My name is Ben and I have a confession: I love to party, but I don’t drink.
Throughout my life I’ve always been quite a social person, happy to be around people, meeting new friends and having a good time. However, somewhere along the line it seemed if I still wanted to be this person I had to drink alcohol or do drugs. Perhaps you’ve seen the same changes in your life. Yet, I decided to stick to my guns and do things my way. As you’ll see below, it wasn’t always easy, but it was a valuable experience.
Life can be quite difficult when you’re faced with tough choices, but for me there never was a choice. Drinking and smoking never felt like things I wanted to do, they seemed to be the root of so much trouble and pain. But, whenever I’d consider our culture in England, I thought I was crazy to feel this way. Why wasn’t I like my friends, sneaking spirits from their parent’s cabinets or trying to test their fake IDs?
Luckily, like many teenagers, there was one thing that could put my fears to rest, music. I was suddenly interested in these punk bands whose lyrics told people across the world that they had a choice. They didn’t have to drink and do drugs if they didn’t want to. I didn’t have to feel alone anymore. But in a way, this realisation only spelt the beginning of my confusion. Awkward parties and increasingly erratic friends proved to be hard acceptances. And it wasn’t until I finally went away that I began to understand.
I still like to remind one of my best friends that when she first met me at uni she told everyone I was weird because I didn’t drink. Now she’s always telling people how I’m the last one standing. Of course, this transition didn’t happen over night, it’s rare that the big things in your life do. Coming out of my shell without the comfort of drugs or alcohol was a gradual process. My new friends got to see me grow as my independence and confidence let me be myself. The worries and stress of what people thought of me began to drift away into a former life. I began to loosen up and see that it had never been my job to look after my drunk friends; it was my job to entertain them, to enjoy myself.
The fantasy world of clubs and parties was just that, a fantasy, a place where for better or worse, nothing really mattered. The real importance lay within our everyday lives. We were all the same, just young people finding out who we were going to be. It was never the circumstances that made the difference; it was my state of mind.
Since those days at university, my lifestyle hasn’t changed too much. I still love going out with my friends, meeting people and getting to know them. I still entertain them with an orange juice in hand, although their antics have always seemed to leave me laughing the hardest. I’m enjoying my life and I still feel this is due to my mind. The continuous growth of my confidence, positivity and comfort in my own skin has not only made my time socialising better, but has also spilled over into all facets of my life.
Trying new things no longer seems as nerve-wracking, job interviews aren’t as scary and that voice that always asks, ‘what if,’ is only heard as an echo. It’s not that I don’t have bad days or hard times, we all do. But pushing through them now is simpler. Although there have been many times when I’ve asked myself what I was achieving by not drinking to take the edge off and alienating myself from everyone else my age. Earning the respect of others around me, and more importantly, myself, confirms that I made the right decisions for me. I would happily go through all the confusion and anxiety again to feel the way I do now.
I’m not trying to preach to anyone or convert the masses. I just like to see people living the life that’s right for them. Maybe you don’t want to drink, maybe you don’t want to do the job your parents want you to, maybe you want to move to Hawaii and sell ice creams on the beach. Do what you want to do and don’t worry about how you look doing it or what you think is expected of you.
You may lose friends, you could even lose family, but when all is said and done, your self-belief will support you long after anyone else will.
This post was brought to you by English graduate Ben Camilleri.
There are lots of positives and negatives when it comes to alcohol, which is why it’s always a fascinating area for research. Dr Christopher Mee, a researcher at Coventry University, is investigating the ability of the liver to regenerate after injury such as alcohol abuse. Find out how alcohol affects your liver and how it differs from other tissues in the body when it heals.