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Full bottles, empty brains

Full bottles, empty brains

This is it. It was only a matter of time. I am prepared for the fact that nobody will agree with me, that the majority of my (overwhelmingly large) readership will find me arrogant, conservative, judgmental, and a lot of other not-so-nice things. I know that this will happen because I am dealing with it on a regular basis. But this blog post was inevitable from the start. This is the post in which I shamelessly express my repulsion towards alcohol and a society that glorifies it. A.k.a. the society we live in.

If you’re a person that goes out almost every single night just for the sake of getting trashed, feel like there is nothing wrong with it, and you’re even proud of it, then there is a good chance that I hate you.

I have friends overseas and they drink specifically to deal with their nervousness and anxiety and to forget about their problems for a while. Because they didn’t get a loan for college, their parents hate and disowned them, they struggle to pay for two meals a day, and if they have a car it is so shabby it breaks down every morning on the way to work. I would now assume almost everyone that lives in Maastricht can afford to pay tuition fees, with or without study finance, and thanks to Aldi and the market none of us will have to worry about the possibility of starvation. Of course everyone has their own individual battles to fight, without a doubt, and admittedly not everyone is happy. But I would hardly call the general circumstances in this town as provoking to want to start binge drinking.

I always get asked this question, why don’t you drink? But there isn’t one good reason. There are a million. If I wanna keep the convo short I just give it the oh-so witty “Why should I?”. (In my opinion, the question should not be “Why don’t you drink?” but “Why do you drink?” anyway.) If the person insists on details I’ll tell them I don’t like the taste. This alone should be a good enough reason. But for many people it’s not, because drinking is just part of going out, and being young- what else is left for you to do if you don’t drink? But it is exactly this logic that makes me mad and goes against everything we are supposed to be- critical towards attitudes and things that remain unquestioned by the majority of people. And this is where for me, in addition to the taste, (and the poor, drunk creatures in the club or at house parties who don’t notice they reek of cigarettes and a mixture of alcoholic drinks) the issue becomes one of principle. This is also why I am way past that phase of being easily influenced by other people, through peer pressure or other means, even if every single person I meet still takes it as their mission to get me drunk at some point when they find out I don’t drink. (Joke’s on you, by the way!)

Just to clarify, I understand the reason people get together over a beer, have a glass of wine, or go out for cocktails. Heck, if you get out of your mind drunk once or twice a year to compensate for the pressure you’re under, I even have understanding for that. My problem lies with the general approval that students and other young people like us participate in the consumption of mind-altering substances for fun. I think it is shameful that we live in a society where it is normal, and even expected that you drink, that that makes you one of the “cool kids”, and that you’re stuck-up, antisocial and weird if you don’t. I refuse to take part in a lifestyle where drinking large amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication is celebrated as “the time of your life”. I reject a culture that unconditionally accepts that the drunkest person in the room is praised and cheered on, and that being in an inebriated state is the goal, the definition of having fun and “living life to the fullest”. I repudiate the norms of a society that encourages senseless, heavy drinking. There is no glory in getting trashed.

Drinking provides everyone with an excuse. They did something embarrassing, they blame it on the alcohol. They made out with someone unattractive or cheated on their boy or -girlfriend, they weren’t able to make sound decisions. They are rude, insulting and yell terrible things at you, they didn’t know what they were doing… I want to be conscious of my decisions. I’m okay with it if that makes me boring. I might still not make the right ones but at least I was aware I was making them. No matter with what you might want to argue against this, alcohol changes your behavior. It either turns you into an obnoxious adult version of a 5-year old and your friends have to take care of you, or you become aggressively desperate to seduce someone with your new gained confidence and it is beyond you how anyone wouldn’t find you irresistible. I’m pretty okay with myself and if I want to be embarrassing, I’ll be it sober, and if I wanted to be a lying, cheating girlfriend, I’d also do that sober.

If you don’t drink, going to parties sucks. I think it is scandalous that, in order to have fun, kids are forced into drinking activities to endure the night and to have at least a bearable time. So many friends of mine admit that going out without drinking is terrible. When I say that that’s the reason I don’t really go out, a lot of people suggest me to go out anyway and if I don’t drink myself, just watch all the drunk people around me do stupid things, but it gets really old really quickly. Because after all, you’re still in an often enclosed darkened room with blasting music with nowhere to sit, surrounded by sweaty, touchy-feely people hunting for a victim for their reproductive purposes, spilling their drinks on you as you are squeezing your way past them. Welcome to my life.

This is how it is- either you get over yourself and join in on the “fun”, or you stick to what you actually want to do and flee. It is actually kind of like carnival. You can be one of the singing people in costumes or you can stay true to your grumpy self and avoid the wild hordes of crazy.

I have the conviction that it’s all psychological too. It’s about being part of something. You don’t want to be like me, standing around at parties with nothing but occasionally a plastic bottle of water in your hands. I would like to throw a party, and fill up bottles with fake alcohol. Then wait. And see what happens… I think this would make for a fabulous graduation party! In my opinion, we can do much better without it. The myth of “You can have fun without drinking” has, in my experience, proven to be true way too many times. I know there will never be a time in our culture where people like me will be in the majority. But I’m just saying, we can do better.

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Disclaimer: I have never been drunk in my life. I tried beer, wine, and champagne when I was younger, but the maximum amount of alcohol I have drunk would amount to maybe a regular sized beer bottle. People then give me the How-do-you-know-you-don’t-like-it-if-you-never-tried-it/never-been-drunk? -treatment. And to that I say, I don’t have to try to jump off a cliff to find out if I like it or not when I see dead people lying at the bottom of the mountain. I don’t have to try anything that is bad for me or alters my brain, especially if I am not tempted by it in the first place, and I shouldn’t have to justify myself for it. I never say to anyone that they have to go to a punk or hardcore show to be able to judge whether they like it or not (which they would never do anyway), and you can always leave a show if you want out. If you’re drunk you have to wait until it’s over. I know you don’t necessarily get drunk when you “go out to drink”, but that is often the objective. A major reason why I am extremely turned off by the idea of drinking or being drunk is seeing what it does to other people when I’m out.

Sophie Dobschall

The places I consider home are Berlin, Hamburg, and Richmond, Virginia. My BA Media Culture program brought me to my most recent home Maastricht and it has been treating me wonderfully since I moved here in 2010. Things I am most passionate about are loud and depressing music, boycotting parties and alcohol, being a global citizen, and building meaningful human relationships. Trying to keep up my PMA.

9 thoughts on “Full bottles, empty brains

  1. Nice article! But you should consider the fact that there are people that don’t don’t have significant problems that still have an honest urge to drink alcohol. Not because they need to have fun, but because they want to have fun. I sometimes even think it’s worse to drink because you actually have problems as in the example you mentioned. I feel your protest is more against the copious amounts of drinking that happens in the student life (especially in Maastricht). Because I’m sure you don’t have any problems with people drinking wine in the park or enjoying a good Belgian beer on the Amorsplein. It’s the stuff that happens in the Alla after 2 that could (or should) be seen as an ‘issue’.
    As my daddy always tried to teach me as a teenager: everything in moderation! Too bad my Irish genes still manage to take the best of me every now and then…

  2. Sophie Dobschall

    Thank you, I appreciate the input!
    I know drinking to distract yourself from your issues is definitely not the best way to cope with it. But I understand if some people want to use it as an escape from their lives, even if it is extremely psychologically unhealthy and I don’t approve of it. I know that the main motive for drinking is exactly that, to have fun, which bothers me, because it has become a prerequisite for social activities. I do agree that as long as you enjoy it in moderation there is nothing wrong with it, and I am also aware that there is a certain cultural value, to beer but especially to wine. However, unfortunately, our generation tends to alienate alcohol from its cultural function. So what I can’t seem to fathom is why drinking is so widely supported and encouraged, despite it risks and effects on people (especially with young kids who can’t handle it well, or just think about drunk driving- huge problem in the U.S.), and that nobody seems to find anything wrong with the fact that this is what we do to “have a good time”. I really feel like we should be able to come up with more creative ways of spending our weekends.

  3. Hey Sophie,
    I never knew we shared the same aversion towards alcohol. I myself drank a lot of it when I was younger, but realized quite quickly that I do not want to wake up every weekend having to wonder where I was or what I’ve done the night before. Since then, I don’t drink. And I mean never ever! Not even on New Years Eve or my Birthday or other socially accepted occasions to drink. Also I never or very rarely go out, because of the same reasons you listed above. Drunken guys trying to tell you things with their breath of cheap alcohol and a tongue they cannot control anymore is not my thing! Therefore if I go out, I go out to cocnerts, and although people get shitfaced there aswell, the quantity of people getting drunk is proportionally smaller than the people that come for the music. When people ask me why I don’t drink I tell them that I don’t want to waste my next day being hungover or sometimes, when they are very persistend I claim that I have an allergy. That shuts most of them up. So thank you Sophie for showing me I’m not the only one that finds drinking undesirable, and keep up your good work!

  4. Sophie Dobschall

    Catherine- let’s be friends! (Going to shows is my “going out” too!)

    And sadly you’re illustrating yet another point that shows how messed up the values of our student culture are: you shouldn’t have to lie about your reasons why you don’t drink!! Nobody should make you feel inferior, abnormal or excluded for your decision not to drink!

    Thank you all for commenting and sharing your opinions!

  5. I didn’t know you don’t drink! Thumbs up. Right now, I am trying out life without alcohol as well. But I do not rule out the possibility of having a drink every now and then in the future – like with my dad, because wine is his hobby; he gets his wine directly from vineyards (the perks of living right next to Italy). And it actually tastes good.

    In my case, there was no particular reason to stop drinking, aside from it being a logical step in my slow and organic transformation towards living healthier, among many other things, such as taking up sports and quitting smoking. But, in general, I just realized that I do not really want to drink alcohol. I drink alcohol because I am used to it and because it makes awkward social situations less awkward. But it makes me say superficial things, it makes my wallet cry, and even a single glass of beer makes my already impossible skin even worse (not to mention the snacks that usually come with alcohol and that I am unable to resist after drinking). And awkward social situations are actually just fine. If I have nothing to say to the person when sober, I should probably just find someone else to talk to instead of drinking to “relax” in order to find something to talk about. You cannot get along with everybody anyway. Alas, when I look back at my first “love” in secondary school, it was terribly, terribly awkward, but remembering this awkwardness makes me smile.

    The thing is, I have never ever gotten the hang of this stereotypical student life. Perhaps during my first few months in Maastricht, as I was finally living away from my parents, in a foreign country and in oh the so-Liberal Netherlands in Western Europe. I was still a teenager, and of course that you can only find yourself by trying things out, but I soon realized that drinking a lot is not for me; that being a student does not imply that you have to ruin your health by eating junk (after trying out Burger King I ended up throwing up all night, never giving fast food another try!), that not everybody in this town lives at the same rhythm as I do, so making noise is not nice, etc. But only now I am feeling like actually saying “no” to alcohol. I am not afraid of judgement as much as I used to be. :)

    I still go to parties, but I end up leaving a bit earlier than usually, when I really start feeling the difference between me and those who drink (it kinda stops being pleasurable…). Because I usually meet up with my friends in a setting which used to include alcohol, so some social life reorganization is needed, I guess. I am looking forward to whatever new activities this will bring. :)

  6. And Catherine – I have used the allergy excuse to “explain” people why I am a vegetarian. But then I felt extremely stupid when they told me just how sorry they were (for something that I’m actually rather proud to be).

  7. Yeah! I found a soul mate!!! Obviously, enjoying a nice drink once in a while isn’t bad at all, but I do also have an aversion against going out and being the only one there that is not drunk. I have never been drunk in my life, and people always stare at me in disbelieve… It is very nice to know that there are more people out there (besides my closest friends who also don’t drink (that much at least)) who share the same view on this!

  8. James Roberts

    I always drank less than most people and quit entirely nearly thirty years ago (I am now 63). The social problems you describe have persisted the whole time, although the incredulous comments have lessened with the rise of alcohol related health problems among my friends. Picking activities that discourage drinking has also helped me. I can’t imagine a young person choosing ballroom dancing as a past time but I enjoy it and dancers notoriously don’t drink much. I wish you luck in this oddly difficult situation. As for myself, I have no regrets about my decision; the benefits of a clear mind have consistently out weighed the euphoria of alcohol.

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