'I enjoyed evenings at the college bar, sometimes with just one drink, sometimes with none'Louis Ashworth with permission for Varsity

It was the day of my 19th birthday, probably one in the morning, and I was sitting on the pavement in my hometown, being sick into a bin. That was when I realised that alcohol probably wasn’t for me. Like the average British teenager, I’d partaken in my fair share of echo-falls-in-a-field parties, below-average club nights and ridiculously overpriced bottomless brunches – but the whole binge-drinking thing had never felt quite right. I’m not going to sit here and say that having a few drinks with friends isn’t fun. That first tingle of alcohol-induced excitement is enough to give me the motivation to go all night long at some random warehouse rave. But after the second drink I normally duck out of pre-drinks early, or end up in a situation similar to my birthday-bin-escapades. I would spend all day before anxious, worried whether the alcohol would make me happy or queasy, ecstatic or nauseous. Always stressing about how I would get home or how much all those vodka cranberries were going to set me back (as a gut-wrenching glance at my bank balance the following morning revealed, £54.80, to be exact). I couldn’t understand how everyone powered on until the early hours while I was falling asleep, wishing I was in my bed with a cup of tea.

“I couldn’t understand how everyone powered on until the early hours while I was falling asleep, wishing I was in my bed with a cup of tea”

It took me coming to Cambridge to realise that age-old truth that every 20-something comes to terms with, or learns to celebrate, in their life: not every person is the same. It sounds simple, maybe even obvious, but I’d grown up in an environment where every one of my friends wanted to drink alcohol. Most, if not all, social events revolved around the opportunity to drink. I don’t want to demonise enjoying drinking. In fact, I’m jealous of every Wednesday Revs-goer for their surefire stamina and can-do attitude. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a Revs fan and would want nothing more than the ability to dance all night to the Bee-Gee’s ‘Staying Alive’ remix. I had just never considered another option, another way to still enjoy uni life by removing the thing that was supposedly making it fun.

Things changed during my first Michaelmas term. I was so buried under piles of reading, unaccustomed to the workload and petrified of writing an essay that my supervisor wouldn’t like, that I ended up setting my alarm for 6 or 7am most days. This meant, of course, my old lifestyle of pushing myself to stay up late playing drinking games so I wouldn’t appear “boring” wasn’t really possible anymore. To my surprise, I still had fun. I found myself feeling comfortable, confident and content. I enjoyed evenings at the college bar, sometimes with just one drink, sometimes with none. And all the while I knew I would wake up the next morning feeling fresh and ready to tackle the day’s demands (normally in the form of three consecutive essay crises). The best part, though, was feeling like my new uni friends were meeting the real me, undiluted by three tequila shots and an attempted party-girl facade. It felt like conversations I was having were fully authentic, given that nothing was there to morph me into someone I didn’t recognise.

“I found myself feeling comfortable, confident and content”

Sobriety has become a huge movement recently among many celebrities (Adele, Tom Holland, and Jack Harlow, to name a few) and it’s not difficult to see why. Without the helping hand of Lady Sauvignon to make me more confident or energetic, I had to make regular me the star of the show, not just that girl who worked in her room all day, waiting to be replaced by her clubbing counterpart.


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Recently my parents handed me a glass of white wine. I took a sip and instantly recoiled back. Was this really the same liquid I had enjoyed on a casual Tuesday night not 12 months before? I had been seeing so much information on the negatives of alcohol and British society’s twisted view of sober people, so as I swallowed that liquid it felt like poison was trickling down my throat. I couldn’t finish the glass – it had been months since my last drink. I don’t believe that alcohol should be prohibited; I can totally understand the positives and that feeling of relaxation as you sip your drink of choice. My new philosophy is not to be completely sober, but to never drink because a) everyone else is, or b) I believe it’ll take the social pressure off. I think we could all do with finding more of a balance regarding alcohol. I urge you to consider whether alcohol enhances your truest, most authentic self, or whether it’s been hiding you, replacing you with a different version.