Why should I have to explain why I don’t drink?

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On seeing this article, a load of people are probably already thinking “how boring is she, whinging all about alcohol and drinking”, “she’s at uni – get a life!” But bear with me.

[quote]That high everyone else gets from alcohol is hard to recreate when you’re sober [/quote]

One of the major things everyone recalls after university, and raves about whilst at university, are the socials. I loved going on a wild night out as much as the next person in my first couple of years at Lancaster, but then during my third year I had major kidney surgery, and to avoid kidney failure I am unable to drink more than a glass or two of alcohol a week, let alone in one night. While everyone makes a big point (generally only during freshers’ week) of stressing no-one has to feel obliged to drink alcohol, and hold (again, mainly during freshers’ week) “quiet night in” socials, I think more needs to be done to cater for those people who either can’t drink alcohol, or don’t want to.

I am speaking from experience when I say a night out when everyone else is getting hammered, and you’re limited to your one drink, is not the fun it could, or indeed should be. That high everyone else gets from alcohol is hard to recreate when you’re sober and forced to look after anyone who has had a bit too much. But if you instead opt not to go on a big night out you’re branded as boring and antisocial. This mindset has been clearly demonstrated by a friend talking about a social she was on, where their “aim of the night” was to get a fresher to go out to town who had not been out since freshers’ week. I think if she doesn’t want to go out she shouldn’t be forced to, and no-one should think any less of her for that. Yet my friend made it abundantly clear that the rest of the society thought she was boring and antisocial because she didn’t relish going out and getting drunk like the rest of them. Surely the antisocial people are those who force people to do things they’re not comfortable with, or ostracise those who won’t or can’t fit into the norm of getting slashed on a Friday night?

When I go out, I tend to have a drink during pre-drinks, then stick to soft drinks whilst out. Not only does it protect my dodgy kidneys, it also saves me a lot of money. But there is always the inevitable question: “why aren’t you drinking?” Once I’ve explained people are generally fine about it, but why should I have to give an explanation for not drinking? It’s like the question is loaded with a requirement to explain your ‘boring-ness’ away.

It is essentially a double-edged sword. If you go out and don’t drink you are unlikely to have a great time because you will end up stuck on sober duty, and probably (in Lancaster anyway) freeze to death in queues and supporting people as they stumble through town because you don’t have a beer jacket on. The alternative is equally unappealing. If you don’t go out when all your friends are going out they are likely to brand you as boring and antisocial. I’m not going to go on about the health risks of excessive drinking – because I probably would do the same if my kidneys would stand up to it – and it’s your decision anyway. But I would like to say that someone who is making a conscious decision not to drink ought to be respected for that, and not looked down on as a freaky, antisocial hermit.

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