I’m 20 years old and I don’t drink alcohol. Not a drop. Ever. And I never have. I find it so interesting to see how people react to that. Usually, they laugh as if I’m joking, or look at me as though I’m an alien. Being a non-drinker just doesn’t seem to be socially acceptable, especially when you’re a student. I feel like admitting I don’t drink causes people to instantly jump to conclusions, like I never go out, I’m unsociable and I can’t have fun. At times, I’ve found myself avoiding a drink altogether in certain bars or clubs, so as to avoid the awkward questions. In the last three years, since leaving home and going to university, I’ve had to think a lot more about the fact I don’t drink. Whatever people say, there is a drinking culture based around universities today. I saw a friend at Christmas who admitted he had never tried out for university sports teams because he didn’t like the thought of being forced to drink so much at socials. Those who do go out and do drink will insist the nights out are about having fun, and of course people will enjoy themselves even if they don’t want to drink. But they haven’t been the non-drinker.
Guess which is mine?
What surprises me is certain people’s utter disbelief at my admission I’d rather drink orange juice than vodka. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been asked ‘how do you have fun?’ Well, I do exactly what everyone else does, there’s just a different liquid in my glass! At my leavers’ ball, at the end of sixth form, I remember being on the dance floor when a friend said ‘are you sure you haven’t had a drink?!’ Because I was dancing and having fun, I clearly couldn’t possibly have only been drinking soft drinks. The truth was, I was enjoying being with my friends, and excited about the fact I was flying to Tenerife first thing the next morning. Crazy, I know, that my having fun wasn’t alcohol-induced!
A picture from leavers' ball.
I’ve got to say, there are a few benefits of being the non-drinker. I remember nights out, for a start. And, secondly, I’ve saved a lot of money! This week I’ve spoken to 40 students about drinking, from different universities across the country. The amount they spend on alcohol on a single night out ranged from £10 to £40, and some go on these nights out twice or more a week. If I spent £20, on two nights out a week, for 3 ten-week terms, I’d be spending £1200. Of course this isn’t the most scientific study, but the point remains the same: this is how I manage to eat at nice restaurants and treat myself to new things every now and then!
However, there are problems too. As well as being treated like a bit of an alien species, there has often been an assumption that I’ll be the one to clear up the mess left after drinking. When people are sick, I’m the one that is expected to look after them, or take them home. I love my friends and would always help them if they needed me. But when in my first year of university I had spent a certain number of nights in a row holding people’s hair back as they were sick, or trying to lead them back to their flat whilst they couldn’t see straight, I was done. Just because I don’t drink, it doesn’t make me everybody’s carer. I want to enjoy my night, too. I’m not going to take responsibility for the actions of e very person I’ve exchanged words with in one lecture.
A night out in freshers' week, no alcohol for me!
I don’t want to preach to people. I have no problem with everybody around me drinking. Whether it’s at a club or at a group meal, I’m used to everyone else drinking and I have no issues with that. But I don’t want anyone to have issues with my decision not to drink. Who else does it affect but me? My original decision not to drink was possibly only going to be short-term, and was inspired by the affects alcohol had had on an uncle of mine. But now those early ideas of alcohol aren’t even important to me. In my years of not drinking whilst everyone around me is, I haven’t been tempted at all to join in. I don’t feel like there’s something missing, and I’ve had an amazing time during my uni years, which are now all-too-rapidly coming towards their close. I just don’t need it. So why should I change my views because it might be slightly easier than explaining why I don’t drink? I’m not interested in what other people think any more. I have made a decision not to drink, I don’t feel like I’m missing something, and the people that I want to spend my time with are fine with that. So next time I’m dancing with orange juice in my glass, guess what? I’m just enjoying myself. And I don’t want any alcohol, thanks.
Some of my bestest buddies from home... spot the orange juice ;)