Why I Don't Drink Anymore

María Ramos
Hispanic woman in a jean jacket looking directly at the viewer

I had my first sip of beer at the age of 6. It was just a sip – like training wheels. 

My aunt used to say, “Well, you need to know how it tastes so that no one takes advantage of you when you’re older.” She only drank once in a blue moon, but every time she had a drink, she would let me taste it – just a little sip. I felt good to belong; that's what the grown-ups were doing. As I grew up, I occasionally took sips of my dad’s beer. I was supervised. I never grabbed a beer on my own. 

Before you say, “This is child abuse,” well, I don’t think that’s what it was for me. 
I never really liked alcohol, and my first official drink came at the age of 21 – a milestone that was less thrilling than I expected. I thought, "I get to drink now!" but it turned out to be a margarita that didn't sit well with me; it burned my stomach. 

It took another year before I got drunk for the first time, thanks to margaritas at a work gathering. I used to work as a loss prevention guard at a store in Manhattan, and these gatherings were more like casual hang-outs – nothing formal, nothing to worry about. I prided myself on being a model employee; it was no big deal. Let me socialize, let me come out of my shell. I had two margaritas and a shot. 

Later, I found myself in the bathroom, throwing up. Who drinks on a salad-filled stomach? Amateur move. I may have felt embarrassed that day, but it didn’t matter. It was what I thought I was supposed to do at that age. 

Hard liquor wasn’t for me. Everyone kept telling me to make sure I ate before I drank. As I delved into the world of experimenting with different types of liquor, I gradually realized that wine was likely a  better choice. It has a certain fanciness to it, doesn’t hit as hard, is a common choice on TV, and is touted as good for the heart. Plus, it takes the edge off when I’m stressed. Bingo! 

I discovered the drink for me: wine.

I enjoyed a good glass of merlot once in a while, but my favorite was pinot noir. It was smooth and not as pungent as the rest, and it complimented my personality well. 

I didn’t drink every day or every month, but when I went out, I limited myself to two glasses of wine. Nothing more than that because I always said, “I don’t want to feel like I’m not in control of my body, so two is just the nice spot for me.” 

I began working in an office after graduating from college. I found myself mistreated by my direct supervisor and that was stressful. Having just moved out of my parents' house, I knew I had to make it work because going back to live with my parents after was not an option. So, I endured the pressure, continued to perform well at my job, and plastered a big smile on my face while feeling a sense of inner turmoil. 

There were days when I would reach out to a friend, saying, "Hey, let’s go grab some dinner and drinks." Wine became my go-to, offering a temporary sense of relief and ease. 

Wine became a dependable friend during tough times.

In my early 20s, this coping mechanism seemed manageable. Wine became a kind of scapegoat. It served as a form of medicine for me. I knew I could rely on it when I couldn’t handle my racing thoughts about the workday, or the challenges life was throwing at me. 

Sure, I wrote my feelings in a journal now and then, and I've always considered myself intuitive and self-aware. However, these efforts weren't enough to quiet my thoughts or improve my well-being in the workplace. For an extended period, I leaned on wine as a remedy for my troubles. While I didn't have an addiction, it became a dependable friend during tough times. 

I reached my 30s and had taken on multiple jobs over the years. However, life continued to be stressful, and I found myself sinking into a deep depression. Despite being high-functioning, I carried the weight internally while presenting a smiling, energetic facade to the outside world. Inside, I felt drained. Initially, wine provided a momentary escape, but over time, it worsened my life. Instead of relaxing my mind, it contributed to feelings of depression and moodiness, and added to the darkness within. Alcohol is a depressant, and with age, my body couldn't handle even two glasses anymore. 

Hard Kombucha: A "healthier" alternative.

So, I decided to switch to hard kombucha, thinking it would be a healthier choice. Unfortunately, it still contained alcohol and did nothing to improve my well-being. My usual remedy was no longer effective, but it seemed like the only option I had.

While I began therapy and discussed my depression with my primary care doctor, no one suggested medication. The advice I received was centered around going to the gym, journaling, and trying various activities in between. Despite these efforts, nothing alleviated my struggles with depression or anxiety. 
I continued relying on alcohol to take the edge off when I felt emotionally drained, even though I was aware it would inevitably lead to feeling miserable in the following days. 

My wake-up call occurred when stress and emotional turmoil reached such heights that, every day after work, I found myself reaching for hard kombucha and consuming one each day. The resulting feelings were terrible. It prompted me to ask myself, "Is this truly what I want? Is it worth it for me?” 

It wasn’t worth it. Alcohol brought me despair. 

Eventually, I received the help I desperately needed for my mental health, and it improved my life tenfold. With newfound meaning, and finally feeling good inside, I decided to stop drinking. My last drink was in February 2022 at a wedding.  

People around me still drink, offering friendly drinks at family gatherings, but I always decline with a simple, "No, thank you." Insistent family members often say, “Here, just drink one, you’ll be okay.” My response remains constant: “Sorry, it just doesn’t make me feel good.” I don't consider myself superior to anyone who drinks socially just because I decided to stop engaging in this activity. If people perceive me as a snob for not drinking anymore, I'm not entirely sure I can control that, and it’s not my business. 
I'm content now that I don’t drink. Dinners are more affordable, conversations are deeper, and I no longer require a drink to socialize. I believe I have accepted myself for who I am and what I stand for in the world. I've addressed past traumas and found more fitting jobs, but it's always a work in progress. 

I wanted to avoid causing more harm to myself in the pursuit of feeling better. I simply wanted to feel at peace without the added substance. 

I understand that if I had continued relying on alcohol to ease the pain that comes with living life, I would have soon become dependent on it. If alcohol hadn't made me feel terrible, I would have continued using it as a crutch for the real underlying issues that I faced, and not getting to the bottom of what I needed to do to heal my traumas. 

Alcohol dependency doesn't happen overnight. It's gradual. 

If you've made it this far, were you able to identify the patterns? Alcohol dependency is not something that happens instantaneously. I believe alcohol has become a reliable, widely accepted, and easily accessible substance. Gradually, you start drinking socially, then you realize you can use it for self-medication and, slowly, you find yourself entangled in a web. Fortunately, I woke up in time.  

Some may say, “Oh, you shouldn’t have tried it in the first place,” or “You need to be stronger,” or “You’re so weak.” That’s fine; you're entitled to your opinion. I didn’t have the armoire of tools that I needed or the support to get better, but now I do. 

The next time you find yourself judging someone for becoming addicted to a substance, understand that it wasn’t the place they intended to be when they started. Life has its twists and turns and not everything is as straightforward as it seems. Before anyone jumps to judgment, I believe we should show empathy instead. 

Woman in a support circle

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