I did a night out sober in Exeter and here’s how it went

Spoiler: the dancing is much, much worse…

Alcohol, mental health and FOMO. Three things most university students have in common. Three things that are usually the foundation of any night in Exeter. But it is a well known fact that alcohol can bring us down just as much (and regrettably sometimes more than) as it brings us up. For me, hangovers were never really the problem; it’s the morning after mental state (or MAMS as I have decided to nickname it). Hang-xiety. Hang-overs. Morning shame. All lovely symptoms of a combination of a night oot, bad decisions and of course, one or five drinks.

We’ve all had that “I’ll never drink again” moment the morning after a particularly cruel night out, only to be persuaded to come out again despite the protesting from our liver. Juggling FOMO with the need to have a break from alcohol is trickier than it seems and so, in some kind of eat-pray-love style search for the answer, I’ve decided to do a night out sober, and see how it goes. Think it’s impossible? See how I found it…

Location: Unit One

Night Out: Cheesy Tuesday

Friend / Dancing Buddy: Sophie (plus meeting some others there) – Soph is the best (drunk) dancer and least annoying drunk, so she’s a solid choice for this experiment

People Drinking: Four

People Sober: One

I figured Cheesies was a safe place to start; let’s be honest if there is anything a 20 year old girl can do sober, it’s DIY karaoke with her friends. Also, I had the prospect of my back-to-back 8.30 & 9.30 lectures on Wednesday morning to take the sting out of my sobriety.

How it went

Firstly, significantly less effort was put into getting ready, probably because I knew I would not be drunk enough to make any mistakes – such as getting with a random stranger. Actually, I hereby declare it impossible to get with a complete stranger (especially a uni student) dead sober. There was already a lot less pressure for the night.

9.45-10.30: Pres

Arguably everyone’s favourite part of the evening and undoubtedly the easiest part of the night to do sober. The music is blasting, the Coke Zero (sans rum) has been poured and it’s more of a girly catch up and laugh before braving the cold.

Leaving the house I’m oddly feeling a little drunk, although whether it’s from the placebo effect of my drink or the excitement of the night I am not sure.


The queue. Weirdly, this felt like it was sobering me up, despite the 0 percent alcohol level.


Sober on the dance-floor: at this point I am mostly missing how numb alcohol makes you; I am definitely much more aware of people around me.


Soph is now four drinks in; the dance moves from both of us are getting significantly better and more erratic. However, irritation levels are rising with each person elbowing their way deeper into the dance floor – I had not appreciated how much alcohol numbs the pain of rouge body parts smashing into you from all angles.


Soph is now five drinks in. My Coke Zero buzz has worn off. It is the first hint of “I won’t tell anyone if you have one sip” from Sophie, but I am determined not to cave in.


High School Musical comes on. I’m really wishing I had taken her up on that sip.


The mandatory drunk girl loo trip.


PHOTO BOOTH! First time I’ve ever done this on purpose (sorry to the group of girls who once dragged me in there thinking I was someone else… I still think about the fact that I may well be hung up on someone’s uni pin-board). Actually very wholesome and surprisingly less cringy when sober, also 100 percent higher probability of nicer (although less funny) photos. 10/10 would recommend.


Randomly hungry. Something I was not expecting and now wondering if you can still have end-of-night drunk food if you’ve been sober the entire night – or whether that is in fact just a midnight snack.


Drink six for Soph. Zero for me.


Thankfully the questionable “rave” music portion of the night has ended and it’s back to Cheesy Tuesday in earnest.


My dancing buddy has hit her drunk phase where she just gets the giggles for about five minutes…it is adorable and my favourite part of the night so far, I am definitely appreciating it more as a result of my sobriety.


Oh god the steam thing starts shooting on the dance floor. How have I never noticed how loud it is??


Second loo trip. Multiple drunk conversations are happening simultaneously, all being yelled across the various cubicles by girls who I am not entirely convinced actually know each other. Energy is starting to lag.


YMCA comes on– the pinnacle of all cheesy music with (almost) coordinated dance movements to match. Energy is definitely restored.


Soph has found a pole to dance with…


Pole abandoned (phew) and reunited with a group of friends to sing “Sweet Caroline” (BA BA BAA) and salute the night off in classic British style. Despite our efforts, we were out-sung by a group of boys who looked like they were training for (successful) futures as football-beer dads.


Time to go home. Jackets retrieved from the coat check and final drinks downed. Honestly, it feels like I’ve been here a lot longer than two and a half hours but to be fair, that’s about as long as I last on a night out, alcohol or not.

End of night musings

All in all, a good night. There were definitely highs and some notable lows but that can be said for every night out. I don’t know about you, but for me a drunk night is usually much more intense, with higher, more erratic highs and lower, tearful lows. Sophie is safely walked home and will be passed out in about 10 minutes. I’m not sure if she will make it to her 9.30, but I feel satisfied – nay smug – that I’ll make it to my 8.30 with a clear head and dignity intact.

Top Tips:

Whether you can’t drink for a reason or whether you are just choosing not to (equally valid!), I can say that a sober night out is not unbearable, but here are my three tips to help get you through it:

  1. Pick your night carefully: whether you opt for a Fever Monday or a TP Friday, make sure it’s a night out you think you’ll enjoy – Cheesies is definitely a safe bet!
  2. Make sure you go with a good group: whoever’s going, make sure that you’ve got a good balance of fun-drunk friends to annoying ones…
  3. Remember that just because you’re not drinking doesn’t mean you have to be the group mum. Your job is to have a good time, not to look after everyone <3