So by the time I got to college, when most people in my dorm were well-accustomed to the taste of alcohol, if not judicious with their intake, I still didn’t drink. Totally fine for other people, just not something I was into myself. During the day, I quickly and easily made friends, hanging out in the dorm, exploring the campus, watching TV, shopping, studying, etc. But at night, I became uneasy.
Most parties at college involve alcohol, often copious amounts. Though I never felt pressure to imbibe, I did feel weird constantly turning drinks down. I didn’t think I had a good answer as to why I wasn’t drinking: it wasn’t for religious reasons, and it wasn’t because I had been in rehab. Simply not wanting to drink was a good enough reason for me, but I was afraid it wouldn’t really make sense to others. So, I did the only thing that made sense to my 18 year-old self: I started avoiding parties altogether, citing homework or a scheduled phone call to my boyfriend as my excuse.Here’s the sucky thing: in college, people bond at parties. And I wish I had known that while you don’t need to drink to participate, but you do need to show up. Friendships formed over the course of the five-hour parties that raged on my dorm floor, while I slept away with earplugs in my ears. At breakfast the next morning, I would try to keep up with the inside jokes about the previous night’s parties, but I’d always missed too much. Eventually I stopped trying, and retreated from the social scene. There are people who lived on my floor Freshman year of college who are still best friends today. I’m convinced that if I’d gone to parties, simply gone, I would still be friends with them, too.
The next year, my sophomore year, I started hanging out more with the people in my department, and, perhaps conscious of the disaster that was my freshman year, started going to parties with them.
What I wish I’d known as a Freshman was that at these parties where people are drinking out of huge red Solo Cups, no one knows if your Diet Coke has vodka in it or not. And if you’re having a good time and laughing and talking to people, you’re not going to stick out like a huge, sober thumb. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t drinking. Sometimes, if someone asked, I’d say “I’m not drinking tonight,” and that would be that. If you’re at the party, no one cares if you’re drunk or not. And, contrary to what I used to think, you won’t care as much that other people are. I had conversations with people, I witnessed funny things, I hung out, I had pizza at the end of the night, just like everyone else. It was fun.
It would have been nice to learn this in time for my freshman year of college, but man, am I glad I learned this by my sophomore year. Otherwise, those would have been a long, three years of quiet nights with earplugs, and not knowing what anyone was talking about at breakfast.
Do you feel uncomfortable around alcohol at parties? Have you found ways to have fun at parties besides drinking? Tell us everything in the comments!