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The exciting, subtle defiance of drinking alone

The exciting, subtle defiance of drinking alone

  • Drinking alone isn’t for everyone, but there can be some joy and empowerment to be found in it when done the right way

There’s a meditative joy that comes with doing anything by yourself. Ever since I was in high school, I was the type of person to take myself on dates. I’d go shopping, watch movies, and just hang out at restaurants and cafes by myself to enjoy my own company. 

Needless to say, my parents were concerned.

It’s one thing to go out by yourself, but it’s another thing to go out by yourself as a teenage girl. While their worries were in the right place, I always made sure that my priority was safety. I told them where I was going, what time I’d be there, and what time they could expect me home. 

Aside from my safety, my parents were also concerned about the social aspect of things. 

This is what most people imagine when a woman says they like drinking alone. Hell, it’s even a stock image. Photo by Zachary Kadolph on Unsplash

Every time I’d let them know I’d be doing something alone, I’d be met with “Wouldn’t you have a better time with your friends?” or “Won’t you feel lonely?” The answer I’d always give them was, “I’ll be fine. I actually enjoy my own company,” and leave it at that. 

As I grew older and gained more independence, I started doing other things alone. 

Like drinking. 

Drinking alone gets a terrible rap. When people think of someone drinking alone, they usually associate it with things like alcoholism, personal disaster, and despair. While, yes, all of these things can prompt one to drink alone, those aren’t the only reasons for people to do so. It can actually be a great time. 

What to know before you go

As with most things, there are a few rules when it comes to drinking alone. The first being, safety always comes first. There’s not much to think about when it comes to drinking alone as a man, but as a woman, constant vigilance is a price to pay. 

In terms of safety, venue is a major consideration. You can always drink in the safety of your own home (which I did a fair amount of during the summer of ’21), but drinking alone at a bar isn’t impossible. 

My green flags for bars you can drink alone at are craft cocktails, long bars, and friendly bartenders. These are usually the places that see a lot of patrons come in by themselves and understand that they need space. 

If you’ve chosen a destination outside your home, make sure to tell someone you trust where you’re going. Also make sure to send updates every so often so people know that you’re doing okay. 

Rule number two: Never drink alone when you’re sad. This is a common belief that I firmly stand by. Drinking to drown your sorrows is never a good idea in the first place, and doing it by yourself can make things even worse. Aside from feeling bad on the inside, you might actually literally start to feel physically ill because there’s no one to tell you when enough is enough—which brings me to the final rule. 

When you drink alone, don’t get to the point where your vision starts looking like this. This is not only physically painful, but also dangerous. Photo by Nick Rickert on Unsplash

Know your limits. The amount of fun you can have while drinking alone looks much like a bell curve. Once you hit that perfect level of tipsy and decide to drink more, it’s all downhill from there. Aside from your level of enjoyment, there’s also the safety aspect. You can’t be vigilant if you can’t even walk straight. 

Honestly, it sucks that we live in a society where women have to be constantly aware of our surroundings because danger lurks in every corner. For me, a big part of drinking alone is regaining a sense of independence and freedom. It’s a reclamation and a joyful protest against the norms set by an unkind society. 

Drinking alone means subverting expectations and having an amazing time while doing so. 

Recollections found at drink’s end

I’ll be the first to admit that drinking alone isn’t for everyone. Some people drink to loosen up and make new friends, which is possible, but it depends on your mood at the time. Whenever I choose to drink by myself it’s usually one of three reasons, to celebrate, reflect, or remind myself of my vitality. 

Celebrating over drinks is common practice, but doing it alone can enhance the joy I find in my success. There’s no need for me to talk to anyone I don’t want to, no keeping appearances, and I’m free to celebrate in my own little bubble. 

I also find drinking alone to be a meditative and reflective practice. Sitting at a bar with no one but yourself and your drink to keep you company sounds like a nightmare for a lot of people, but it can help you dig down deep within yourself for answers or ideas. 

To me, this is what drinking alone feels like—raising a glass to myself. Also for anyone wondering, yes this is my actual hand. Photo by Samantha Ong

I often find myself alone—either at home or at a quiet bar—nursing a beer or a cocktail when I have a big decision to make. I drink just enough for the thoughts to come easier and weigh out my choices. Of course, I never make the decision while I’m in an altered state, but the atmosphere and the alcohol can help me see things differently. Something especially helpful when you find yourself stuck. 

Drinking by myself as a reminder of my vitality is my favorite among the three. It’s no secret that life these days is difficult—to say the very least. Going through the motions of life can feel oppressive, repetitive, and plain boring. Having a routine is great and good for you, but it can also make you feel like another cog in the machine. 

When I end up at the edge of a bar by myself, drink in hand, I feel alive. For an hour or two while I nurse my drink, I am a young, living, breathing thing who works to live and lives for herself. While I sit at the bar and motion to the bartender to order my next cocktail, I am the main character—self-aware of my vitality and power. I am content in my own company, secure in myself, and confident that the night will only get better. 

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