Here are some questions that come my way regularly: "Why do you not drink?"; "Is it for religious reasons?"; "You are missing out on all the fun!"; "A night out is not fun if you remember it the next day"; "How can you live in London for almost 10 years and not drink!"; "You need alcohol to drop all inhibitions and have a good time"; "Research now suggests that you should drink wine every day."
My responses are worded differently based on my reflections at that moment.
1. "Research suggests that you should drink wine every day."
I can show you extensive research supporting both drinking and not drinking alcohol, and the positive and negative implications of both choices. I will not comment on the medical and health implications of alcohol because the medical establishment itself doesn't seem to agree on it. The only thing that remains true and in accordance with Bharatiya scriptures is that anything in excess can only be detrimental to our body.
2. "Is it for religious reasons?"
One conversation can change your life. I have had several such a conversations with Brni. Nidhi Chaitanya ji of Chinmaya Mission. One such conversation with Nidhi ji was when I was just 13. We were inside a jewellery shop while my parents were shopping, and I was discussing the changes I was seeing in my friends. Very tactfully, Nidhi ji made me arrive at the conclusion myself that if the nature of alcohol is intoxication then even to the smallest extent, why should I let anything control my mind? Religion is a means of gaining mastery over our minds. Bharatiya scriptures compare mind to a monkey. Why would I feed alcohol to the monkey, when I am trying to tame it? As if I don't face enough challenges already in trying to tame the mind! Thank you Nidhi ji for letting my Guru Swami Chinmayananda be, through you, the moral compass of my life to date. And, thank you also for not spoon feeding me but empowering me to make my own choices.
I will not comment on the medical and health implications of alcohol because the medical establishment itself doesn't seem to agree on it.
3. "Everyone drinks! You can't network and socialise if you don't go along with the London pub culture."
So why would I drink? Peer pressure? I have somehow always attracted friends who love me for being myself and have never pressured me to drink. Of course, the option to drink was just not there for me, so I never let myself feel any pressure either. I was never going to do it and I think they knew. Thanks to the wonderful friends in my life.
The jobs I have held have involved networking, glamorous night outs, fashion awards and parties. But how would I build a relationship, business or personal, if I am not 100 % alert and can't find any other common ground to communicate and bond? And if I do, then why do I need that drink in my hand?
4. "A night out is not fun if you remember it the next day."
If I have a fun night, why would I not want to remember it? I want to capture every memory of it and cherish it! And I think my closest friends can give enough evidence that I can be absolutely crazy and fun, though on my terms. I really don't need alcohol or anything similar to be fun, because if I need something external to be anything, it is not natural to me. It is not me.
To truly drop my inhibitions, I don't need alcohol, I need vivek (discrimination) and vairagya (detachment).
5. "You need to have a drink to sing in that karaoke."
I don't need to have a drink to sing in that karaoke, to race down the Millennium Bridge, to build that crazy memory I will be telling the kids. I can do all the crazy things that people do and be even more innovative with it without alcohol. To truly drop my inhibitions, I don't need alcohol, I need vivek (discrimination) and vairagya (detachment). Being a part of the Bharatiya culture lineage, the Chinmayananda lineage, how can my standards not be the highest!
Having said that, I wouldn't dare judge any of my friends for drinking or making choices that I wouldn't make. Each one is on their own journey. Different strokes for different folks. And I love them all for who they are.