I'm 21 years old and I don't drink. I tried alcohol once and to be honest, it wasn't nearly as amazing as everyone says it is.
The texts I got leading up to my 21st birthday all looked something like this:
"Hey, Bri! We'll have to go out for your 21st."
"Bri, finally you're 21 and can come out with us."
"When are we going to go out to celebrate your 21st?"
I have a one-word answer for all of you: "never."
You're never going to get to take me out for a drink, not now, not five years from now, not even 20 or 30 years from now because I don't drink.
Before you think I don't drink for a religious reason or because I think I'm "too good for people who drink" or something else along those lines, allow me to stop you.
Allow me to tell you that the main reason behind my choice to not drink alcohol has nothing to do with my religion or my personal way of living.
Instead, it has everything to do with what I've witnessed.
I don't share my private life on the Internet very often, if ever, but sometimes, the need to speak out about something outweighs our desire to stay within our comfort zones and our mind-numbing mindset that we shouldn't say anything that makes us uncomfortable.
I'm 21 years old and I don't drink because I lost my uncle to drug and alcohol addiction.
People tell themselves that it's "just one drink" and that they "won't get addicted," but then they like that taste, they like that feeling and one turns into two turns into three and so on.
Seeing my uncle's life be cut short at only 51 years old from preventable causes doesn't sit well with me.
It doesn't sit well with me knowing that his death was preventable, and it doesn't sit well with me knowing that I wished I had gotten to know him even better while he was alive.
I could very well have made the choice to drink and not end up getting addicted--tons of people around the world drink but aren't addicted.
Yet, knowing how alcohol ruined and took my uncle's life makes the very smell of it something I cannot stand.
When my friends ask me to go to a party, I politely decline, hearing my uncle's words ring through my head.
"You're a smart girl, don't get involved in this stuff like I did. It messes up your life."
See, the worst part of this, for me, is that he knew he had a problem, but he couldn't get help. Seeing a family member deteriorate before your very eyes is heartbreaking.
When I look at my future, I want it to be what I want it to be. I don't want to make wine or beer my drink of choice, and I certainly don't want to leave my family, friends and other loved ones behind.
I want to determine my future, the bright one that my uncle always told me I had. I don't want alcohol to determine it for me.
And no matter how many times you tell yourself you won't get addicted, no one really knows that. No one drinks alcohol to become an alcoholic and have their life taken away from them prematurely.
No one wakes up, drinks a can of beer and thinks, "I'm going to end up being an alcoholic someday."
As cliché as the old saying "if you play with fire, you're bound to get burned" may sound, it holds a lot of truth here. When drinking alcohol, you run the risk of getting intoxicated or eventually becoming addicted.
This year will mark five years since my uncle passed away, and there's not a single day that goes by where I think, "Oh, it's so easy to not have him here."
There are days I find little signs of him everywhere. Like when I see someone with a do-rag walking around or hear an AC-DC song somewhere around campus.
I believe that my uncle was a great person, I truly do. I just believe that he had a very big struggle in life with alcohol.
I want to live to remember every single day I'm given and I want to live without regrets. If I were to drink, I think that would be a regret because I feel like the one promise I made to myself and to my uncle before he passed was that I would live the life I'm capable of living.
That life doesn't include alcohol.
It includes big career goals and personal goals that I want to meet and uphold, and those types of goals are best met sober.
So, to answer all of my friends' texts collectively, no, I won't be heading to a bar with you anytime soon, but if you want to buy me a cup of coffee for my belated 21st, I'll gladly accept the offer.