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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Cal Lutheran chapter.

When you turn 21, there is an expectation among peers and friends for you to start drinking. After my friends and I all turned twenty-one, the option to start going out to bars became available, which introduced me to the world of alcohol consumption that much of the adult world regularly participates in. Since I had never had alcohol before turning twenty-one, I knew it would be a transition that would be a bit of a struggle for me, but I did not realize how much I would differ from my friends in this area. 

I do not go out much, but when I do it looks something like this. I arrive completely sober at one of my friends’ houses where everyone is already drinking. I do not pregame at all before I go out, so I always stay sober for this part of the evening. When we get to the bar, I order one drink along with the group, and I sip on it for the rest of the night. As the night goes on, the others are getting more and more drunk, while I stay relatively the same. This is partly by choice and partly about how I feel when I drink. I have a busy schedule between school and work, so I often don’t have the option of staying up super late and sleeping in the next morning; I can’t risk getting sick or waking up with a hangover. I also tend to feel slightly nauseous and dizzy after even just one drink, so my body cannot keep up with the others. The vast difference between my friends and myself makes going out difficult for me, and often makes me feel somewhat isolated from my friends, even though we are all sharing the same experience. 

It is difficult for me to understand the appeal of alcohol consumption past one or two drinks, because in my experience, it affects the connection I have with my friends, especially when we are experiencing different levels of intoxication. After several drinks, my friends can no longer hold conversations the same way that I can, and it is more difficult to have fun together while we are in completely different headspaces. I want to go out with my friends to have fun and spend time with them, but every time I go out, I find myself sitting in the bar regretting even going out in the first place. When everyone around me is drunk, and I’m sober, it feels like we are in two different worlds even though we are sitting right next to each other. 

I find myself in a weird position socially because on one hand, I have my friends who are willing to go out, but drink too heavily for my enjoyment, or I have my friends who do not drink or go out at all. I am the type of person who would want to go out for maybe one or two drinks and just be able to relax and socialize with friends, but sadly I have not found my people yet. I feel like when I am a little older, a lot of people will be in my position, but for now, I have to navigate social situations where I have to maintain my personal alcohol boundaries, despite being viewed as “uptight” or  “not fun.”

Overall, I know that there is nothing wrong with me for feeling this way and that I am probably better off in the long run for limiting my alcohol consumption, but it does not make it any easier socially, at least while in this season of my life. While I am still in my early twenties, I know that much of my social life will inevitably revolve around alcohol. I feel like I stand out when I am the only one in the group not taking a shot or when everyone’s going for their third drink and I am still sipping on my first. I try to look at it as a character-building experience. I know that maintaining my one-drink boundary is important for me because I don’t want to feel sick, so I have to care for my own needs despite what others around me are doing.

It can be difficult and sometimes awkward to be the one who’s doing something different, but I also know that if I go along with the group, then I will feel worse in the end. It is important to be strong enough to do what is best for your own health and well-being, even if it means not going along with what my friends are doing. Admittedly, it is something that I still feel awkward about sometimes, and it often turns me off from making or accepting plans. I know that there are probably other people out there who feel like this, but it’s never talked about and people are often shocked when I bring up the fact that I really cannot drink much. I have never been someone who was too concerned about peer pressure, which I think helps me in these situations, but my piece of advice to anyone else who also feels like this is to do what you need to do for yourself and not worry about any negative comments or peer pressure that tells you to do something that you do not feel comfortable doing. 

Anna Henson

Cal Lutheran '23

Hi! My name is Anna Henson and I am a junior history pedagogy major at California Lutheran University. I love all types of writing including research for my major and fun opinion articles! I am pursuing a teaching credential to help students develop their writing and thinking skills to express themselves clearly and creatively. I also love iced coffee, Tiktok, and the color pink!