What It’s Like to Not Drink in College

They say that the best articles are those written with true candor. So, for this piece, I’m giving that a try and writing about something that, frankly I’m embarrassed to admit to so many strangers and outsiders. I don’t drink. And while this might not be as shocking as my intro hinted it would be, admitting this as a current college student is actually pretty hard to do.

Drinking has become an important part of “The College Experience,” going hand-in-hand with the bar crawls and “darty season.” Thus, when I admit that I don’t participate in this ritual, my admittance is often met with shock and sometimes even disbelief. Even adults assume that my favorite weekend activity is partying.

Photo Credit: College Humor

This at least has been my experience. Now, I want to be clear. I am NOT criticizing drinking or partying or getting drunk. I completely understand the draw to want to let loose, have fun, relax, and release the stresses of the week. I just choose to do this in a different way, and these are the experiences that I’ve had.

For me, I don’t drink because I don’t like to lose control of my body. For many, they say drinking allows them to relax and become less shy. I feel the opposite, however. When I drink too much,  I just feel anxious, silly, and scared. I’m aware of the consequences which can accompany over intoxication and worry about getting myself in a situation that I will regret.

I feel regret often, even with things as insignificant as whether I slept a full 8 hours. Thus, if I know how likely I am to regret something small, I don’t want to put myself in a situation where I could regret more.

Obviously, there are ways for you to recognize your limitations, but it can be hard to notice and abide by these checkpoints when those around you are passing them.

When I’ve shared my sobriety with friends, I receive similar responses. Some of them have been: “I’ll get you drunk” “We’ll get drunk together it will be fun!” or my absolute favorite: “You’d be so fun drunk!”

Putting aside the insinuated: “I’m not fun when I’m sober,” I don’t need ANYONE to think that I don’t know what I’m talking about just because I’ve never actually been drunk. That “I don’t know what it’s actually like,” that it “isn’t always like that” or “it doesn’t have to be.” What I’m saying is I don’t want to be a part of it at all.

I’m plenty of fun and can have plenty of fun without any alcohol. It’s always great when you’re laughing so hard at a party that someone tells you “Wow, you’re really drunk.” No, I’m not, I’m just laughing.

All of these decisions lead to what it’s like to actually go to an event and not drink. While I’ve gone to many parties where I’ve had fun whilst SOBER, it can be hard being the only one not drinking. And I think most people who party can agree to that. How could being the only sober person not be hard?

I never wanted the fact that I don’t drink to be my identifier either, but in some cases it has. Sometimes my choice to remain sober accompanies my introductions, i.e. “This is Gabriella, she doesn’t drink.”

While I agree that not drinking to get drunk has become a part of my identity, it doesn’t mean that it needs to be shared with everyone along with my major of study and college year. I am so much more than just “the girl who doesn’t drink.”

So, there are two reasons why college sobriety isn’t fun.

1.) Because I often get type-casted and stigmatized

2.) I often feel like I have to play the mom or dad of the party. Wow, I just love when my friends call me Mom because I don’t drink.

No matter how many times I’ve expressed that I don’t care what my friends do in their free-time, I’ve still had many relationships affected by my choice to remain sober. My decision to not participate in the drinking is sometimes interpreted as an insult to my friends. That I think I’m too good or that I’m judging them for getting drunk. I assure you, I am not. It’s up to my friends and myself how we all choose to spend our free time in college; everyone is different.  

My first year of college, I was offered to a spot in a housing group by a friend from high school. Having known each other for 6+ years, she knew my preferences to remain sober and respected the decision, even though she enjoyed it. With that mutual respect for each other’s decisions, she offered me to live with her.

But, when her fellow housemates heard of her inviting me into their house, they rejected me. They cited that because I didn’t drink, I would be prudish when they wanted to host a party. I wish that they had given me a chance to explain that I had no problem with their hosting parties. That I had expected this and already made plans to either go to the library or friends house when this happened or participate if I felt up to it. 

I also, unfortunately, have had many friendships that have ended because of my unwillingness to get drunk with them. They would start by inviting me to get drunk. Then, because I refused, the invitations to hang out would stop coming until texts stopped coming altogether.

An important instance to note is that if I go to a party I will have a drink. One beer, two shots, a glass of wine. But don’t expect me to finish off an entire handle or drink a whole wine bottle or chug four beers. If I wanted to, I would.

I’m not willing to change myself to fit in and I don’t expect anyone else to either. I am completely comfortable staying in from the party and watching a movie or going to dinner or just hanging out with friends. And after 20 years, I’ve met a lot of people who feel the same way.

While it can feel exposing to admit to someone, that you don’t drink, it’s reassuring to see that flash of relief when he or she tells you they don’t either. It’s scary to not do something that it seems everyone else does. I’m lucky that most of my friends have been fairly supportive of my decision to not drink, but that doesn’t stop people from commenting on my choice.

Choosing not to drink in public can seem very isolating, but it’s important to know that you’re not alone in your decision to remain sober. Hopefully, this article will erase some of the embarrassment or worries that come with being different.

I know who I am and I’m not going to change that EVER just because it’s Tower Tuesday or even my 21st Birthday.

 

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