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Clearing up misconceptions about people who don’t drink in college

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Riverside chapter.

One of the first things just about anyone in a position of authority on a college campus will tell you is that “most college students don’t drink.” While it’s true that about 20% of college students don’t drink at all, when you’re in circles that have frequent parties or get-togethers that involve alcohol, you can feel a bit like a fish out of water if, like me, you don’t drink. 

For me, the choice to not drink alcohol is a personal one rather than anything religious or otherwise. But this doesn’t stop people who do drink from asking that dreaded question of “Why?” Every. Single. Time. If you like to drink, by all means, do so. But I beg you, stop asking us non-drinkers our reasons why we don’t. Choosing not to drink can be a really personal decision for people. And trust me, the conversation is going to get awkward if I tell you “Alcohol abuse runs in my family.” If people want to disclose that info, that’s fine, but the constant “whys” when a red Solo cup is turned down get on the nerves really fast. Or at least, it gets on mine fast.

Though this doesn’t happen all the time, many people get somewhat defensive when you mention that you don’t drink. It’s for this reason that I’ve switched to saying “I’m sober” in some social situations — people leave the subject alone if they think you’re recovering from addiction rather than simply abstaining.

I think there’s this misconception that people who don’t drink think they’re better than the people that do. I would venture to say that nine times out of ten, this is not the case. Whenever I’m at get-togethers where there’s alcohol, I couldn’t care less if people are drinking. In fact, the soda I bring for myself often doubles nicely as chasers for everyone who’s drinking alcohol. I don’t walk into a party thinking that I’m the best thing since sliced bread because I don’t drink. Nor do I make it my entire personality and try to shame people for enjoying alcohol or marijuana at parties. I’m down for people to enjoy whatever substances they like so long as they do it safely — that kind of stuff just isn’t for me personally.

Corona Laying
Missy Miller / Spoon

And, for every time I politely decline a drink, I often hear “How do you enjoy a party sober?” —  which I always find odd, because a party is supposed to be fun no matter what. I occupy myself with dancing, drinking a Sprite or two, and talking with people. Though I don’t doubt that alcohol or other substances might add some kind of special edge to these experiences, for me, and I imagine for many other non-drinkers, the base act is enough for me. 

If you like to drink, then by all means, do so. You have every right to enjoy a drink safely and in a way that makes you happy. Just, please be mindful that not everybody does, and that the reason they don’t isn’t your choice to question. We’ll still have plenty of fun alongside you, I promise.

Evelyn Homan

UC Riverside '24

Hiya! I'm Evelyn, and I'm a fourth-year English & Creative Writing double major, as well as an Honors student researching independent studying in the 21st century. I love literature, midwest emo and goth rock, alternative fashion, and talking. A lot.