriated. More importantly, I no longer needed social approval from casual friends or strangers.

The people who truly cared about me were very supportive, and that's all I needed. In fact, it’s led to more interesting and deeper conversations, and surprisingly, a high level of interest in what it's like to be sober.

While I still disagree with my parents on a lot of things, I must admit that they were correct about alcohol, even if their particular form of reasoning and logic may have been flawed. Evidence is mounting that there are basically no benefits to consuming alcohol, at least from a health perspective.

Aside from acknowledging my inability to develop a healthy relationship with alcohol, I learned a more profound lesson from this experience: popularity and social acceptance do not determine whether something is right or wrong. I am now more cautious about accepting something as true solely because it is popular, and I encourage you to do the same.