This piece originally appeared in MUSE Issue XVIII. Check out the issue here.
I had my very first sip of alcohol in my third year of university. Before that, the strongest drink I ever had was Kombucha which was (and still is) my go-to party drink. This first drink was followed by my Not-So-Sober October, during which I rebelliously lived the life of a typical university student: I drank alcohol at parties. Wild, I know.
Prior to that month, I’d been sober at every single party, social gathering, and date of my life. My sobriety felt like a deep, dark secret. When I told my close friends that I not only don’t drink but have never drank, they often reacted as if I just confessed to first-degree murder.
I didn’t have any deep-seated reasons for my sobriety, just a lot of little ones. It all started with a bet I had made with my parents. If I didn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs by the time I was 18, I would get a pretty substantial amount of money: $1000 for not drinking, $1000 for not smoking and $500 for not doing drugs. According to my dad’s logic, if he was paying so much for the gateway drugs, he should get a discount for the hard stuff. This family pact was dubbed accordingly: “No Drinks, Drags, or Drugs”.
$2500 was a lot of money, and I was motivated to uphold my end of the bargain. But when I started Queen’s with my wallet heavy, I surprised myself by sticking to it.
Now, I feel obligated to inform you that I’m fun. The dance-like-nobody’s-watching, sing-like-the-microphone-is-muted, act-like-a-complete-idiot kind of fun. But, you still don’t believe me, do you? You’re thinking “Sure, she says that but she’s probably reserved or judgmental.” I get this a lot and so I am pretty secretive about my partying habits.
When people find out I don’t drink they usually react in one of three ways. First, they pressure me to try “just one sip.” This is often accompanied by them informing the whole party of my situation, in an effort to exert some good old-fashioned peer pressure. I am now a world-renowned expert at turning down drinks.
The second reaction is to interrogate and find out why I’ve strayed so far from the norm. Typically, it’s well-intentioned, but, nonetheless, the decision is soon debated by a jury of my peers. It’s a hard topic to discuss because people inevitably feel judged by me. In reality, just as I would never want someone to judge me for not drinking, I would never judge someone for choosing differently.
The third reaction is, perhaps, the worst: to scrutinize. People doubt I’ll be enough fun and spend the night analyzing my every move. For all these reasons, I rarely tell people I don’t drink and when I do it’s only after multiple nights out. “If you’re this fun sober, I can’t wait to get you drunk,” they say. I used to laugh it off because I didn’t see myself ever drinking. I imagined one day telling my sober life story to Oprah.
Then, things started to change. The peer pressure started to get to me and my sobriety became something whispered in secret. It pains me to admit this but, my self-confidence faltered and I desperately wanted to fit in. I thought drinking could help with some of my insecurities. Would it make me more outgoing? More flirtatious? More fun?
In short, no.
I treated my Not-So-Sober October as one big science experiment. I wanted answers. Surrounded by friends, I tried my first sip and then spent the next month drinking. The experience was enlightening: vodka coolers are surprisingly sweet, drinking makes you dizzy, and liquid courage isn’t as instantaneous as movies make it seem. The biggest surprise was how quickly the effects of alcohol wore off, and I began chasing that fleeting feeling. Every time I drank, I got drunk.
At the end of my Not-So-Sober October, I reverted back to my old, sober ways. I know for a lot of people, drinking is a huge part of socializing. It makes them feel confident, outgoing and bold. However, for me, it was the opposite. I was self-conscious as my friends excitedly waited for Drunk Taylor’s arrival. I wasn’t more outgoing, just louder and less coordinated. I spent most of the month embarrassing myself. It was a month of lowered inhibitions, excessive PDA, and admittedly more vomit than I would care to disclose.
Alcohol just isn’t my cup of tea. Nonetheless, I’m glad I tried it and found some answers. And although drinking may not be that appealing to me, the party atmosphere is. It doesn’t seem to matter if I’m sober or drunk; if I’m at a party, I’m more goofy, outgoing, and forward. But not drinking means I always have my wits about me and can skip the hangover. So, I raise my glass (most likely filled with kombucha) and toast to a fun night out, with or without alcohol.