I spent my first week back at uni sober – here’s how it went
Teetotal for a week? I can do this I can do this I can do this!
Watch any film about university and you’ll see the following: students getting blackout drunk, morning-afters spent over the toilet, nights of binge drinking and pulling strangers and 4am kebabs – many of which most of us drinkers have probably done at some point, at some vague time in the past that we don’t like to think too much about. The stereotype is of course true to some extent – UK university drinking culture is big and bad and it isn’t unusual for students to drink heavily for consecutive nights. This can often be fun, but also physically and mentally exhausting, and full of all the bad choices and regrets that come with a lack of inhibition.
So, I wanted to spend a week sober – my first week back at uni. Obviously a week isn’t really that long (I often go much longer periods without drinking), but I wanted to see what it would be like to be in a heavy-drinking-student environment, and if I could resist the temptation of wine or gin or vodka and all its hazy fun. This said, being in the pandemic era means that there isn’t much opportunity to go out out: there’s no clubbing, and there’s definitely less pub-ing (or, well, the pub-ing is new and strange and slightly scary). But this doesn’t mean no drinking at all, it just means less, and there’s still a lot of drinking going on in student houses. So, I decided to go sober for a week. Here’s how it went:
My first proper day back at uni for my second year. A very wholesome day – I went for a roast!!
Feeling fresh, hangover free and smug in my sobriety, I decided to go for a morning run while my housemates simmered in bed. Yes, I thought, I could get used to this. No alcohol cravings yet!
I think it is safe to say that on Tuesday I well and truly messed up. Let me set the scene: we were in my housemate’s room, dancing to Fleetwood Mac (yes, sober) under the electric glare of LED lights (very uni student-esque) and I was drinking Lucozade from a paper cup. It was all very… thrilling, and in the micro-club that was my housemate’s bedroom I could feel the gin calling me from downstairs. I wanted to dance! I wanted to drink! And so I did. This was me, 4 hours later, very inebriated, pushing my housemate down our street on a toy tractor. Wonderful.
Fuck fuck fuck! I spent Wednesday hungover, wallowing in self-pity and annoyed at my abhorrent lack of self-control. In the evening I managed to peel myself out of bed to see the film Tenet with friends, in which I stared, dumbfounded and hungover, at the screen for the entirety of its two hours, trying and failing to grasp the the basics of the complex plot. I trekked home in the dark, annoyed that I had a) failed to grasp the outline of a film I had paid to go and see, and b) failed the Challenge of Sobriety.
A much better day. The last of the alcohol had left my system and I was no longer debilitatingly hungover. I saw a friend and we spent the afternoon chatting in the September sun (how poetic!). I dreamt of never drinking again.
The penultimate day of my almost-sober journey. I felt calm, energised, and like the sober adult that I am, I spent the day at the garden centre doing a very big and grown up shop for house plants. No drinking to see here. By this point I was beginning to enjoy my almost-sobriety. In the evening I watched Netflix in bed while my housemates shouted drunkenly downstairs.
Alas! The final day of my journey has come! I felt calm and energised, and content in my newfound sobriety. I felt like I could maybe – maybe – do this as a long term thing.
After all my Saturday sobriety, by the time Sunday came and the challenge ended I couldn’t help myself reaching for the gin with my housemates. Feeling like I hadn’t completely deserved it in light of my Tuesday blip, I made myself a big juicy G&T anyway (and another, and another) – it was cold and crisp and delicious.
So, what did I learn?
While sobriety (or, well, one week of it – I’m no expert) can be refreshing and healthy and rewarding (and all the other Good things), I missed the reckless fun of drinking. Obviously no one should ever rely on alcohol to have fun – and sober fun can often be better and more gratifying – however I missed the thrill of bad drunk decisions and spending the next morning going over what happened the night before and the lack of inhibitions, the feeling of being indestructible and that kind of drunken euphoria. At the same time, I didn’t miss the hangovers or the hangxiety or blacking out or ruminating over that Really Embarrassing Thing I Said Last Night. While socialising sober 100% of the time was more daunting, I felt it was often more rewarding, and didn’t come with that superficial closeness that alcohol creates – a closeness which evaporates when sober. So would I do it again, and for longer? Maybe. That is, if I could resist the easy temptation of alcohol and all of its instant fun.