I have chosen not to drink alcohol recreationally. I have never had alcohol, aside from a sip or two to see what it tastes like (really, very bad.) I have never been drunk, and I never ever plan on changing that. I have my reasons why, but here isn't where I'll explain them. I want to talk about what it's like to be a sober young person.
It's very lonely.
One of the more difficult points to make is how alienating the sensation can be. I don't drink, so I don't understand what the excitement feels like. I often see among my friends and people I know, a constant longing and zealousness for casual and binge drinking. I have my thoughts on this, but this often means I can't really join in on the fun of waiting to be drunk either.
Often, between young people there isn't much of a connection. This isn't to say that all relationships are invalid, but many 'friends' only have alcohol in common. Perhaps these low-level friendships based on blood alcohol level eventually bring good connections, but most don't and they're not intended for that. My peers might say these people are their friends because they're fun to be around. Again, a concept I don't understand. For me, friends exist on a plane that is without this fun modifier. I choose my friends based on how much I like them, if our personalities are compatible, if our morals and world views face the same direction, and if they make me comfortable. Turns out that the last one is the most important. If someone can make me comfortable, then everything else will line up (or line up enough.)
Since alcohol is the binding line for many people, I'm often left out of conversations. If anyone wanted to talk about interaction design, keyboard layouts, the history of video games, or the gases that make up Jupiter, I'd be on board all the way. Conversations start about daily activities, and then lurk into future activities. Future normally means drinking or parties. I don't do either.
An anecdote. The first party I ever went to, I was 16 or 17 (it was a sweet 16, for sure no one was drinking). It was in the pool house of a gated community. The party was filled with people a little younger than me, but I knew everyone there. For the most part, they were people I liked. About 15 or 20 minutes after I arrived, the DJ had finished setting up and started playing music. The music was so loud, that I couldn't hear anything else. I thought this was a joke (again, this was my first party) or an error. Certainly the music volume would be lowered to an enjoyable state. It didn't, and that was probably the most miserable three hours of my life.
This leaves me to be alone most of the time. I also don't smoke cigarettes or any kind of drugs.
What's weird about this, is often I'm told it's the right thing to do. I get comments like "keep it up" and "that's great." I used to be called innocent too, but I haven't heard that in a while. If I'm making the right decision, why does no one act that way. If, in discussion, not drinking is the best thing to do, why does everyone act like drinking is the most significant action of their week?
I have such a hard time making friends because I don't drink. My friends also seem to have a hard time inviting me anywhere because I don't drink. They feel bad, because being the sober person in a group of drunk people is the worst. It is, but I'm done being alone.