I knew what I was getting into when I started college. I’d seen it in movies like American Pie, just how much college kids like to party. For the first time in their lives, these young adults were away from home and away from their parents. They had full responsibility over their lives, nobody to tell them no.
All the events held on ‘Freshers Week’ (i.e. the week of Freshman Orientation) at my University seemed to revolve around alcohol – toga parties, concerts, and cocktail nights. It was isolating at first; I found it difficult to make friends. I did try. I went to these events, had a drink, and tried to be social. However, while my goal was to make friends, my peers’ goal was to get as drunk as they could before last call.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not sober. I socially drink maybe twice a month. However, after growing up in a household torn apart by alcoholism and addiction, intoxication has never really appealed to me. Sure, I’ve done it. I’ve gone out, gotten wasted, passed out, and woken up with the nightmare of all hangovers. The thing is, by the time I’d gotten to college, I’d grown out of all that. It’s not how I wanted to behave anymore.
It’s intimidating to tell people I don’t really drink. They look at me like I have two heads, especially at college. They act one of three ways, they either become offended, asking me if I think that I am better than them, they try to force me to drink by calling me boring and a party-pooper, or they become insecure and uncomfortable drinking around me, as if I need them to stay sober for me to enjoy their company.
So, for a while, I stopped going out altogether. I gave up trying to make friends. I was going to just keep my head down, do my work, and graduate. It would be easier that way. That’s when I found Sober Society. It was a club run by sober students on campus. Some were sober due to religion. Others, like me, chose not to drink due to alcoholism in the family. Some just didn’t like the taste of alcohol.
We would meet up and go to the cinema, go bowling, and hold sober parties. We organised educational speakers to hold seminars about addiction, we did charity work for people who struggle with addiction, and we had group therapy meetings over free coffee and donuts. I began to feel like less of an outcast. I noticed that even students who were heavy drinkers would come to these talks, with a willingness for education.
At Sober Society, I learned that I truly did not need alcohol to have a good time. I was out every weekend, socialising and partying, making new friends, and getting the ‘full college experience.’ The only difference was that I was drinking Shirley Temples and Pink Lemonade.
I’m confident now in my decision to avoid alcohol. I no longer fear opening up to friends when they ask me why I’m not drinking. I explain that no, I don’t think I am better than you, I’m not stuck up. I kindly reject their offers to buy me a shot so I can ‘loosen up.’ I remind them that I’m totally fine with them drinking in front of me.
My advice for any sober college students is to check out your own University’s Sober Society. It has honestly improved my time studying, ten-fold. If your university does not have a Sober Society or Club, start one! There will always be people, just like us, who would love to join. My other piece of advice would be to remain confident. For whatever reason, you have decided that sobriety is the best path for you. Do not give in to peer pressure, and don’t become discouraged. College is supposed to be fun, and there’s more than one way to have fun.