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The Sober Diaries: My 75 Days Dry

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

Everyone’s experience with drinking in college is different. Some indulge frequently, some occasionally, and others don’t partake at all. However, in the US, drinking and college tend to go hand-in-hand. Tailgates, Thirsty Thursdays, and Boozy Brunches are all events tailored to letting loose and socializing with the help of alcohol. On top of these occasions, bars and clubs are also a large contributor to the drinking culture within colleges across the country. 

My intention is not to make you feel bad for going out on the weekends or for having some drinks at the football game. Heck, I love doing that myself. Telling everyone to completely stop drinking isn’t realistic, nor is it necessary. I do understand that, for some, the only kind of sustainable drinking is not drinking at all, but for me, finding a healthy way to live a non-sober life was my goal.

In this piece, I’d like to share my experience with drinking, describe when I knew I needed a break, walk through what I learned on that hiatus, and discuss how I moved forward in creating healthier drinking habits that made me feel better about myself. 

I moved to Furman from Mount Desert Island, a small island off the coast of Maine. As you can imagine, big parties, or parties in general, were not a part of my high school experience. Furman is no USC or Alabama, and the drinking culture here does not compare; however, I was a freshman, and everything was so new. If I’m being brutally honest, I went from having wine nights once a month in high school to taking shots of vodka three times a week. I was far from home, missing my friends and family, not feeling super secure, and I started to lean on alcohol. I was drinking way too much. Since alcoholism runs in my family, I was warned about keeping an eye on my drinking patterns as I got older. Can I have fun without alcohol? Why do I continue to drink when I’m so anxious I can’t get out of bed the next morning? What did I say or do when I was drunk? Why do I hate the way I feel? The negativity that binge drinking brought into my life was overwhelming.

That was freshman year. During my sophomore year, the global pandemic made my negative drinking habits grow. A year later, studying abroad in Barcelona as a junior, drinking quickly took over my daily life. Heading home from Spain I remember thinking, “I can’t continue telling myself ‘this will be the year I am confident in my body and am able to manage my alcohol.” I knew I needed to really push myself this past summer to feel comfortable coming back to Furman in the healthiest way – mind, body, and soul. I decided that the best way to do that was to try 75 days sober.   

75 Days Later… 

Let me tell you, no Happy Hour during the summer is not an easy task. However, I learned more about myself in those 75 days than I have in a few years. The most powerful takeaway from this experience was feeling my morning anxiety diminish. There was never a situation where I woke up and thought, “where did I put my phone? Please tell me I didn’t say something stupid! I feel so gross”… all things I routinely said after a night of drinking in the past. My “hangxiety” didn’t just disappear, but my general anxiety was lowered too. There was a noticeable change during the first week, I felt at peace. I saved a bunch of money, had more energy, my physical health improved drastically, and I had better relationships with peers. After 75 days I knew that limiting alcohol in the future was going to be a game changer for my confidence, relationships, academics, and mental health. I was happier, healthier, and proud of myself for sticking to a challenging goal. This challenge pushed me to believe in myself, which is something everyone could use a little bit more of. The 75 days was the easy part. Now the goal was to figure out what to do when I came back to Furman. I knew I was going to drink alcohol; the task was how do I do that in a healthy way. Here’s where I landed. 

Change What You Drink 

For me, fruity cocktails were just going down way too easy, and I could drink more than a handful of them! I decided that for me the switch needed to be from liquor to beer or wine. My favorite right now is a Corona Light with lime. I know…could I be any more basic!? 

Don’t Just Drink to Drink 

During my 75 days I noticed that more times than not I wanted a drink because I was bored out of my mind, anxious, or sad. One good rule of thumb is to not drink alone and instead choose to have a drink for an event, with friends, or when out to dinner. Taking a bath with sparkling water and lime might not be as exciting, but it creates a similar effect. 

Set a Limit

Personally, it has been helpful for me to decide how many drinks I will have before going out. This takes some planning and willpower but mapping out a game plan for the night makes me more inclined to hold myself to drinking responsibly. 

Find a Friend 

It just so happens that one of my closest friends has decided to watch her alcohol intake as well. Having a person to talk to and lean on when the drinking starts to feel overwhelming is always nice. It creates community and gives you and your friend something to bond over! 

Create a Bucket List 

Never did I ever make plans for an early Sunday morning; I was planning on being hungover. Right there I was setting myself up for failure. If you plan to do nothing the day after a night out, you’re more than likely going to have a little too much fun that night. Before coming back to Furman, I made a list of all the things I wanted to do this year that I haven’t gotten to yet. I’m happy to report that things are in fact being crossed off the list. 

Worry About Yourself

I was most nervous to have people comment on what I was drinking, how I wasn’t drinking as much, and feeling pressure to drink more. More times than not, people do not care about what you’re doing. It’s about what makes you feel comfortable and what allows you to have fun. I tend to nurse a drink as long as I can just so I can hold something! Grabbing a soda is also a great switch. 

I knew I was going to drink again. I think it’s fun, it’s social, I like the taste, and I like feeling a little tipsy once in a while. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I also know I’m more than likely going to drink too much again at some point and for me that’s OKAY!! However, in order for me to hold onto all the hard work I did during this past summer, I knew that some changes needed to happen. I think no matter what your relationship is with alcohol it’s always beneficial to take a step back. I never truly realized how impactful the culture surrounding alcohol is in college until I forced myself to step away from it. I can now say that I am so thankful and happy that I did. 

Maggie Collins is a Communication and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies double major. Her dream job would be on the racetrack working for Formula One. Apart from Her Campus, Maggie serves on the Communication Studies advisory board and is part of the Lambda Pi Eta National Communication Honor Society. Maggie loves going to the beach, working out at The Booty Shop in downtown Greenville, and religiously looks forward to watching the Kentucky Derby every spring.