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Sobriety 101: How Not Drinking Has Shaped My College Experience

Alcohol was my best friend, long before it should have been, and I was at my first frat party by the time I was sixteen. So if anyone would have told me that I’d be celebrating my twenty-first birthday anywhere other than a bar with all of my friends, I would have laughed in their face. Me, sober? Not a chance. I never in a million years thought there’d come a time that I would be, especially not during my college years. 

And I guess that was part of the problem, wasn’t it? I had started drinking when I was thirteen, and by the time I was twenty, I landed myself in rehab after almost failing out of college. Now, almost two years later, I’m at my dream school with a 4.0 GPA, but that never would have happened if I kept drinking. Once I got sober, my life really did get better “beyond my wildest dreams.”

That being said, I can no longer go to parties with my friends, or even have a glass of wine during a girls’ night. For me to stay sober, I have to keep myself as far away from alcohol as possible, at least for right now when I’m so early on in my sobriety.

Whether you’re choosing to be sober for personal reasons, or you’re in recovery like I am, not drinking might make you feel like you’re missing out on something, especially when it seems like everyone else is. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way:

1. Get involved.

Sometimes it can seem like the best way to meet people in college by going to parties, especially when you don’t know anyone, but there are plenty of opportunities to make friends elsewhere! Sign up for organizations that interest you, join extracurriculars, volunteer with charities, check out events that are going on around campus — just get involved in whatever ways you can! Not only will all of these things help you with your resume, but you’ll also build friendships that will last a lifetime.

2. Stay strong.

Not everyone is going to understand your decision to stay sober, and that’s okay. At a time when it seems like everyone else your age is drinking, you might feel pressured to give in, but remember that it’s important to always do what’s best for you. It might help to make a list of all of your goals and hang it on the wall next to your bed so that the first thing you see in the morning is a reminder of what you’re working towards. 

3. Have fun.

Being sober doesn’t have to be boring! Sometimes it can seem like there’s nothing else to do on the weekend, especially when all of your friends are out partying, but that’s definitely not the case. Go catch the premiere of the movie you’ve been dying to see, grab something to eat at your favorite restaurant, or spend some time exploring your city. If you’re in recovery, going to a meeting might help, or scheduling your shifts at work for the times when you know you’ll be most tempted.

Even though I stopped drinking because I had no other choice, being sober has made me enjoy my college experience way more than I would have otherwise. No matter what your reasons are for not drinking, remember why it is you chose not to in the first place, get as involved as you possibly can, have fun, and I promise, you won’t feel like you missed a thing.


Casey studies journalism at Emerson College, and she hopes to someday be an investigative journalist for a major news organization. She writes about her past struggles with addiction, her travels abroad, and her desire to change the world.
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