Why I Don’t Drink Or Do Drugs

Nothing terrible ever happened to me because of alcohol or drugs. I never got “so wasted” that I ended up deeply embarrassed or hurt. I never developed a drinking or drug use “problem.” This required a strict discipline of abstinence. Quite simply, I don’t avoid drugs and alcohol because I can’t use them. I don’t drink and use because I choose not to. In my youth, I discovered that I liked the taste of some beers and wines. Champagne was fun to drink because of the extreme effervescence. But I don’t like any of those beverages nearly as much as I like unsweetened green tea or water. I love water. I really do. It’s easily my favorite drink. I suppose I’m a bit of a control freak. This doesn’t mean that I need to control other people or be in complete command of my environment. I would not raise children, work with adolescents, or coordinate All-School Meetings if I had such needs. I know that control of those types of things is impossible. It’s more that I need to be in full control of my body and mind. Personally, inebriation and the “disinhibition” that comes with it always felt like wearing oven mitts while trying to write or trying to play basketball with my laces tied together. It could be really funny, I suppose, to do either of those things, but I’m not into that sort of so-stupid-it’s-hilarious kind of humor. Monty Python, Clyfe’s jokes, a clever turn of phrase, a Freudian slip, 30 Rock, The Office, the Charlie Bit Me video on YouTube and even some good slapstick are a few examples of humor that appeal to me. Being unable to speak clearly or watching someone act like an idiot because he or she is too full of a neurotoxin has never appealed to me. I am, by nature it seems, rebellious. If “everyone” is doing something or seeing things a certain way, my proclivity is to defy the trend. If peer pressure is a problem for many, my problem is something like peer polar opposition. “Sheep” and “monkeys” were the terms I used to describe my friends who drank or smoked weed “because that’s what everyone else was doing.” And, yes, I called folks that to their faces. It led to some good “debates.” I would ask, “If adolescence is supposed to be about rebellion and not doing what your old fogey parents do, then why do you plunge headlong into the same trough of alcohol and drug use that our parents fell into before us?” It also led to some eventual distancing from some flocks and imitators. That was OK with me. Before coming to Andover, I spent my entire career working with special needs kids and their families. These were kids challenged by learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, neglect, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, poverty and violent home environments. These are kids just like you, except they were not afforded the wonderful opportunities and resources you have. I did not know a single child in all those years whose life was not significantly, and often brutally, damaged by the effects of alcohol and/or substances. Because I loved those kids, I hated anything that hurt them. These included poverty, the insensitivity of former teachers who labeled them dumb and incorrigible and a social service system that let them fall again and again through gaping holes of systemic neglect and discrimination, as well as alcohol and drugs. I came to see the alcohol industry as no different than the crack dealers on the corners of the streets where these kids lived, out there to lure them into spending money they didn’t have and to risk their health on poison masquerading as medicine. When my eldest child, Lauren, was about four, soaking in the world around her like an insatiable sponge and synthesizing the infinite stimuli in her various environments, it occurred to me that it might be good to provide her (and her then baby brother, Evan) with an example of someone who made the choice not to drink. In hoping to provide just a little counterbalance to the ubiquitous message that growing up means growing up to drink, I stopped drinking alcohol of any kind. I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I didn’t start to soapbox about the evils of demon rum. I still stopped at the liquor store upon my wife’s request to bring home beer or wine for her or for company. I just stopped partaking. And my kids have seen me not partake, without fanfare, judgment or teetotaling proselytizing since they can remember. As in my youth, this has led to some interesting “debates.” It has also led to some distancing from some folks whose way of socializing, celebrating or unwinding regularly involves orrelies on alcohol. This is not because they don’t accept me or I don’t accept them, but because it can be awkward for me – like going to the beach with good friends and sitting on the shore while everyone else is in the drink. We can communicate over the area between the shore and the brine, but something important gets lost across the existential divide between being dry and being soaked, between being grounded and lucid, and floating loosely. I’m with them but not really with them. I admit, that can be hard. But it’s okay. Sometimes I hang out with them despite the dry-soaked disconnect. Sometimes I don’t. It’s a matter of choice. I wanted to share the reasoning behind this choice in case it might benefit any one of you to know. We are such a deeply, wonderfully pluralistic little village – over 1100 paths to PA; over 1100 ways to be here; over 1100 paths from here and out into our lives beyond PA. I worry sometimes that grand master narratives about all sorts of things, in this case drinking and using drugs, can make the heterogeneity of lifestyle options seem homogeneous and make choices appear to be inevitabilities. Here’s to well-considered choices. Love, Carlos Carlos Hoyt is the Associate Dean of Students.