"Hey Tom, what are ya drinkin'?"
For a non-drinker, no other question can cause more angst. Or bring up more questions.
I've found that people tend to generally look down upon and in some cases, not trust people who don't drink. I've been asked if I'm an alcoholic*. I've been asked about my religion. I've been asked if I'm sick. I've even been asked if I didn't like the people I was with.
Now, for the record, let me say that I LOVE Guinness. I LOVE dirty gin martinis. I LOVE Jack Daniels. Hell, I even like wine. So it's not that I don't like to drink. That's not the case at all. So, why don't I drink? Let's jump into the time machine and go back to 1998...
I was in the Marines and while driving in a convoy on I-5 in California, the small truck I was driving was hit by a big truck. You know, the type with 18 wheels. To make a very long story short, I ended up losing my spleen. For those of you that don't know, the spleen filters bacteria and dead blood cells out of your blood. It's a rather important organ. When you don't have a spleen, your kidneys and liver try to take over. They do an OK job from what my doctors have told me, but really? I'm now in the "Compromised Immune System" club. Sadly there are no perks to this club. The surgeon that removed my spleen told me I've lost years off my life expectancy. I'm a bacteria based illness away from very bad things happening. Like a trip to a morgue, for example. I've been told to never go to a hospital unless I'm a patient. Granted, I had to break that rule when my Mom had cancer, but otherwise it's a rule I stick to. Not to sound all bleak and depressed, but those are things you deal with when you have a compromised immune system.
After I recovered from the accident, life eventually returned to normal. I drank just like I did before the accident. However, I found that recovering after drinking...well...that was a different story. Alcohol seemed to hit me harder and the mornings were infinitely harder then they should have been. As I got older, it just got worse.
I would talk to my doctors over the years and we'd bring up the spleen and I'd ask about drinking. The consensus has been that not drinking really was in my best interests. I have never been told by a doctor that my idea about not drinking because my spleen is gone, is nonsense. My liver and kidneys are already stressed out due to the spleen being gone. Why stress them out further by drinking?
On August 15th of 2009 I stopped drinking. I've had 4 glasses of champagne - one at a wedding, one on each of the last two New Year Eve's and one when my company came into being. I had one margarita while out for dinner last month (which totally ruined the next day) - and that's it. You know what? Life goes on and I don't miss drinking at all. I will say I actually thought people would like having a permanent designated driver around!
It comes down to this - it's a personal choice. I honestly don't judge others. If you drink, I say "drink up!". As for me, I'll have a Club Soda. If that makes me lame, so be it.
*My Mom was an alcoholic as were many of my relatives on her side of the family. Since Alcoholism can be hereditary, I figure that it's yet another reason to embrace sobriety.