(It did not go well)
Being shoulder to shoulder, swapping the same air molecules, partially sharing sweat beads with dozens of underage drinkers all corralled into a living room where I can barely hear myself think was not where I thought I would find myself during a Saturday night. It’s where most college students would find themselves, most college students being able to blow an 0.8 before they even entered any parent’s hellscape. But I found myself captive in my own personal hellscape. I was in the middle of it all with one foot in a puddle of the cheapest beer the current pledge could find and the other food in God doesn’t even want to know. God also knows I need a drink.
Except I can’t…
I would like to tell you that maybe my friend forgot the grab the pre-game drinks from Kum and Go and that I was allergic to beer. But like all stories, it wasn’t that simple. Or rather it was simpler. Summed up in one word.
And you know what? Being sober is now “cool”.
Like everything in our world, the pandemic changed the public’s drinking habits. According to Civic Science, 34% of adults (21+) are drinking less than they were at the start of the pandemic while nearly 19% are also curious about going sober curious. These numbers are only growing. Sober curiosity now rivals going vegan or joining a yoga studio.
And as with every trend, Generation Z is topping these numbers: 21–24-year-olds are topping the charts with 72% of the group being either sober curious or not drinking alcohol at all.
No matter what, the younger generations are leading the march.
And the person at the top of the barricade, like a 21st-century Jean Valjean, is Ruby Warrington. A British writer living in Brooklyn, Warrington used to be the editor of UK’s Sunday Times Style supplement until 2013 when she moved to the States. Seven years later, after coining the term “sober curious,” and publishing her aforenamed book, she’s the godmother to making sobriety cool again.
In 2019, Warrington published “Sober Curious” and thus sealed her name in the history books of sobriety.
In a podcast with Commune, Warrington speaks on how she came up with the term through her own relationship with alcohol. She references her background in growing up in the UK and working in media, both soaked with a heavy social drinking lifestyle.
“It became harder to ignore that alcohol was having a negative impact on my life than any of the benefits I thought I was getting—relaxation, socializing, etc.,” Warrington said.
She goes on to describe that she never would consider herself an alcoholic, but that even normal drinkers never can take a step back from the world of drinking to recognize why we feel we need it.
“The media, society, the booze industry everyone tells us you’re feeling shitty; let’s have a drink, you’re feeling great, have a drink.”
Warrington’s argument, combined with the fact that much of my generation is already considering sober-living or semi-sober living so early in our lives, made me decide to take a step back. To live a sober lifestyle for a month. Easy right?
The only problem: Being a college student. I’m surrounded by nothing but peer pressure, stress, and alcohol. Oh, and don’t forget FOMO. How do I take this step back? Ask for help.
Enter Morgan Erwin. Morgan is my current roommate and one of my very good friends. Erwin, at the time of writing this article, has been sober for over four months.
“I had come to realize that I was using alcohol as an unhealthy coping mechanism, and I wanted to identify how that was affecting my mental health,” Morgan said.
She began in July of 2022 and reintroduced alcohol near the end of November and since she began, she and I had spoken numerous times after her journey.
She, like me, was a college student dealing with the pressure of drinking. “I learned to set boundaries with myself. In doing so, I acquired the ability to say ‘no’ in situations where I want to say no.” she said.
We also spoke about her feelings about her experiences after the semester began. “In the party scene, people questioning my decision not to drink was difficult at times.” I’ve already been dealing with these questions even before I started my journey.
The best advice she had for me? Always consider your own thoughts and feelings.
“I would come up with some goals or hopes you have for the process. It may be hard to know at first what the result will look like but as you get further along, you’ll uncover things about yourself you might not have recognized before.” Said Erwin.
And so, I began my journey into the wonderful world of sobriety.
The End of the First Week
It has been surprisingly easy…. which is…. surprising. The only time I’ve felt I have really needed to tell myself no was on Monday. I was in desperate need of a glass of wine after a theater rehearsal. But I realized it wasn’t because I needed to feel the effects of getting drunk—that might have been a little part of it—but it was mostly due to wanting to just have a taste of wine.
Now that I’m of age, I do still like going out and sometimes getting drunk. However, I love wine because I love the taste of wine. It’s less about wanting to get drunk and more about I just like having the drink.
Luckily, there is a solution to this. With the current rise of being sober but still wanting to live the lifestyle of drinking, many distilleries and breweries have created non-alcoholic alcoholic options. I feel taking advantage of these products will satisfy those wanting to have a drink.
I’m still waiting for that moment of when we go out and when I wish I’m drunk.
I have anxiety. That’s a known fact. So how is that going to play out when we do go to crowded, sweaty hot bars where I’m surrounded by other people who are drunk? Will I stoop?
A couple of weeks have gone by. Nothing out of the blue or out of the ordinary one this week was all about testing non-alcoholic options—particularly beer, wine, and tequila.
The beer—I tried Brew Dogs no alcoholic option—was probably the best out of the three. It tasted like a very hoppy beer, just without the drunkenness. The real quick was the psychological one. My brain thought it was weird to be tasting what should be alcohol, yet I’m not feeling the effects.
The wine on the other hand was…disappointing. I don’t even remember the name, I was so disappointed. I thought that I was going to really enjoy the wine. I didn’t. It felt like it was missing something. It didn’t give me the same satisfaction as real wine might of.
The tequila was just gross. It smelt and tasted like glass cleaner.
The Frat Party
I’ve always hated frat parties, sober or not. I mean, the gobs of sweaty, drunk underage drinkers packed into some fraternities’ living room (not to mention the vomit in the corner) all shoulder to shoulder listening to ear-deafening house music. Yeah, no thanks.
But it wouldn’t be a sober college student article without them. I wanted to push the envelope and what better way than with the epitome of college peer pressure?
Having different groups of friends on campus comes in handy, especially when trying to find a party. After getting our names on some list, I convinced my two roommates to make the journey across campus to Greek Street with me. I let them pregame all they wanted. I’ll admit, I was oh-so tempted by the tequila shots. Instead, I pre-gamed with a glass of water and part of my leftover burger.
Skip the long walk and enter the sweaty living room spoken of above. I have never ever wanted a Natty light in my whole life. I had never wanted to take a swig of whatever was in that frat bro’s Tommy Bahamas shorts flask so badly.
Weirdly enough, while I was standing in that stained living room, a Shakespeare quote came to me (funny what happens when you’re sober)
It was from The Tempest, “Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.”
And it was full of them.
I let my roommates dance to two Dua Lipa songs, knock back a cheap free beer and we were out of there.
I never have to do that again, sober, or drunk.
How the Mighty Fall
I would love to say that I am still sober. Since that is the point of this article, right? To have some proof that a typical 22-year-old college student can stay sober for one month. That’s the gag.
It was the opening night of production I had been working on for a month. The production was mentally challenging, I will admit and after opening, we wanted to reward ourselves. Of course, everyone wanted to go get a drink. I did too. But as my roommate/guru so loyally reminded me, I was sober. After knowing me this long, you, the reader, would think I put my foot down and gotten a glass of water. Or even a soda. That I still went to celebrate with my cast and sat completely sober among them. But that would be in another world where this article ended with success instead of failure. But that doesn’t sell.
I ordered a gin and tonic. And. It. Was. Magical.
The morning after? Anything but magical.
So now what?
I think everyone comes to that conclusion at the end of their free trial of sobriety. So now what? Do you just go back to drinking Thursday-Saturday? Do those unwritten rules take over once again? Does your contract get renewed?
Short answer: I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows.
Everyone is different. Everyone has their own habits and personalities and preferences.
“For in our everyday lives, this is still a story of us down here on the ground, trying to do our best with what we’ve been given, choice by choice, and step by step,” Warren said.
For myself, I could see myself going sober again.
Once I’m out of college. And not during my senior year.