In Westernized cultures, the drinking of alcoholic beverages is widely accepted. In most social situations, it’s considered OK to drink. Nearly every social function you can think of is literally doused in alcohol.
In the United States alone, $197 billion dollars was spent on alcoholic beverages in 2012. That’s 9.4 billion gallons at an average price of $20.95 per gallon. Incredible! And expensive!
But why does every social function need to have alcohol? Do humans really need to get their ‘drank on’ to socialize properly? Or is it just historical? Are we throwing away our freedom for a beverage?
If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you’ll already know I took a different path — I’m not a fan of flavored waters (other than tea), and I don’t drink any alcoholic beverages. None at all. Zero. Zip. Total cold turkey.
Today I’d like to talk why I made that decision, and how it has affected my life over the past 4 years.
Making A Change
In the past I wasn’t a big drinker anyway, but occasionally I’d have an “adult” beverage at social functions. Probably not more than a few dozen times a year.
All that changed 4 years ago when Mrs. Tako got pregnant with Tako Jr. #1. She stopped drinking (to avoid fetal alcohol syndrome), and I stopped drinking at the same time too.
Several reasons, but primarily to set a good example for my kids. I didn’t want alcohol to be part of our family culture. According to a study by the American Psychiatric Association, “A person with a parent or sibling with alcoholism is three to four times more likely to be alcoholic themselves.”
Growing up, I was lucky enough to have parents that weren’t big drinkers. It wasn’t religious (or anything like that), they just weren’t interested in drinking. So I was pretty lucky — I had good examples that showed me you can be a normal human being who socializes without drinking. This turned out to be a fantastic advantage later in life, when the social pressure got stronger.
I believe in leading by example, so four years ago I resolved to set that same example for my own son(s). I want them to see that same good example.
Finances And Alcohol
Finding financial independence is usually about the quest for freedom from dependence on a job. But alcohol dependence is another kind of dependence — one that can keep you shackled to that same job.
From a financial perspective, I don’t think any would argue with me that alcohol is expensive. It’s been a few years now, but a single drink at a restaurant or bar used to cost me anywhere from $5 to $10. Sometimes more (if I remember correctly).
Multiply that drink by a few hundred times a year, and suddenly we’re talking thousands of dollars spent per year. All that for what? A little flavored water, a few extra calories, a mild depressant, and maybe a headache in the morning?
No thanks! I’d rather keep the money, and skip the recreational drug use. I’ll buy my freedom instead.
If there was a second best reason for not drinking, the financial reasons would be it. Drinking is expensive! Want to save money for financial independence? Cut back on the sauce folks!
I’ve probably saved myself thousands of dollars over the years by not drinking. Saving that money meant I had more money to invest. That money, compounded over time, grew into a significant amount of cash. It’s not all from abstaining of course, but its definitely contributed to my net worth over the years.
Some people might say, “No drinking? That doesn’t sound like any fun!” But I disagree! Since I reached financial independence, life has been nothing but fun!
OK, time to talk about a subject that’s really “not fun” — Substance abuse and alcoholism. It’s no laughing matter. The World Health Organization estimates there are 208 million people worldwide with alcoholism.
Alcohol is the most abused substance on the planet. If you’re one of the few that hasn’t had their life affected by substance abuse in some way, I would say “you’re lucky”. I know far too many people that have died or ruined their lives because of alcohol.
It’s terrible and tragic, and most adults will say “I can handle it”…until one day they can’t. That’s when people die. That’s when families get destroyed.
I don’t pretend to think I’m somehow smarter, better, or more “in-control” than the next person. It could happened to me. Substance abuse can happen to anyone. Anyone can ruin their life in an instant with alcohol.
I didn’t want this to be a risk for my family. The only way to be certain, was to stop drinking entirely. Even then it’s not 100% foolproof….
We could still get hit by a drunk-driver on the way home from the grocery store.
Health reasons are another great reason to avoid alcohol, certainly one high on my list.
Countless medical studies have been completed on the use of alcohol over the years. Even if you’re skeptical of individual studies, the data is pretty overwhelming. Alcohol is usually bad for us.
Diseases with names like cirrhosis, pancreatitis, epilepsy, heart disease, cardiovascular disease, malabsorption, alcoholic liver disease, and cancer have all been linked to long term alcohol use. Just to name a few.
Some studies even suggest that (if left untreated) alcohol can reduce your life expectancy by 10 years. Other studies suggest drinking a few glasses per day can increase your life expectancy. Which study is to be believed?
It’s confusing! I suggest you read both sides of the argument and then decide for yourself.
Four Years Later
It’s been four years now without drinking. I have to say….it’s been a good experience. Physically I don’t feel any different, but mentally I feel stronger.
Stronger because I know I can enact real change in my life that goes against the social grain of society.
At least outwardly most people don’t criticize my decision to not drink. Inwardly, I might be labeled as some kind of puritan, nerd, teetotaller, or other social misfit. It doesn’t bother me in the least.
Part of living a life of financial independence means I’m going to be different. I already look strange to the common folk of society. Not drinking just underlines those differences.
That said, I might have lost a few friends because of this choice. Probably the friends that were the heaviest drinkers. I accept that. It’s the price I pay for stepping away from the alcohol fueled consumption of modern society….
That’s right, I view alcohol as just another form of consumerism. A liquid drug to go along with all the other consumption “bandaids”.
In a society consumed with working hard to acquiring things, alcohol is consumerism’s favorite pain killer.
I don’t worry about the friends I’ve lost. Instead I think about the friends I’m going to gain. The new friends I’m going to make now that I’m financially independent — those, like myself, who aren’t afraid to tell society “No”.