The answer to your first question is a short one and perhaps the most frustrating/vulnerable to have to say: being sober is like breathing air for me. It’s how I was meant to function. Which makes me a weird anomaly for people who drink and for people who have worked through addiction. Drinking is not a temptation or interest: it just never made sense to me.
With that, I love being in control of my body and mind and I always saw alcohol as a way of losing that control and as a real long term health risk. I love being sober. If loving who I am isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is.
But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been really difficult at times to be this person in this culture.
This society doesn’t just assume young people want to drink. This society pulses on the belief all people want to drink. There isn’t a single day that passes where alcohol is not mentioned, advertised, or physically in my presence. It is a constant background noise, an assumption that we all want to or do participate, and the awkwardness of saying to someone “No thanks, I don’t drink” never seems to go away.
I always found support and understanding from my parents. But the major turning point in my life was when I went to college and lived in a Wellness Community my first two years. The dorm was pretty evenly split between kids who drank and kids who didn’t but we all went to parties together and were there for each other. It was the first time I met other people who were actively choosing a lifestyle and being supported by their peers. I recognize that without my meeting a community of Straightedge/Sober kids at age 18, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. The people you surround yourself with are a reflection of who you are. And though I definitely don’t know as many sober people now as I once did, the people I surrounded myself with are the support system I need.
If someone isn’t respecting your decision to not drink, then they aren’t respecting you. Whether they’re a stranger, friend, or family member, peer pressure and bullying wear many, many faces and they are most often found in people who are insecure about their own decisions. By saying you are not/will not/don’t want to do something that everyone else is doing, you are confusing. It makes other people uncomfortable.
People still question my decisions. Or comments are made. Or someone feels awkward. Or I feel awkward or overwhelmed. It’s okay. Life is awkward and overwhelming. I say “No thank you” a lot. I use my free drinks at poetry shows for a lot of Sprite. But being sober is a part of my identity that I am really proud of. And I no longer allow myself to feel ashamed for this even when I feel ostracized.