I Don’t Always Know Why I Drink
There are times I find myself with a drink in my hand and no legitimate reason for drinking.
Sometimes, I drink because I like wine and I like whiskey. I like the experience of it. I like the feel and taste of the liquor on my palate. That might be reason enough.
I’m just not sure that Friday is really a good enough reason to have a drink in my hand, though.
On Fridays, sometimes I stop on my way home for a glass of wine at a bar I love where the bartenders are amazing people. There’s always a group of crotchety old guys from New York at the end of the bar.
The old guys are loud and tolerate me shouting random things at them from down the bar. Steve is my favorite and is sweet to me. Tom can’t figure out who invited the broad to the party and wants none of my shit. Ever. I still give it.
I don’t go for the wine. It’s mediocre at best. House wine on special for happy hour for $6. What’s inspired is the experience.
Razzing the old guys and talking with the bartender is why I’m there. It’s about community. It’s about getting to interact with people. Human connection. It’s about a dimly lit place with The Allman Brothers playing and not having to wash the glass when I’m done.
But what if I really don’t want to drink? What happens to my social life?
Are we conditioned to drink?
Too much of my social life is wrapped up in drinking. Our culture drives us to it. Alcohol is the great connector.
If we don’t drink, what do we do? Where do we find the connection? The outlet? The community? We don’t have many options.
Going for coffee seems a fine alternative to going for a drink but that doesn’t do it for me. Look around a coffee shop. It’s high octane. People are focused. People linger, but they linger with laptops. If I want to unwind after a long week, that is the last place I want to be. I can’t yell at old guys from across a coffee shop.
Enter the alcohol free bar.
A bar in New York called Listen Bar opens once a month in an underground spot on Bleeker St. They don’t serve alcohol. They have DJs, fancy drinks designed by mixologists, good looking bartenders with tattoos, curated playlists. There’s only one thing missing — booze.
It’s a really interesting shift as more and more previously alcohol-free places move to making sure we stay pretty well liquored up.
Taco Bells now have bars. Absorb that a second. As a culture, are we so dependent on alcohol as a means of entertainment that we’re willing to linger in a Taco Bell for a drink? It’s a sad state of affairs.
Listen Bar is pure genius. I’m all in on this concept. 100%. I don’t even care that I would be paying $11 for a drink with no booze in it. It’s not about the booze. It’s about moving past an expectation.
If we’re not drinking, we draw attention.
Two years ago, when I was going through my divorce, I quit drinking for the month of December. Yes, during the holidays. I was a mess. I was exceptionally depressed and I knew that adding alcohol on top of that was not going to result in anything pretty.
I inadvertently drew attention to myself. I go to see a lot of live music and meet up with friends in bars. The lady without a beer in her hand garners attention. People ask questions. I felt weird. I learned to order club soda in a short glass so people would stop questioning me.
We live in a strange world if I feel like I have to hide the fact that I’m not drinking. The alcoholic fits in at the bar. The sober lady? Not so much.
The whole experience made me question why I drink in public in the first place. A lot of people I know only drink because everyone else does. That feels like the wrong reason to me.
I really don’t “need“ the drink.
Just yesterday, a friend was telling me about her bad day. “I just need a drink,” she said. She was so emphatic that it was her solution, she said it several times. That it me like a ton of bricks. I wouldn’t call her an alcoholic but that is some nasty dependency right there.
Holding back on drinking, especially during the holidays, was a liberating endeavor. What I learned is that I have a psychological response to having a drink. It’s instantaneously relaxing. I can feel stress leave my bodily. That’s what my friend needed, not the drink.
Frequently, we see drinking as a reward. I made it through the week without creating a hostage situation. I’ll have a drink.
When I quit drinking, I still needed that response. So, I drank tea. I drank a boatload of tea. Interestingly, I got the exact same psychological response from drinking tea as I did a glass of wine. It was a strange and wonderful revelation.
When I started drinking again, I realized the drink didn’t matter. I remember going out to bars and wishing the bar would just serve tea. If I could sit with my friends in a lively place with great music and sip a cup of tea, I’d be perfectly happy.
I want that to feel perfectly acceptable. I want a cup of tea as an option. I want to feel like having a drink isn’t a societal pressure.
If I knew I was having a drink for no other reason that I enjoy it, I would feel much better about it, even if I have it alone in my own house. The alcohol free bar is a weird concept but, damn it, it makes perfect sense. Listen Bar, I see you. I get you. Thanks for getting me, too.