Why I don't drink

I'm a year or so off 40 and I still get funny looks at parties when people offer me cocktails and I opt for a mineral water or lemonade. It was acceptable when I was pregnant and sometimes people will look at me knowingly and say, "Oh, you're driving, are you?" but the truth is that I don't drink alcohol, I never have and I certainly don't plan to start now.

Not drinking is not well understood in Aussie society. The fact that George Clooney sometimes doesn't drink at all is such a story that it made the national newspapers last week. Our alcohol consumption is high. This is from the Australian Medical Association:

In 2007 the per capita consumption of alcohol for Australians over 15 years was nearly 10 litres. This is high by world standards. 90% Australians over 14 in 2007 had consumed alcohol in their lifetime (an estimated 14.2 million people), 40% drank alcohol weekly, and 8% drank daily.

It's a given that if you go out, you'll drink. All except for me, apparently.

Why don't I drink? It goes back to a pretty young age. My nanna grew up in the depression in a family of nine children. Her alcoholic father and her alcoholic brother both drank the family earnings, such as they were, and the family went without as a result. Nanna went to school with no shoes and never owned a doll.

The fact that there is alcoholism in my family background scares me. I know myself pretty well. I am someone who doesn't do things halfheartedly. I can't leave food on my plate, I have to finish my drinks fast and I usually go back for seconds and thirds. If there is chocolate in the cupboard I eat it all in one day. I don't do moderation well in any area of life. And If I drank, I would drink a lot and possibly not be able to stop.

The fact that I knew and loved someone who had been hurt by the effects of alcohol abuse makes me aware of the damage that can be caused to people around you. 

I never started drinking for this reason. And I've stayed off it for four other reasons. One is very simple: I don't like the taste. The second is perhaps a little bit incomprehensible to some people, but I don't like to be out of control and not know what I'm saying. I don't need 'to loosen up' to have fun. I have quite a lot of fun in my normal state of mind - without embarrassing myself by doing or saying something ridiculous.

The third reason is because I don't like feeling sick, I'm not a morning person, and it's difficult enough to get up the morning after I've stayed up late. To me, the pain of a hangover is just not worth the apparent pleasure of having too much the night before.

The fourth reason is that I don't want to contribute to the harms that alcohol causes in society in general. Say what you want about responsible drinking, but these facts, again from the AMA, remain:

In 2003, alcohol was the risk factor responsible for the greatest burden of disease and injury in Australian males under the age of 45,  and is the second largest cause of drug-related deaths and hospitalisations in Australia after tobacco.

Not drinking is my choice, but it's still not well understood in general society. No-one's rude, but I do feel a little bit odd - and a little bit like a wowser - when I go out.

Do you drink? Why or why not?