At school and college, I was a quiet, shy, and socially anxious student. Drowning in a pool of extroverts who would shout their thoughts across the room, being ‘sensible’ was my coping-mechanism. I learned to stay quiet in class and keep my head down in the hallways, so as not to draw attention to myself. I made sure to stick to the huddles of my friendship groups, the only place where I truly felt like I could comfortably be myself. As an introvert, I’ve come to accept that being a calm, quiet, and collected person is who I am. Being sensible is just in my nature. But with that comes the fear of constantly being perceived as ‘boring’.
The fear that I’ve never really fitted in with people my own age. That I’ve never fully been accepted. One thing that I think has cemented this is the fact that I don’t drink.
Wait, you don’t drink? No.
How can you not drink? I don’t feel the need to.
Don’t you feel like you’re missing out? Sometimes.
Don’t you find life boring? Don’t we all?
Over time I’ve come to realise that I don’t have the greatest social battery. For a long time, I’ve struggled with heightened anxiety and panic attacks which occur when I find myself in loud and claustrophobic social settings, losing my mind in the chaos of drunken bodies and conversations. Turned off of the idea of engaging in drinking culture early in my life, I grew increasingly uncomfortable in busy bars, rowdy pubs, and crowded clubs, drawing into myself as an outsider to the cheering crowds.
In these moments I knew drinking to get drunk was something that, in my life, would generally not appeal to me. I knew for a fact that stumbling home alone in the dark at 3am, throwing up in a toilet bowl at 4am, and finally hitting the pillow at 5am would completely exhaust me, making a misery of the next day. I knew I would be compromising my mental health by trying to conform to a social culture into which I didn’t actually fit. A social culture that I’ve never really wanted to fit into. Or, as I’ve come to learn, a social culture that will probably never fit me.
With ‘getting drunk’ on a Saturday night on VK’s being stapled as a coming-of-age moment, the social pressure to drink as a teenager to feel socially accepted can be a heavy weight upon a young person’s shoulders. And that carries on through to life as a university student. Sober students can easily feel like they’re missing out on a massive part of student culture with many societies and clubs only planning bar socials and pub crawls, leaving many individuals feeling left out on the opportunity to comfortably socialise with other students.
If you ditched the hangover this dry January, you may have come to this revelation too. From my own experiences all I can say is that I’ve learnt that in the face of peer pressure, it’s okay to just say no. It’s okay to not have to explain yourself. There are many reasons why people choose not to drink. There are many other ways you can choose to socialise with other students, make friends, and spend your Saturday evenings. So why is it that being a sober student is so outside of the norm?