I was raised in a Catholic and Austrian household. By tradition, we drink. This is not to say that my family are alcoholics, but my Opa has a personal vineyard for the family, and my mom solemnly believes in drinking a glass of red wine a night—our family tastebuds crave the nightly ritual. As a result, my mom was very loose with drinking and I was never shunned if I wanted to go out to a party, “Just give me a call if you need to be picked up” she would always say as I walked out of the front door, sober, and content with staying that way. Because of this, I never had to rebel. I found no need to be 14 and defying my parents rules because my parents thought I was already breaking them.

My high school friends would bring me non-alcoholic wine and I would sip, flirt, and exist like any other adolescent drinker. I remembered my nights, I had a fear of throwing up, and my laugh was already loud and obnoxious enough. I honestly just wasn’t interested in it.

In college, I worked long and hard nights on art projects and papers—drinking wasn’t a part of my agenda then either. I was too busy to think about having my first drink. Once you reach a certain point, it’s almost as if, there’s no reason to start. I had been sober for this long, why commit to drinking now?

“Just water for me, please” I always said as my friends scanned the beer list and started their tab. In college I celebrated my 21st birthday hanging out with my long term boyfriend and eating a burger in downtown (it was super fun I promise).

In college it got harder. “Is it okay if I don’t drink?” or “I promise I’m not boring!” were phrases I always asked my peers when attended parties or meeting up with friends.

To be honest, this became exhausting. I mostly stuck with my high school friends from home who knew me well enough to not peer pressure me and ask me to partake in anything I wasn’t interested in.

Once I graduated, I moved out of state and into a big city—I reveled in the new array of bars, dance clubs, and restaurants. While I was sober my entire life, I had one addiction and that was dancing. I always begged my friends to come out but most of them mentioned pre-gaming and as a result we never made it out of the house.

“I need to have a few more drinks in me before I can dance” or “I’m not drunk enough for that” were way too common phrases that I constantly had to contend with. My only complaint about being the only sober friend is that you have to wait about an hour for everyone to become inebriated and have fun.

Graduating college also meant that I had to form new relationships in my new city. I usually made excuses like, “I just have a headache” or “I have to wake up early tomorrow.” Eventually, those excuses ran out. I didn’t want to be ashamed of my choice not to drink. I didn’t want to be shamed into buying something that I had no interest in. Eschewing substances as a 25-year-old is more of a cheap way out. By this point, I wanted to buy a $8 meal, not an $8 cocktail.

Regardless, my decision to forgo alcohol seemed to be waning—why was I even rejecting it anymore? It almost became a habit to say “no thanks” and if I did randomly start to drink it would be seen as a huge occasion and a milestone in my life. I didn’t want that sort of attention but coming up with excuses was more exhausting than just sucking it up and sucking something down.

Eventually, I began to dabble in drinks here and there. About a week ago, in all of its glory, I became intoxicated for the first time. “Wait, am I drunk?!” I kept asking my boyfriend. I was drunk. At 25. This was it. It was a landmark event and a quarter of a century feat.

In the end, is this advice for everyone to try to stay sober until they are in their twenties? Am I shaming you for indulging in something that you enjoy? Hell no. You drink that PBR, and mix that drink. I am by no means trying to impose my beliefs or opinions on anyone else. But at the end of the day I’m still going to be saying, “Just water for me, please,” and hopefully, we can cheers to that.

Nicole Lane believes in rising early, drinking sweet tea, and laughing, always. She is a contributor to several Chicago based publications like THE SEEN, Newcity, and Gapers Block. She is also the Co-Director of Social Media for Vagabond City Literary Journal. Most of the time she’s making art, specifically sculptures. Nicole can be spotted on Twitter @snicolelane and Instagram @niiickelback

[Image via Shutterstock]