I go to Sugar sober most nights and I have more fun than all of you combined
Standing up to drinking culture in a fun way
Now that the second official week of the term is over, some of you may be in the same boat as I was after going out more in one week than I had in my entire life.
As somebody who’s from outside the United Kingdom, I was surprised about how prominent the drinking culture is, but you don’t have to reinforce this stereotype. I’m here to shed light on my experience with drinking or, to be correct, the lack of it and, hopefully, show you that it doesn’t have to isolate you from the full package of the uni experience.
Letting go of stereotypes
The pressure to drink at university is big, but it doesn’t have to feel crushing. I don’t drink by my own personal choice. Okay, it might also be because of financial guilt or my subconscious reminding me of a 9am I must stay alive for, but my first year taught me that fun doesn’t equal alcohol. Although drinking culture is heavily ingrained in the student experience, actual memory of this experience is usually wiped out BECAUSE of drinking.
I like to be in control of my senses – this feeling may be heightened because of being a foreign country, but I’d rather make memories than work on forgetting them. Plus, my personality is already a stretch when I’m sober, so the fact that I have people around me proves that I don’t need to change it by getting absolutely hammered. It’s an excuse made by insecure student led by student expectations about what the legendary Big Night Out consists of.
Creating your own uni experience
This may not be obvious, but there is a funny side of being the only sober person in your group of friends. I would often sit next to my friends during pres and watch them get more and more drunk with each drinking game. It really makes you see them in a new light, and you might even find out something new about them (warning: you don’t always want to know what you think you want to know).
After "lipping" my half-full glass for about half an hour, simply observing them would give me enough content for my Creative Writing course. But besides making fun of my friends and their wacky mannerisms past midnight, I’ve learned an important lesson which I would like to pass on to anyone who feels they don’t quite fit in.
Changing attitudes to drinking
When I first arrived at Lancaster, the amount of drinking and the awareness of it really did surprise me. If I thought my friends liked going out back home, my expectations about nightlife was turned upside down during Freshers’ Week.
I even got a text from my high school friend while I was jumping to the 100th cheesy song in The Sugarhouse’s playlist, and this text essentially translated into: “Wow, and I thought I liked clubbing! You’re like a totally different person now!” It took me a few weeks to feel comfortable with a realisation I had made, but it's massively helped me understand myself.
Alcohol never improved my chances of making friends. I suppose it’s hard to make friends with the music being louder than your thoughts, but if your flatmates or someone you’ve met on your course or in a society have invited you to go out with them, it already means your company is appreciated. It’s an ego booster that I never thought I needed, and, get this – it's an ego booster that saves you a lot of money in the long-run!
Finally, it’s nice to remind yourself that you’re not the only one with this view. National Union of Students Survey shows that 21 per cent of students in higher education don’t drink and 70 per cent think that students drink alcohol to fit in with their peers, further proving that peer pressure can negatively influence your university experience.
There are many students who choose not to drink because of multiple reasons all around you, and nobody will ever force you to drink (if they do, that’s the first red flag in the “friendship” section!) Many societies organise socials which continue in town, but there’s a reason you’re all in the same society and it’s not alcohol (unless it’s the Gin Society – in that case, perhaps this article is not for you).
Now that I am a second-year student, I can safely say that I know myself better, I know what is good for me and what my limits are. I still go out, I still play Ring of Fire, I still get on a Sugarbus full of sweaty and loud students – the only difference is that I don’t get a hangover and an intense feeling of regret and self-loathing the next morning (that may come at different times, but not because of drinking).
And, who knows, maybe by being confident about it rather than hiding it in shame of being mocked, someone around you will join the movement and stop pretending they’re having fun. Healthy lifestyle is on the rise, so why not encourage students by being the voice of change?
Sobriety hasn’t ruined my social life so far, so maybe it’s worth to have a think on whether the amount of alcohol you consume plays any role in improving your own.