What does it mean not to drink? I would think that not drinking, or being chem-free, should just mean that you don't drink, and nothing more than that. I would never have guessed that not drinking would have so many more implications about a person, or would push them into a culture that is completely different from the world of those who do drink.
When I applied to college five years ago, I was looking for a really fun school - the kind of school where students value having fun, where they put as much effort into having fun as they did into their schoolwork. This is commonly referred to as "playing hard." Not being part of the drinking culture at my high school, I had no idea that alcohol was such an integral part of this lifestyle. Call me crazy, but when you don't go to a small school and live on campus, you don't know what everyone else does on the weekends. I knew there was drinking in college, but I also believed that college kids just had young, wild spirits when they did a lot of the crazy things I'd heard about. I had every intention of living the college dream.
When I signed up to live in a chem-free dorm, I had no idea of the culture that I was walking into. The summer before college, my friends and I had spent a lot of time at the beach and really wanted to go nightclubbing, but not all of our friends were 18 yet. No worries, we all figured. We'd be doing stuff like that every weekend in college. But after a few weeks of the subculture that I had unknowingly signed up for, I realized that it wasn't going to happen. Because it was weird that I love dances and wanted to go nightclubbing as badly as I did. It was weird that I love mainstream pop music, chick-flicks, and wearing hot pink. It was weird that I'm not outdoorsy. These qualities that I thought made me typical and mainstream were really out of place in the chem-free world. Most chem-free students I know are very nice, but I still felt left out because I didn't belong in that culture. I couldn't join the mainstream culture because it was so focused on drinking; I had to choose between two worlds that I equally didn't fit into.
|Monopoly while studying: chem-free "fun"|
Even now that I have graduated, the concept of being chem-free still weighs on my mind. I never meant to be so defined by one thing that I don't like to do. Before my friends started drinking in college, we did the same kinds of activities that people who drink do; there was no cultural disconnect. We had so much fun together, so many magical times that we'll never be able to have again unless we're drinking. Now that I've tried drinking, I should be more confident in saying that it's not my thing, but instead I have an aversion to telling anyone the truth because I don't want to be pushed into a culture that I'm not a part of. I don't want all the assumptions that come with being chem-free. If the cultures at my school were any reflection of the US drinking and non-drinking cultures, then it would be less of a lie to say that I get wasted every weekend, because whatever else that implies about me is probably true.