General, University

Adulting | University Illusions: The Alcohol Edition

As another September rolls around, the student offers, packages, and nights out are being advertised everywhere, and the wonder of fresher’s fever and money for alcohol. University is the time to make new friends, discover yourself, move out of your parental home, and spread your wings. Oh, and get a degree along the way too.

So what if you’re not all about the nights out? What if you’re not into alcohol binges and hangover wasted days? What is university REALLY like?

I am going to start this with a small disclaimer, and a little bit about me. Yes guys, I am one of THOSE people. Y’know, *whispers* a non-drinker *side glances*. I’m not ill, there is no religious, moral, or health reasons that contribute, I just don’t really drink alcohol. I also don’t dislike or judge anyone who does or doesn’t drink. I don’t really care about all of that. This post is an honest account from someone who doesn’t usually drink. Oh, and It’s probably a long post, so be warned, in advance!

I like to have the ability to feel in control, and as safe as I can. I like to be able to know my way home after a night out, and have the option to drive. I like to have money to do things I enjoy, like travel, and theatre, and film. I like to be able to hear the person I am out with, hold a conversation without shouting directly into someone’s ear drum and being able to hear and understand the reply.

I don’t particularly like that much alcohol, it costs a lot more money than soft drinks that I prefer to drink, so I don’t want to pay more for a drink I won’t enjoy as much. I don’t like the feeling of being tipsy, or drunk, and I hate the after effects. For me, a hangover is just a wasted day. I don’t love drunk people, or the atmosphere that comes with being surrounded by people who have drunk too much. I don’t like to be in a place that makes my eardrums cry and smells of a vile mix of stale sweat and vomit.

I may seem like I am exaggerating, but until you are the sober person on a night out with your friends, you can’t understand that THIS is the sad reality for a non-drinker. Yes, there were nights out in university where I did drink. There were nights out where I drank shots, I spent more money than I wanted to, I arrived home later than I planned, and I wished I had made better decisions when I woke up the next day. But this was not the norm for me, in fact, I often felt pressured or stressed into this, which is both wrong and sad.

I had great friends throughout university that come from different backgrounds, treated university differently, and had very differing opinions when it came to drinking alcohol. It became quickly apparent that my views are not those of the majority at university. I went into fresher’s week with enthusiasm. I wanted to involve myself in societies, make friends, try new things, and have a great time, and by the end, I felt quite isolated and alone. Why? I didn’t drink. I didn’t want to be catatonic, or carry home someone in that state, every night. I didn’t want to go on a bar crawl, or go on a social with the only aim to throw up by the end. And where are most university friendships forged? In this week of ritualistic shot taking and excessive binge drinking.

This pattern didn’t stop from the day I started to the day I graduated university. I was always invited on socials, but usually felt like a burden or like I was unusual. NOONE likes to feel like that. I sometimes went in the hope that I felt like this, but that it in fact wasn’t the case, but was invariably disappointed. The choice, miss out, fell sad and alone, or try and join in. I didn’t want to do either. I tried both. The first choice led to me feeling so isolated that I had to move college at my university. The latter made me feel like a fraud, and left me broken and annoyed.

Through all of this, there are two common questions or comments. The first: why don’t you drink? No-one asks why you put blue jeans on instead of green, or why you order half rice and chips with your curry. They don’t question you choice of milk, or your flavour of yoghurt. So why, WHY do people think it is OK to question, probe, judge, and vilify this particular decision? The second: c’mon, just one drunk. You know you want to. No. NO. No I don’t or I would have ordered one. No matter how many times you poke and prod on that night out I will not change my mind. In fact, it makes me more stubborn. Stop doing it. Neither of these things are OK.

The worst bit about all of this is that it’s not the way things are portrayed. University is seen as an all inclusive journey for everyone. In reality, everything is focused towards those who drink. They say there is alternative events, in reality they’re few and far between and often focused in and around the chaplaincy centre. Social groups welcome everyone, yet make those who don’t drink feel left out.

Thankfully, at the end of first year, I met a brilliant friend, who is now my housemate. Emma wasn’t unlike me, she didn’t want to go out and drink much, and together we stayed in and made our own fun nights. We discovered TV shows, created hypothetical storylines, wrote posts, and had an enjoyable time being ourselves. I am lucky that I found friend’s like this, and sometimes it still makes me worry for people who don’t find this.

Thankfully, I made some long term friends, I travelled the world with someone from university, and live with Emma now. I still talk to many of those I befriended at university.

Thankfully, I came away from university in one piece. I survived the experience with more job experience, a degree, and my sanity (although it’s questionable that I had this going in.)

Thankfully, I still think I had an alright run of it. I passed my exams, and I had laughs and adventures throughout my three years, even if none of them were what I expected, or had planned, and none of them were how things were ‘supposed’ to be.

I don’t want to criticize anyone directly about my personal experience. No one person did any one thing wrong that gave this negative view. I really don’t want to scare anyone who is about to make the step into the unknown. I just want to tell you what it was like for me (really, actually, honestly like).

P.S. Sorry that it turned into a rant, and a moan, it really was just meant to be a PSA!

P.P.S. Please feel free to share your experiences below, I’d love to hear from you!!

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