Why I Don’t Drink

I don't abstain from drinking out of any moral code or religious imperative. I'm not rebelling against the norm. I'm not making a statement. I abstain because I 1) hate the taste, and 2) don't want to "lose my mind" (in any sense).

Why do people drink?

Some claim they drink for the flavor, but I have a sensitive nose, so cheap beer smells like piss, wine and expensive beer smell like rotten fruit or grain, and strong liquor smells like rubbing alcohol. (Of course, there is quite a bit of truth in each of these perceptions. Wine IS rotten fruit, for example.) I have no desire to consume, for pleasure, a foul-smelling and -tasting substance. Many readers will no doubt suggest vodka in orange juice (or similar) as an exception to this, which is true -- but if the goal is the taste, why not drink plain orange juice?

Not everyone drinks for the flavor or odor. College students in particular consume large amounts of cheap booze to a) loosen up and/or b) get smashed. Getting smashed seems to involve blackouts, hangovers, casual sexual activity, occasional trips to the hospital, and a great deal of vomit. The former case, loosening up, has more appeal. Who doesn't want to have decreased anxiety and fewer social hangups? By reducing inhibitions, alcohol serves as a "social lubricant" for many folks. I could certainly benefit, right? In fact, this is the only appeal alcohol holds for me. However, this is directly related to the other problem: Sanctity of mind.

Losing control

My mind is my most prized possession; without it I am nothing. I prize my ability to think clearly, quickly, accurately. My vocation and avocation depend on my thinking skills. If a professional racer would not put sugar in their gas tank, why would I put a known neurotoxin (and carcinogen besides!) in my bloodstream? What a ridiculous proposition.

Think about it another way: A computer that is once infected with a virus can never be trusted again (unless the hard disk is wiped clean.) You don't know what else the virus may have done, because you have no record of its actions. A virus may pull in more malicious software as well, a process of escalation and bootstrapping. Most importantly (for this analogy), the first action most malware takes is to disable any security software. Similarly, once I imbibe an inhibition-reducing substance such as alcohol, I am more likely to take in more. The more I have, the more I will likely have. It does not matter that my intention is "Only two drinks," if after two drinks I suddenly decide that I've changed my mind. The worst part is that memory is also affected, so I may not even know what I have done! It is like purposefully opening up ports on a firewall and running random programs from the internet. In all likelihood nothing bad will happen, but should something untoward occur, I am both responsible for the results and uninformed.

Sanity is already a precious enough commodity in this world. I intend to retain mine as long and as often as possible.

Responses: 12 so far

  1. setkos says:

    Completly agree with you.

  2. funnybutt says:

    tim you lost your mind a long long time ago buddy

  3. funnybutt says:

    wait beer taste like piss...but you ate a durant or was it duriant?

  4. Tim McCormack says:

    funnybutt @ 8:53: OK, let me be a bit more precise: I'm fine with being creative in a nontraditional way, but not with losing my grip on rationality.

    funnybutt @ 8:54: I tasted the durian because I was curious. Now I know not to eat durian. Same deal with beer.

  5. connie says:

    Very important topic that doesn't get enough press. Thanks for being so open. Wish those folks at "Drinking Liberally" would get another name, or at least an inclusive subtitle for those of us seeking to remain sane, or who at leat wish to appear to be sane.

  6. Cory Capron says:

    I keep meaning to comment on this. It's a great post... though everytime I read it I can't help but recall the Root Beer and serveral Ginger Beers you downed last time we hung out. We all have our vices I guess. ;)

    Still, with many underage college students downing roughly the same amount of alcohol in only two or three weekends that I'll have consumed between my 21st and 22nd birthday, I fully support anyone's choice to not drink.

  7. Tim McCormack says:

    @Cory: Yeah, you can also add dark chocolate to my list of addictions. :-)

  8. Cory Capron says:

    But what is actually WRONG with 85% cocoa?

  9. Tim McCormack says:

    Nothing! \o/

  10. Ross says:

    As a bit of a preface, I was directed to your site by one of our fellow Wooster students months ago to read about solving torrent issues via Tor (which worked rather well up until recently--my thanks to you for the good run.)

    Anyway, for the longest time I agreed with this article almost point-for-point. However, in my fourth semester at Wooster, I finally fell in with a group of friends who were very fun, intelligent, and most importantly, not annoying when drunk like most people I had encountered. After hanging out with them for a month or two on the weekends, I couldn't help but notice several things:

    1) They were clearly having an excellent time, more so than I typically (if ever) did on the weekends.
    2) They were not blacking out, throwing up, or getting hungover.
    3) They became incredibly friendly and willing to talk to anybody.
    4) They were clearly not stupid people, and in fact showed no cognitive deficits despite introducing a "known neurotoxin" to their systems once a week.

    Eventually I could no longer resist, and started drinking with them. And you know what? All of the above were true for me. I had a great time with no puking or hangovers, and I was able to break out of my shell enough to talk to lots of people I never would have known otherwise. And of course, there were no discernible mental effects other than during intoxication. Furthermore, the "lack of control" that you cite would be more accurately characterized as a lack of anxiety, unless one drinks in excess of half a liter of liquor or its equivalent. But, you know, for one so resistant to the idea of clouding my mind in the first place, it wasn't very hard to stop myself from consuming such a ridiculous amount.

    No, the real danger/evil of alcohol is letting it define how you have fun. That is what happened to me last semester when most of my friends were abroad, and THAT is what you have to avoid. Alcohol is risky like that, in its ability to become one's sole form of amusement, but so are video games, and any number of other activities. It doesn't mean that they have no place in one's life, only that they should be done in moderation.

    So, to sum things up, it's good to be wary of alcohol, but I think you should have three or four drinks with people you really enjoy before you speak too much about some of the negative aspects you've listed. That wondrous little substance isn't just for oafish athletes; it has something to offer to everyone.

  11. Tim McCormack says:

    Ross, thanks for a very insightful counter-opinion -- I enjoyed reading it, and it has given me a better idea of why other people use alcohol.

  12. Jenny says:

    I am aware that this was posted five years ago, but I still loved everything you said. Couldn't agree more.