If you are trying to cut down or stop drinking, particularly when you’re at university, it’s easy to feel self-conscious. Drinking heavily is so normalised in our society that staying sober on a night out can leave you feeling really out of place. This can cause particular issues for people who are cutting down or stopping.
The first thing to remember is that a lot of people won’t notice or care if you’re drinking or not – either because they don’t think it’s important, or because they’re too busy focusing on themselves. If someone does make an issue out of the fact you aren’t drinking, it says a lot more about them than it does about you!
The second thing to remember is that even if someone does ask why you aren’t drinking, you have the right to tell them as much or as little as you feel comfortable with. Noticing you aren’t happy with your relationship with alcohol and taking action to change that is an amazing step that you should feel really proud about taking. However, you shouldn’t feel under pressure to share details of your personal life unless you choose to.
With this in mind, here are some tips for reducing your self-consciousness when you choose not to drink on a night out:
Reasons why you’re not drinking:
1. Plan something you have to get up early for the next day – for example, a shift at work, an assignment you need to work on, or a sport/hobby.
2. “I want to save money” – this is relevant to everyone, but particularly valid when you’re a student.
3. If you have a car, why not offer to drive? Most people will be so grateful to be offered a lift they won’t question why you’d rather not drink. If they do, just point out that a night out without drinking is worth it to avoid the hassle/expense of getting a taxi.
4. Start working on your health/fitness. If you’re involved with a sport, training for a race, or making good progress at the gym, it makes sense that you wouldn’t want to ruin that.
5. “I don’t like how it makes me feel” is a perfectly valid reason not to drink. Loads of people choose not to drink because it makes them feel sick, they get bad hangovers, they prefer feeling in control, etc.
Reducing self-consciousness while you’re out:
1. If you’d rather not tell people you aren’t drinking, try not to get sucked into buying rounds. Apart from anything else, it can be annoying buying other people’s (much more expensive) alcoholic drinks if you’re on soft drinks.
2. If you drink half-pints of mixers, most people will just assume there’s alcohol in it even when there isn’t.
3. If there’s a friend (or friends) you feel comfortable being more open with, let them know in advance what you plan to drink while you’re out so they can buy it for you without you having to ask for it.
4. If possible, try going to places where there’s stuff to do aside from drinking - places with live music and/or a dance floor, pub quizzes, pool/table football, etc. There’ll be less focus on drinking, and there’s less chance you’ll get bored.
6. Being “the only sober person” is less noticeable than you might imagine
1. If you want to make long-term changes to your relationship with alcohol, it’s a good idea to start finding social activities that don’t revolve around drinking. University is a great time for finding out what you enjoy.
2. If you’re out and you’re tempted to drink when you hadn’t planned to, sometimes it’s easiest to just call it a night – an early night is going to make you feel better in the long run.
3. If you have any friends/acquaintances that seem overly keen on encouraging you to drink when you don’t want to, it’s probably a good idea to avoid them in situations when there’s alcohol around.
4. Learn which settings you feel comfortable in without drinking, and which might make you feel tempted – for example, one person might feel fine on a night out at the pub but struggle with nightclubs, another might be perfectly happy going to a gig or club night sober, but find sitting around a table at a bar more challenging. If you have a clear idea of what you feel comfortable with, it’s easier to figure out what situations you should avoid.