I’m a guy in my mid-twenties who lives in New York City and works as an iOS Developer. This seems to be a perfect trifecta for putting me in a culture which drinks regularly. To a certain extent, I’m completely fine with this: I usually enjoy alcohol and I usually enjoy those around me who have had some (some) too.
The thing is, I don’t always want to drink, but I often feel compelled to by the people around me. I’ve noticed while drinking, the only two acceptable ways to be with drinkers are: you are either drinking with them or, you are someone who does not drink. But if you’re someone who sometimes drinks, it’s expected that you’ll be drinking with the group.
While I’m glad that it’s generally respectable to be a non-drinker (for people in Recovery or for those who just “don’t drink"), I wish it were acceptable to say “I don’t want to drink tonight.” If you’ve tried this before, you’ll no doubt be familiar with the reactions of the group “What do you mean you’re not drinking tonight? C’mon, have some drinks!”
You could argue the people asking you to drink mean well, and I think they think they mean well, too. But I often find this reaction comes from a place of not wanting to be judged. It seems if I tell people I’m not drinking on a particular night that I’m judging them for drinking, too. In reality, I’m respecting their choice to drink and hoping they’ll do the same to me. I mention this not in reference to anybody in particular, just towards the drinking culture in general (I feel like I’ve unfortunately been on both sides of this).
I’ve always interpreted the The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to be about alcohol (the guy drinks an elixir and starts acting wildly different; eventually he becomes dependent on it), and sometimes when I drink I feel a bit like Mr. Hyde, too. No, I’m not violent, but I’m different. And that’s enough of a reason for me to sometimes not want to drink on a given night (or month).
Ultimately, the reasons shouldn’t matter. Maybe the person has troubles with alcohol, maybe they’ve got a stomach ache, or maybe they just don’t want to drink because they don’t want to drink. It’s really not about judging anyone else, it’s about what that person wants to do that should matter.