10 tips on how to survive a sober night out in Exeter

 Sober or not sober, Subway always slaps

I don’t profess to be an expert, but I am nonetheless a fairly well-seasoned sober solider. The unending sea of chest infections, relentless IBS and a severe aversion to vodka makes for quite a persuasive anti-drinking lifestyle, but sobriety is very much something I dip in and out of – I’m not quite sensible enough to do it all the time. Over the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to collate a list of advice for sober nights out.

If you feel like you need a break from drinking for a night (yes, I timed the release of this long-anticipated list with Halloween weekend on purpose), or if you’re already doing sober nights and you’re struggling a bit, I think these tips will make a difference; at least, they did for me.

So here we are 10 things I wish someone had told me when I decided to go sober for a bit at uni:

1. Don’t take it personally if people get annoyed you’re not drinking

This is the most important lesson, and one I learnt the hard way. Often, the group you’re with will be frustrated that you aren’t drinking with them (and drunk people rarely voice their frustrations in an emotionally sensitive way). This is not a reflection of how they feel about you as a person, it’s often just a projection of their personal anxieties.

For example:

“Surely you’ll be bored…” = I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself if I was going out sober.

“I can’t believe you aren’t drinking, that’s going to bring the vibe down for everyone else!” = you’re going to remember me doing silly drunk things and I’m worried you’ll judge me.

All of those concerns are about THEM, not you. Most of the time, people won’t care if you’re drinking or not – especially if they’re your friends – but if they do, just know it’s more about them than it is you.

2. Go with people who enjoy the same things as you

Going with a group of friends who want to get the same thing from a night out as you already gives you something in common (once you take away alcohol, you might be surprised how little you have to talk about with the people you go out with). For example, if you like to dance, go with the group who are always up for a boogie, not the lot who want to sit in the TP smoking area all night.

3. Go somewhere you like

Whether it’s the music, the vibes, the people that go there or even the proximity to home, make sure wherever it is you’re going can accommodate primarily your needs. You need the club/bar/pub/whatever to provide you with entertainment and stimulation because you can’t rely on the beer goggles to do that. Your friends won’t care too much where they go after pres, but you’re the one who will remember everything in the morning.

4. Don’t have a two hour long pres

Trust me, you will get bored. Everyone else has a use for this time except you, whether they use it for drinking games or just chatting and chopping their drink randomly. Likely this will be one of the lowest parts of the night for you if the rest of your friends are just drinking for two hours straight and you’re sitting there waiting for your night to start.

5. Peer pressure is real

Honestly, secondary school has ruined this expression, but it is nonetheless still a good one to describe what you might encounter – most likely during pres. It won’t come from a place of malice, especially if you’re with friends, but people may try to encourage you to drink, even after you’ve expressed that your plans do not include Jägerbombs (I mean, they rarely do to begin with). It may come in the form of people offering you some of their drink or in the form of people calling you boring and uptight. Either way, don’t let peer pressure get in the way of your night; deflect with a clear but playful response and likely you won’t be pressured again.

6. Drink a beverage

Another great solution for number five is having your own drink, whether that be juice, an energy drink or just water. It enables you to get involved with the drinking games and you don’t stick out as much if you’re also holding a glass – plus it keeps you hydrated and energised.

7. Make sure you have energy

Not having enough food is a universal problem for nights out, regardless whether you’re sober or drinking. Without alcohol, you’re running off your own steam so make sure you have food and, if you like them, energy drinks can also be great pick-me-ups mid-way through the night.

8. Just because you’re the sober one doesn’t mean you’re responsible for everyone

Another lesson I learnt the hard way. It’s easy to slip into the mum/dad role because you’ll automatically feel like the more responsible one of the group, but this can become a self-fulfilling prophesy if  you don’t prioritise your own night. You will end up looking out for everyone else if you’re constantly chasing them through the club. If you want to be/are the mum/dad friend, then there’s nothing wrong with keeping an eye on everyone but if you want to do the Macarena with a TP bouncer, don’t let self-appointed responsibility stop you.

^totally sober

9. It’s okay to feel lonely

Imagine going to a steak restaurant with a bunch of meat-fanatics as a vegan. You wouldn’t be surprised if the vegan felt a bit left out, even if they were having a great conversation with their friends and got a flirty wink from the waiter. You will probably feel like you’re “on a different level” to everyone else at some point in the night which can feel really isolating. But this level, this barrier, it’s an imagined divider. Alcohol gets rid of inhibitions but doesn’t create fun. Fun comes from within you, not tequila. You don’t need alcohol’s permission to have fun, you need your own.

10. Finally, you don’t have to tell anyone you’re sober

Straight up, most people won’t notice you’re sober if you don’t tell them and you’re holding a drink. Sometimes it’s easier just to go about your evening as you normally would and it can feel more liberating; part of the fun of drinking is the excuse it brings to just mess around and, if you’re sober, it can feel like you don’t have this excuse.

However, the reality is you don’t need an excuse. You just need good music, good company and, let’s be honest, a good old takeaway at the end of the night – and that’s a philosophy to live by if I’ve ever seen one.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

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

I went to TP Wednesday sober, and here’s what I learned

I went to Fever sober and I am scarred for life