“Are you drunk?”
My friend peered at me under the flashing lights as I shook my head and continued dancing.
“I’m high on life, not on drugs!” I shouted over the music.
She laughed, then rolled her eyes. “Of course you are,” she said. But her expression was funny: She looked both disappointed … and relieved.
Most people just drank to have fun. Why didn’t I?
Disappointment—and also disbelief, annoyance, and outright hostility—was what I got a lot of during college. I was also well-liked and made friends quickly. But one thing set me apart: I didn’t drink. And so, in the eyes of my fellow students, I was a goody-two-shoes, some even said “brainwashed.” Perhaps the most universal assessment was “different.”
I had a lot of conversations about “why.” Even though my college was a relatively dry campus with a minimal party scene, alcohol was still present and drinking was considered socially acceptable. Also, most people didn’t drink to excess, but just to have fun. So why didn’t I participate?
At first, I offered more mainstream explanations. I told people I didn’t like the taste. I told them I didn’t like feeling out of control. But if they really pushed, I was honest: I didn’t drink because I felt like I’d found something better.
At some point, it usually came out that I was a Christian Scientist, or those who already knew what church I attended made the connection between that and my stance on drinking. But the thing was, I didn’t think of Christian Science as having a “restriction” on alcohol. From attending the Christian Science Sunday School all my life, what I’d actually found was that Christian Science gave me freedom.
One of those freedoms was seeing my identity as God-created, meaning that I felt secure in the way God made me. This spiritual identity, I knew, wasn’t about having an appealing personality, but about reflecting the infinite qualities of God in every situation. These include things like vibrancy and joy, along with strength, poise, and clarity.
Some people said I had a lot of self-confidence, but I think it was more that what I’d learned from studying Christian Science gave me God-confidence—confidence that in every situation, God was giving me exactly what I needed to contribute meaningfully and to live fearlessly and to share Her love with everyone I encountered.
I’d found that Christian Science gave me freedom—the freedom to be the way God made me.
So instead of feeling left out when others were drinking, I felt very much “in”—comfortable in knowing my God-given identity, and in being a witness to everyone else’s as well. After a while, instead of being met with hostility, I started to find that my choices were met with acceptance and sometimes even relief. In being “different,” it seemed, I opened the door for others to be different, too, whether that meant abstaining from alcohol, speaking out about their own beliefs, or being themselves without judgment. Sometimes it even led to conversations about God and spirituality.
“I knew something was different about you,” one of the freshmen on my hall told me the year I was a Resident Advisor. “That’s why I bring all my friends to talk to you, because there’s something about you that helps people.”
I was used to being called “different” by then, but when she said it, it took on a new meaning. “Different,” it turns out, is good. “Different” can heal.