Diary of a Surviving Sober Student

Englishnewsstudent living

Uttering the words ‘Student Life’ means you are usually greeted with the imagery of blacked-out students, covered in vomit, and taking selfies with stolen traffic signs. 

But what is it like to navigate university completely sober?  

This will be my third year of sobriety during university and as part of women’s rugby, mountain biking and creative societies. In my case sobriety isn’t a choice and it’s not because I’m ‘boring’ it’s because of doctors' orders. One blue VK is all it takes for me to spend the evening lying across the waiting room of Bronglais.  

I get a lot of the same responses to my situation, most commonly ‘That’s okay you can just do drugs instead’ (those of which I am also completely sober). Truth is, drinking is not worth the risk in my case, so it’s not for me. Taking a shot each time I hold my drink in my right hand instead of the left is not my idea of fun, I’d rather sit at home and eat a Malteser every time Dwight shouts ‘Michael’ in the office. However, just because people are drinking and you aren’t, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out. 

I do go on socials, and I do enjoy them. So, if you’re a tired third year whose liver is on its last legs begging you to stop, or a fresher who’s nervous about drinking, then here is what I’ve found.  

Sober nights out are hard if you’re with the wrong crowd. Drunk people are loud, and they generally let you know that too. Rugby is a society big on noise, drinking games and challenges, and they’re fun. But they can be daunting if you have nothing to help loosen you up, such as a beer (or five). They can also be hard because the consequence of getting a game wrong is drinking, and when choosing to be sober, you gain nothing from downing a J20 other than the loss of three quid in 5 seconds, and an apple and raspberry stain down your favourite t-shirt. If you find sober nights out lonely and you tend to be nervous in the corner, you’re on the wrong night out.  

Meeting people and making new friends sober isn’t a problem in my experience, drunk people introduce themselves to me constantly. The hard part comes the day after when I wave at them in the street, and they don’t remember having met me, let alone the 10 minutes we wasted quoting Gavin and Stacey.  

I would also advise that ‘No’ is a complete sentence, in general, but also with drinking. Don’t let anyone pressure you to drink, even if, unlike me, you do have the choice to drink but you just don’t want to.  I have been given many choices as alternatives to drinking such as sober punishments to challenges or the option to not participate. Do not feel guilty for declining to drink even past the ‘oh come on’s and ‘don’t be so boring’s’ Social Secretaries are human and will understand, as will your peers.  

There are also pros to sobriety on a night out. The main one of course is you know what you’ve done. The second best is you haven’t spent a surprise £100 because you bought the entirety of the netball team shots.  

The best nights out are with people you are comfortable with. Don’t force yourself to mix in with a crowd that does not make you feel welcome. Approaching my final year of university, I only go on about three rugby socials a year and they do not look down on me for that. It also does not affect my ability to go to training every week or get to know my teammates well. I do go out with the Student Newspaper and Scriptwriting because those societies have less focus on consuming alcoholic beverages and there’s always someone to talk to.  

Alcohol can give people confidence, but if you can’t drink where do you find it? I have found it with a good crowd of people who are like-minded and fun to be around. I have also found it by committing to social themes by dressing up whole-hog.  


If you don’t want to drink or can’t, university nights out are still for you! People won’t force you to drink, and most societies also do the occasional sober social to include those who can’t. Don’t feel pressured to drink, the key is to find the right people to have a good time with. If you’re laughing, you’re getting pissed one way or another.