I attempted a night out sober and learnt these eight things
Treble vodka coke please, hold the vodka
Uni life is often associated with drunken, messy, long nights out. Blue trebs, Toon Takeaway, and staggering around Big Market, are universal experiences for many students in Newcastle. These nights have been sorely missed over the various lockdowns, but with pubs now open the familiar sights of student nightlife have returned.
So for people who chose not to drink, out of choice or necessity, how does the experience differ? In order to find out, I swapped the cocktails for orange juice, finding out exactly what it was like to be the only sober person on a night out. Here are the eight things I learnt.
You don’t have to be scared to look at your bank account the next morning
We all know the feeling of dread when you check your banking app to see if you’ve got enough money for a cheeky hungover Greggs only to see you’ve spent the entirety of your student loan on tequila rose. When you’re not drinking, no amount of orange juice or coke zeros is going to put such a dent in your bank account.
There’s no need to worry about where you’re going out as even the steepest of pubs won’t break your bank, and there’s no getting swindled by the drink deals that seem so great a few drinks in but actually work out more expensive in the end.
You are automatically designated as the “mam friend”
When people know you are going to be sober the whole night you will quickly be designated the role of “mam friend”. Looking after everyone’s keys and phones, organising any lifts, apologising to some poor barman – these are all of your jobs for the night. By the end of the night you’re the only one in a fit enough state to help everyone home and into bed. Your efforts won’t go unappreciated, though, they’ll all thank you in the morning.
You can actually get things done the next day
It has to be said that I felt a certain degree of smugness waking up at a reasonable hour in the morning whilst the rest of the house was stuck in bed. Whether you want to go to the library, for a run, or nab the TV for the morning, the world is your oyster whilst the rest of your house are downing Berocca and swearing off alcohol . It means you don’t feel guilty about going out whilst you’ve still got work to do or have a seminar the next morning because chances are you’ll still be able to get all of it done.
However, spare some sympathy for your housemates – they might not appreciate you slamming doors at the crack of dawn.
You really feel the cold
We were all glad to see the pubs open but unfortunately the weather has decided not to co-operate. Whilst those heaters do provide some comfort, most people are able to rely on the warmth of alcohol to get them through the freezing evening. When you’re sober, spending an evening in the freezing rain isn’t so appealing. Chucking on your North Face puffer is an absolute must.
You have to make awkward small talk
Normally, after a few drinks bumping into that person you vaguely know from your seminars is a painless matter. Being slightly tipsy makes small talk easy as you can spend ages declaring that they’re your best friend and taking selfies in the loo. Being sober however, I realised making small talk with someone you hardly know is actually really awkward. Even more so if that person has had one too many.
You remember everything
For better or worse, you remember everything that goes down during the night, and its your job to fill the group in the next morning. Texting exes, embarrassing encounters, and falling over in the middle of the street are all likely occurrences. So when someone asks where a mysterious bruise came from, or why their ex has suddenly blocked them, you can provide the answers. It can also lead to you becoming secret holder of the group, you’ll remember every embarrassing confession made during that night. Be warned, you may never look at your housemates the same.
You feel too sensible
It’s a lot harder to make a fool of yourself after a double orange juice. Unlike after a few drinks, when you’re sober, you’re all too aware all your actions. Whilst this can be a good thing in making sure everyone stays safe, it can also lead to you feeling very out of place. Things that would normally seem hilarious to you don’t seem as funny sober, and it’s a lot harder to join in with such activities knowing you can’t forget the embarrassment.
You constantly get asked why you’re not drinking
This was probably the worst part of the night. With uni culture so linked to drinking people were often very surprised to see a student not joining in. “Why aren’t you drinking?” “Come on, one wont hurt.” “Stop being so boring.” – these were all phrases I heard. Whilst it was all said with good intentions it did get tiring having to justify it.
At the end of the day it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Once I got over the initial fear of missing out I was still able to enjoy my night with the added joy of not having to worry about waking up with a hangover. Although a cocktail or two is always nice, and has led to many memorable nights, not drinking doesn’t mean you have to miss out.