Why I Don’t Drink
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”.
40 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Drink”
Interesting perspective. You’re definitely right about the cost. No doubt, it’s expensive. While I still drink, I made the decision 2 years ago to stop drinking soda. While the savings haven’t been as much, it’s been something and I do feel healthier as a result. Not sure I’m willing to make the no alcohol sacrifice unfortunately.
You called it a ‘sacrifice’, but I don’t think of it that way at all. I think of it as a *choice* I made.
We’re all a product of our choices. Different choices mean different outcomes.
Good for you! I probably should do the same, but primarily for health reasons. The only reason why I don’t is because I love the taste of a good (Belgian) beer. I really enjoy it and don’t mind spending a little money on it either. However, I do stick to one or two per week.
And a little fun fact, the only reason why one alcoholic beverage might be good, is if your health is already pretty bad (read, you already have clogged arteries) and the alcohol/antioxidant in red wine is helping your blood flow better, thereby reducing your risk of a heart attack/stoke. However, every drop you take increases your risk of cancer. There is no real two sides of the story here, alcohol is actually bad for your health (but it can taste so darn good!). But of a risk management item really.
You’re right about the costs, it’s cheaper and probably better for your health to avoid it altogether. I definitely drink less than I used to, but I still enjoy relaxing at the end of my day with a good IPA.
Great article. This is something I decided to experiment with a couple months ago. I was a heavy drinker for years throughout college and grad school. I cut back once entering the working world, but my relationship with alcohol was still unhealthy (and expensive). I still have about 1 drink a week, but that is a big change from 1-2 drinks a day during the week and more on weekends. So far the biggest impact has been in my budget. I was hoping it would make me less fat, but I haven’t noticed much of a difference there. I was probably spending about $75/month on alcohol. Even at 100k a year that is about 1% of your gross income – which is obviously nuts! So far I don’t regret the decision.
That’s fantastic Dan! Congrats!
Thank you especially on mentioning Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; those children have what I call a lifetime sentence for something they didn’t do – and they are doomed to intellectually struggle their entire lives with a wide range of organic brain injuries. While alcohol is cultural, just look at the millions spent on advertising it and worse, the true cost to society for it’s supposed benefit.
Your “costs per gallon” just went sky high.
So true Bob, so true.
If you have lost friends because of your choice to not drink, those are certainly friends you never wanted to have. I totally respect your decision – for so many reasons. My grandfather was an alcoholic and my brother struggles with alcohol too. He has made the choice not to drink as well, because he knows the trouble and health issues (and financial ones!) that drinking causes. I choose to drink very occasionally and we have tried to show our children responsible drinking (a glass of wine once a week) and that the person who drives just never drinks. My daughter at age 20 has no interest in drinking at all. Luckily she has found friends at college who don’t drink either.
Sounds like you did really good with your daughter Vicki! Having friends at college who don’t drink is like finding a diamond in the desert.
Hope my kids will fall into the good crowd too.
There’s definitely a way to model safe drinking behavior without foregoing alcohol if you are not interested in tee-totaling. It sounds like you have set a good balance in your family.
Hola Señor Tako, I had a 10 year alcohol drinking career that ended rather spectacularly. And now, I also do not drink – at least not in the last couple decades. Anyway, my observation is that it can be pretty uncomfortable to both not drink and be an introvert in some settings. For instance a party at which I know almost no one and almost everyone is swirling a drink and making small talk. I think it was probably fun to do this when I had a couple drinks going, but now I find this sort of thing abysmal. Similarly, I just don’t like concerts and loud venues like i did when I would attend them with a buzz. I avoid these events mostly.
I wonder if you have also run into situations where because you are not drinking, you have a different perspective? Best wishes as always, Aperture.
Oh yeah, sometimes it’s terribly awkward. I’m mostly an introvert. At parties, I try to find a non-alcoholic drink to put in my hand and swirl around. But yeah, making small talk can be dull. Thankfully I don’t go to a lot of these kinds of parties anymore.
Good for you in having the strength in your convictions to go against the social pressures and going cold turkey entirely! While I still enjoy the occasional bottle of beer or glass of wine, I was surprised to find out how many guys I started hearing about once I hit my 40’s that developed into full-blown alcoholics.
No one I knew personally, but more the friends of friends. Another interesting thing I noticed. It’s more socially acceptable for a woman to be a non-drinker than a guy. Not sure why that is.
I think the “health benefits” of red wine have been debunked, so there is no health reason to drink and there certainly is no financial reason. So, if you don’t “need” it to unwind or socialize, going cold turkey is the way to go!
I definitely still like to socialize, but I want to be able to ‘unwind’ without needing some kind of ‘product’ to do it.
But you’re right, it’s not terribly ‘socially acceptable’ for men not to drink. But I’ve also noticed that women drink a lot more now than when I was younger.
I don’t really drink either. The only times that I drink are really at social functions and typically it’s just a beer for the entire night. Definitely saved quite a bit of money over time by not drinking. Plus it’s better for my health overall.
That’s really impressive, Mr. Tako! You might not think so, but I do.
I started drinking backing in the college days and unfortunately let the trend continue. I recently stopped drinking for a 90-day run just to see if I could do it. I did it even while friends and family were around me drinking which made it a little harder.
Part of me wants to quit drinking completely for the health reasons, along with the costs and setting the example for my daughter. But on the other side, I’ll be honest, I truly love a good beer.
I’ve cut back tremendously and a lot of times I’ll come home and have just one beer after work, but one day maybe I’ll quit drinking completely.
I was a lot like you Jim – over the years I just started drinking less and less…until there were just so many reasons to stop.
That’s actually good to hear – hopefully, before long, I’ll be joining you as well!
I have never gotten into drinking, never really liked the taste. My family tree is dotted with alcohol abuse and I refuse to risk that. I wouldn’t be able to look my children in the eye if I chose a drink over them.
It has always amazed me ; watching friends throw back drinks while complaining of their financial status.
I really appreciate this article. It definitely aligns with my thoughts and it is a really voiced perspective. I’ve gotten the same negative reactions since moving to Seattle nine years ago, “You don’t drink coffee?!”
Oh yeah…not drinking coffee around here is like some kind of sin!
I’m definitely heading this way. My drinking now is one or two drinks, four or five times a year.
It’s almost worth going the extra mile and saying ‘I don’t drink any more’.
No big reason, just don’t enjoy it enough -water and black coffee for me!
I don’t have no problem with someone who drinks. Me personally have never touched the stuff. My problem is when the drinking is out of control it wrecks more than the person usually doing the drinking. I was probably one of the few to go 20 years in the military without. Though I did have a doctor accuse me of drinking.
As a Christian the bible does not forbid drinking and just like anything else it needs to be in moderation. The world calls it something else getting drunk, just like over eating, just like fornication is a sin.
No drinks for me either. Have had my share of drinks in college, but never really liked the taste. I would only drink on special occasions if I have to. It does amaze me how much people are willing to spend on drinks.
Mr. Tako, again we have a lot in common! I do not drink… period. It’s not that I don’t want to, but it never went down the right way for me.
Simply put, I was (am) way beyond a light weight. In college the most I could handle was a single beer. And, that single beer that tasted awful would lead straight to a pounding headache without even getting buzzed. Any thing beyond that and it would lead to 20 mins of violent puking! I didn’t need to do that too many times to leave drinking alone for good.
Truth is I wish I could enjoy certain social aspects of drinks, but it is who I am and I’m not gonna complain. I think the hand I was dealt is much better than having a predisposition for substance addictions, etc. And, it was always fun being DD and watching my friends go a bit nuts.
Finally, not drinking has saved me tons of money as you know. I don’t criticize anyone that enjoys drinking responsibly. Each unto his own! Glad to know I’m not the only one who’s made this choice.
Michael, your body is most likely poorly capable of metabolizing alcohol. Very common among those of Asian descent. Allow me to drop some (copied and pasted) science.
“The two principal enzymes involved in ethanol oxidative metabolism are alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). ADH is responsible for the metabolism of ethanol to acetaldehyde. ALDH catalyzes the conversion of acetaldehyde to acetate. The different isozymes account for the diversity of alcohol metabolism among individuals. An isozyme of ADH (beta 2 beta 2) is found more frequently in Asians than in whites, and an ALDH isozyme (ALDH2), although present in Asians, often is in an inactive form. The presence of an inactive form of ALDH2 is thought to be responsible for an increase in acetaldehyde levels in the body. Acetaldehyde is considered responsible for the facial flushing reaction often observed among Asians who have consumed alcohol. A dysphoric reaction to alcohol, producing uncomfortable sensations, is believed to be a response to deter further consumption.” Full reference: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1580147/pdf/pubhealthrep00200-0095.pdf
Yup PoF, that’s exactly me with alcohol! 🙂 My sister are the same way. Cousins of mine are similar, but not quite as bad. So perhaps there are varying degrees of this? Thanks for the reference!
Depending on the level of enzyme activity, there can definitely be some variability, but it is most certainly genetic.
Acetaldehyde is just an additional hydrocarbon away from formaldehyde. When that stuff accumulates in your body, you don’t feel good at all. Most of us break it down quite efficiently, but you and your relatives are likely bad at it.
I am in the same category as Michael. Anything beyond one drink results in bad bad things, sometimes for days. So, I don’t drink either. Sometimes I wish I could but in general I am pretty okay with being the sober one. Mr TJL still drinks in the evenings so our alcohol costs sit around $20 per month.
Same here Michael – depending on the alcohol, one or two drinks was usually enough to give me a screaming headache.
I very much respect your choice, Mr. Tako. If you don’t particularly enjoy it, there’s no need to risk all the potentially disastrous consequences, not to mention the financial implications.
Personally, I do particularly enjoy the wide world of beers, and the friends I’ve made via homebrew clubs. It would also be fair to say that alcohol played a not insignificant role in meeting my wife.
These days, I prefer to drink in moderation. Most of the consequences can be avoided if moderation is practiced. The empty calories do add up, though. As do the costs. We do entertain a fair amount, and I include homebrew equipment and supplies in the line item, but alcohol accounted for better than 2% of our annual budget. Dang!
I have also stopped drinking when my wife got pregnant, as a way to support her, and I eventually don’t miss it. I still do have a beer or a glass of wine when we meet for a BBQ or some other social function, but I haven’t had beer in my fridge for literally 8 months now.
What do you think of these studies that show that red wine is small consumption is actually good for the heart?
It’s a good thing you don’t drink for you own reasons, but what I miss in this blogpost is the fact that there is a zone inbetween not drinking any alcohol and alcholism. If you have a glass of wine or a beer every once in a while, the risk of diseases or addiction is negligible in comparison to drinking 4-5 units of alcohol every day. And I even believe that the relaxing/destressing effect of participating in social events by drinking 1-2 units of alcohol every once in a while, might outweigh the negative effects of alcohol on your health.
Most studies show that enjoying one or two drinks a day provides some health benefits, most likely related to the blood thinning effects of ethanol, slightly lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke, and possibly lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
The results aren’t overwhelming enough to be considered conclusive, or to suggest that teetotalers start drinking, but light drinking is most likely as healthy if not healthier, than not drinking alcohol at all.
-Physician on FIRE
My wife and I like to enjoy a glass or two of wine, maybe once a week at most…usually on a Friday night with the Netflix going. The only times I have more than this would be at weddings and when visiting family in Italy. Toasting someone with water just doesn’t cut it IMHO. In Italy, having wine over dinner is more of a cultural experience that my family really enjoys. Not to mention, the right wine paired with food is just so damn good! So in moderation, I don’t see any problem with a little alcohol.
That’s awesome. It’s great that you decided to support your wife by stopping drinking.
I love the local craft brew, but I stopped buying them this year. In the past, I only drink one or two beer per week at most, but now I really have to stop almost completely. My triglyceride level is high and alcohol will make it worse. It’s no fun getting old. At least, we’re saving some money…
I can attest that abstaining from alcohol is a potent financial weapon. I haven’t consumed alcohol in nine years but prior to that had what amounted to at least a $5,000 a year consumption habit. (Being in your 20s in NYC makes that yearly figure startlingly easy to reach…) These days, not only is my alcohol cost $0.00 but I also avoid opportunity costs resulting from hangovers or a cloudy brain the day after drinking. I’ve also eliminated my risk of an expensive DUI while mitigating risks of health problems. Sobriety is a great secret weapon; I’m not surprised Mr Tako wields it.
Good for your for quitting drinking. I drink, but only moderately since I know it’s not healthy, but just love a good micro brew too much. For me, it isn’t money, but health concerns for the moderation.
Do you have any vices that you’ve been trying to kick, but haven’t been able to yet? Addiction of any kind is such a strange thing. It can occur gradually or suddenly.
Really interesting article, I like your perspective. I’ve actually been experimenting with a one month no drinking rule this month for some of the reasons you mentioned. I wasn’t drinking a whole lot before, but I felt like even the moderate drinking was interfering with my health and overall wellbeing. Not to mention the cost!
I’ve saved so much this month and I feel a lot healthier. Though I really do like the occasional social glass of wine and will probably go back to having those sometimes, I do like having alcohol take the wayyyy, way back seat in my lifestyle.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic.
Glad you enjoyed it!