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Why I Don’t Drink and How I Learned to be Okay With It

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

Edited by Sophia Savva

Entering university, I never realised how sheltered my life in my little neighbourhood in Canada had been. 

At my high school in Canada, none of my friends and peers drank alcohol and those that did, didn’t share it openly or attempt to persuade others to do the same – it just wasn’t the norm. Therefore, upon being accepted to university I expected to make friends based on mutual interests and a desire to learn, not based on late-night antics under the influence of alcohol. I wanted to have fun and step out of my comfort zone, but drinking and raging parties didn’t register on my radar. I clung onto the (what I now realise was naïve) belief I would easily meet others like myself, regardless of my personal preferences.

My expectations were quickly shattered when I realised that not only did the majority of my freshman class already drink on a regular basis, they heavily relied on it for fun, parties, and recreation (keeping in mind that the legal drinking age in the majority of Canada is 19-years-old). It appeared that whenever my peers went out for a night of fun, their only desire was to get drunk.

At first, I tried to fit in. I tried tagging along to gatherings and parties. That became old after the first night when the alcohol was brought out. Suddenly it felt as if I was growing up too fast. I hadn’t had any prior experience with alcohol and was uncomfortable, didn’t know how to act, and felt like the odd one out. I panicked at the sudden culture shock and had to remove myself from the situation. By the second day of frosh, with a raging case of social anxiety, I withdrew from the majority of activities for the remainder of the week.

I’ve seen many articles in the past written by people (like myself) who do not enjoy drinking. In several of these articles authors talked about how their peers criticized or judged them for not drinking alcohol. Among other questions, they were asked if they thought they were better than everyone else because they did not drink.

In my experience, I find exactly the opposite to be true; you’re viewed as less than everyone else if you don’t enjoy drinking. In short, you’re a loser. Whenever I politely decline a drink or tell someone that I don’t enjoy drinking, he/she immediately draws back. He/she then proceeds to avoid and look at me in a way which unmistakeably signals that they think I’m neither adventurous nor fun. In fact, I’m straight up boring. Obviously not everyone harbours that mindset, but at the time it certainly felt that way. That first week of university I felt like a complete and utter loser.

Initially, I asked myself a bunch of questions. Is this really what other people do for fun? Have I been deprived of a “normal” teenage experience? Am I years behind my peers in recreational drinking and social interaction? Is this what my life will be like in university? Am I boring, prudish, weird?

After that night it felt as if because I personally wasn’t interested in drinking alcohol and going out and getting drunk, there was something wrong with me. I started to feel as if I wasn’t as interesting, spontaneous, or outgoing. I started to worry that I wouldn’t have any good stories to tell in the future looking back in life. What if I regretted turning down opportunities because I was too scared to “seize the day”?

After some soul searching, I’ve come to realise that I genuinely dislike the taste of alcohol. In fact, due to some personal events in my life, I do not like the idea of becoming drunk, or even tipsy. I do not see the appeal of not having full control of my body and thoughts. In my opinion, you don’t need alcohol to have fun.

Don’t get me wrong, I see absolutely nothing wrong in enjoying a drink every now and then. If you want to get black-out drunk on a night out or at a party, that’s your choice. You’re young, you’re experiencing freedom for the first time, and as long as you’re consuming alcohol responsibly, party and drink to your heart’s content. I have friends who drink on a regular basis and friends who, like me, prefer to drink rarely. If you enjoy it, go for it – it’s just not for me.

My point is that in a culture where recreational alcohol consumption is the norm, not conforming to that said norm can make you feel isolated and left out. Why does it have to be this way? I can understand your idea of fun and recreation; why can’t you understand mine?

Obviously not everyone will and can relate to my situation. However, if you’re a young undergraduate at university who’s feeling like a loser for not drinking, I want you to know that you’re not alone, and that you should do what you feel comfortable with. If you want to get drunk and have fun, that’s great. If you don’t, also great. I think it’s important to remember that not everyone drinks.

Since that night the first year of university I’ve made friends who share similar values and beliefs, and accept me for me. While I’m still trying to discover and figure out who I am, I’m slowly becoming more comfortable with being myself. I still dislike the taste of most alcoholic beverages, and do not drink alcohol on a regular basis. However, on rare nights when I do go out to dinner with close friends at a restaurant, I might order a fruity/slushy cocktail (which incidentally completely masks the taste of the alcohol). I’m finding my own happy medium.

As for those people who treated me differently after realising I didn’t enjoy the same form of fun as they did? Good riddance.


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Joy Jiang

U Toronto

Joy Jiang is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto double majoring in Criminology and Political Science, and minoring in English. When not lamenting in bed about the schoolwork she has yet to do, she can be found watching Netflix and home renovation television.