While college parties aren’t entirely reminiscent of the intense peer-pressure scenes troped out in every coming-of-age film, experiencing judgment from others about personal values of sobriety may occur on occasion. But coming from someone who has chosen not to partake in these activities throughout high school and college, I’m here to say that IT’S OKAY TO SAY NO.
One of the common misconceptions forced into a stigma for non-drinkers is that those choosing sobriety makes someone “lame,” “boring” or “not fun.” And it honestly should go without saying, anyone who truly believes and partakes in these accusations is not someone you should be associating with. Surround yourself with people that support your decisions rather than kick you to the curb for understanding that a “good time” doesn’t have to involve getting drunk or high. Don’t be fooled into doubting your own worth over such trivial matters, remember: you are a fun person, even if you don’t drink. People do want you around, even if you don’t smoke. You. Are. Not. Lame.
From personal experience, I’ve expressed feelings of shame and insecurity to friends about not drinking with them at social events. I feel like people will stop inviting me to outings because they assume I won’t want to be around alcohol or drugs and think I don’t know how to have fun. But as aforementioned, if your friends cannot accept you for who you are, then they aren’t really your friends. (Also, people really don’t care as much about sobriety as you might think. There will be the occasional comment here and there, but for the most part, people don’t think twice about it.)
But I’d like to address some of the concerns and issues that may arise for people opting out of these activities. For example, turning down offers of drinks at parties or kickbacks can lead to awkward conversations that most would prefer to avoid altogether, but I cannot stress enough that you shouldn’t be ashamed to take pride in your sobriety. Trust me, I know it can be tedious to tell a new person every five seconds, “No thanks, I don’t drink,” but I promise that you’ll be much happier standing your ground rather than giving in to peer pressure. Your values make up who you are, so don’t let others belittle you for them.
Albeit, it’s easier said than done to stand up to friends when we naturally value what others think of us and want to “fit in,” so if this becomes too much, seek out relationships with people that share the same values as you. Remove yourself from social settings where you know there will be substance use. Suggest to friends activities that will be a drink-and-drug-free environment, such as going to the movies or playing sports. There are ways to combat uncomfortable situations that could be bothering you to the point of distress or anxiousness, so take action now! Put yourself, your values and your needs first!
And for those that are currently choosing sobriety during their four years of college, I’d like to share that it’s also okay to change your mind. Should you decide to try alcohol at a party with your close friends one night, that doesn’t make you a bad person, and that doesn’t mean you abandoned all of your personal values. As we grow older, we are constantly changing from learning and experiencing new things, and our belief systems are readily available to change as a result. The most important thing to remember in any stage of life is to stay true to yourself and do what makes you happy. Have a drink, or don’t. All that matters is that YOU decide.
As a disclaimer, I’m not condoning or endorsing substance use for college students, I’m simply commenting on these practices as they are (most definitely) being partaken in on every college campus around the country. Should you choose to partake too, please educate yourself on safe substance use and know what to do in the event of an emergency situation. Always have a designated driver (and double or triple-check that they did NOT have anything to drink before leaving), always know your limit and always call for help, if necessary.