What everyone else is doing

I gave a bit of thought today to a conversation I had with a friend this weekend about drinking. It was my annual (11 years strong for me) Girl’s Getaway Weekend, wherein we sit around tables and scrapbook (or grade papers – we’re all in education) and “catch up.” We were talking about Colorado and how beautiful it is. An article that said Colorado Springs is ranked by U.S. News as #5 Best Place to live was the conversation starter – prompted by the introvert’s best app to start a conversation, Facebook. My husband posted the link as we have a bit of a (secret) dream to move there.

As I looked longingly at those beautiful mountains, I showed my friend and we talked about all the awesome stuff there would be to do and see there. She mentioned something about beer and it was at that moment that I blurted out, “I quit drinking.” We talked a minute about it and I shared the reasonable reasons I am quitting: better health, clearer mind and the reality that when my husband has his heart valve replacement surgery, he’ll go on Coumadin and therefore won’t be drinking (he really doesn’t now – never has been a heavy drinker), so I “may as well.” His surgery could be a year or two from now or maybe he could squeak by a couple more years, but it WILL happen.

I told the truth that in my ideal world, I might be able to have a beer or two someday, but that for now I am not drinking anything in an attempt to re-program my brain and I am doing just fine. In fact, my anxiety has actually lessened. {BREATHING} She discussed her drinking patterns (social drinker) and how when she was on a Paleo diet for CrossFit, it was a little annoying for her to attend social functions where people were drinking, not because she “needed” to drink, but because she wanted to do “what everyone else was doing.”

Do not get me wrong, I do not fault my friend in any way, just like I know she would not fault me if I admitted that as an introvert, I kinda “needed” a little buffer to enjoy the crowd. I wasn’t ready for a full disclosure, talk about the messy stuff, confession and though I don’t think I projected that, we made no real big deal about the “big quit” and left the conversation with a “Good for you!”

As I have ruminated since I have been home, I will be adding something to my arsenal of tools. I have never really wanted to do “what everyone else is doing.” There’s a rebel in me that will resist the things that are mainstream. A couple examples from my life:

Case in point #1:
Person: “Oh my gosh, my schedule got changed and now I don’t have study hall with anyone I know! What am I going to do?!”

Me: “Maybe you’ll STUDY.” I chose that day to sit alone in the cafeteria in an effort to find deeper waters. I was a 15 year-old sophomore.

Case in point #2:
Person: “Everyone’s reading this great new series about an orphan wizard and it’s so wonderful.”

Me: “Not interested. Let’s see if it stands the test of time.”

(Fast forward fifteen or so years, and I still haven’t read the Harry Potter series OR The Hunger Games OR Divergent or really anything else that mainstream media got to first – forgive me. Game of Thrones? Nope. Not even Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill or Sex in the City. I’m hard-core this way.)

You get the idea. And so, this not drinking thing is simply like anything else. I choose not to do it just because everyone else is. Because the reality is that it’s a myth. Not everyone else is. I think it just seems like it. I feel as though it is healthy to question your relationship with alcohol. If I drink tonic water or tea at a function where alcohol is present I want to look at it as if I am giving someone else permission to do the same. We should look for one another the way I remember doing as a Camel Lights smoker in college and a bit beyond.

People are forever watching their diets or their exercise routines and yet, some, sabotage themselves with destructive habits such as chugging wine, smoking or eating dessert every night. Except, the eating desserts every night doesn’t have nearly the social stigma that excess alcohol consumption has, and besides the addictive nature of both substances and the similarities in the sugar content – over-drinking is the more taboo. Smoking cigarettes isn’t taboo so much as simply gross.

I wonder if that assessment of the way the various substances are perceived varies from location to location and even from person to person.

Moreover, alcohol is GLORIFIED in the entertainment industry and sizeism is still rampant. Huh? How about we acknowledge that they are basically the same and neither condition is shameful? Neither “addiction” reflects weakness or even failure. We all just do the best we can. Even that kid in the back of my classroom who has a knee-jerk negative comment or reaction to nearly everything I say…the best he can.

Tobacco advertisements have been regulated in the U.S. I think it might be time to consider such regulations for alcohol indoctrination. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean everyone should be doing it.

If you are considering a change and you think you really could just do it if you could talk yourself out of your desire – try the advice of one of my favorite comedians, Bob Newhart, in his turn as a therapist in this 1970s skit. Whatever is troubling you, remember that you are stronger than the tools you use and STOP. IT.

It could just be that easy if you let it.

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