Not Drinking You Over The Table: Being Alcohol-Free at University
One night, I ran into a rather talkative non-drinker outside Tesco, who couldn’t seem to believe that I also don’t drink alcohol. The conversation went something like this:
“I’d imagine,” he said, “that you probably drink more than I do.”
“No, I don’t drink.”
“You almost certainly drink more than I do,” he insisted.
“I haven’t had alcohol since 2013.”
I’ve never really been that interested in alcohol. I’ve had it precisely once in my life – my grandma wanted me to try the thing she made a couple of weeks after I got my GCSE results. It was pretty underwhelming, and I’ve never bothered with it since.
Before I got to uni, people told me I’d probably feel the pressure to drink in Freshers’ Week. I didn’t feel it at all, to be honest. Sometimes my friends joke about it – I’ve been told that my pint of coke was going to make it a wild night for me, or the tongue-in-cheek “DOWN IT, FRESHER” whenever I’m drinking anything.
Most people are totally fine with non-drinkers – I occasionally get asked if I’m religious, or have medical reasons, but I’ve never had anyone seriously try to make me drink at uni. I don’t have any real reason for not drinking – besides being really cheap and disinterested. The only people who’ve ever been iffy about my not drinking have been other non-drinkers – occasionally because it’s “not a good enough reason.” My experience has probably been made smoother by not caring what others are doing so much – in order to not be pressured into drinking, it would be hypocritical of me to get angry with someone else for drinking. Respect for values goes both ways, and that’s important to me.
I’ve not been clubbing or anything at uni – it’s not my kind of thing. There are some people who’ve tried Pop! sober and stuff like that, but the idea of standing in a too loud room with too many people and too few lights for several hours doesn’t really appeal to me.
As for the pub, I love the pub. I started out going to the pub quiz with a group of other maths students – pub quizzes are a pretty cheap night out, because most people aren’t there to buy anything, they’re there for the quiz. So, that means you’re not expected to drink. I’ve also been to the pub for dinner with friends many times – at uni, it’s mostly the Duck, but I’ve been to Varsity once, and when I’m off-campus, various Wetherspoons. Especially with the Duck, the food is excellent value for money, and it’s a casual enough setting that I’ve never felt obliged to drink there.
I’ve been to the Terrace Bar a few times for QuizSoc socials. It’s usually a lot of chatting and in-jokes, as well as playing slightly quiz-themed drinking games. We play Categories a lot – going round the circle, everyone has to name an object in the category. QuizSoc being QuizSoc, this usually ends up with categories like “9-letter adjectives”. We also play Twenty Plus One, only all of our rules tend to be replacing a number with a category – composers, chemical elements and poets are all fair game.
I’ve mentioned before that QuizSoc came back to my Whitefields flat after a social once – most people had moved out after their exams finished, but I stayed to the end of term. It was much the same as being in Terrace Bar, but rowdier. It was also the first time I’d played Heads Up. The one mistake I did make at this social was having a lot of caffeine (in the form of Pepsi Max), so I was still awake at 8am. On the plus side, my flat was very clean by the time I did fall asleep, but I think in future I’d limit my caffeine intake so I don’t wreck my sleep cycle.
There are also plenty of activities that don’t feature drinking – playing sports, going to the theatre, going to see local attractions, and so on. On the whole, it’s completely possible to be a non-drinker at uni without shutting yourself off from everyone who does drink and you don’t have to avoid places where other people will be drinking, if you don’t want to.