Throughout my time at university, I chose not to drink alcohol. That’s right; not getting drunk, not even having “just the one”. I felt it was an easy enough choice to make, having suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for just over seven years now and being advised by a counselor not to drink alcohol before it was even legal for me to drink, it’s something that was never a huge issue. Although not an issue for me, I have found it can be more difficult for others to accept my choice.
Writing this article as a postgraduate, I look back on the few weeks before coming to university as an undergraduate and laugh. I think it’s fair to say I was seen as “uncool” when I started going to parties and festivals, sitting there with my coke, feeling the pressure from my peers to “just have a sip” of whatever they were drinking. The anxiety increased tenfold the weeks leading up to starting at Lancaster, with recurring nightmares of my new housemates tipping me upside down and making me do a keg stand when they found out I didn’t drink. My experience at university could not have been more different. From the off, my housemates and friends respected my decision. There were a few mutters of “boring” and “how do you do it?!” along with an element of confusion, but when they saw me on a night out and found that I was the last person wanting to go home, they were able to see that I didn’t need a drink to have a good time.
There are definitely pros and cons to not drinking, especially in such a sociable environment as university. Pre-drinks and drinking games can be quite an uncomfortable experience, and sometimes I do wonder what it would be like to go out and get drunk, but the pros outweigh the cons for me. Not drinking helps me to save a fair bit of money (usually to spend on the take-away after the night out), and you do remember everything that happens while you’re out – I’ve lost count of the number of times I wake up in the morning to a message asking what someone did after a certain point in the night. It’s also quite nice to wake up the next morning with no hangover!
I’m glad I was able to come to university and not feel the pressure to drink. There is a huge stigma attached to people who don’t drink, but I don’t judge people based on their decision to go out and drink, so why should I be judged for going out and not drinking?