Life as a teetotal student

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As a 20 year old who chooses not to drink alcohol, I might not seem to fit the typical student stereotype. Whilst most teenagers cannot wait for that special day to arrive when they can simply walk into their local supermarket and purchase a beer or bottle of vodka, this liberation went completely unacknowledged on my 18th birthday. To this day, I have never purchased my own alcohol and I probably won’t be doing any time soon. Personally, I love the sober life and I am very happy to embrace that. 

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Whilst I am teetotal and have never experienced being completely ‘out of it’, it doesn’t mean to say that I haven’t at least tried alcohol. My parents, who both drink themselves, allowed me to taste some of their beer or wine when I was old enough to express an interest, however the taste is something that I have never been fond of. Alcohol just simply isn’t an appealingappetizer for me, and this is probably the sole reason why I choose not to drink. The sharp, bitter taste, with even just a sip, seems to create a burning sensation in my mouth and leaves my throat feeling parched and dry. Fresh juice or simply just water are therefore always my preferred option.

I had my worst experience with alcohol when I was in my early teens. It wasn’t at a friend’s house party, club or bar, but a summer afternoon party with some family friends. Wanting to feel more akin to the adults, I accepted the offer of a large glass of Pimm’s topped with berries and other fruits, and happily walked away feeling rather proud I’d manged to land myself an alcoholic beverage. Despite not even getting half way through the glass, by the end of the evening I was found lying on the sofa inside with an astounding headache, feeling tired and nauseous. The Pimm’s, which turned out to be a lot stronger than expected, had gone straight to my head it seemed, and that was what really turned me off. Rather unsurprisingly therefore, I have pretty much never touched alcohol again since, and for the past 4 years at least, I have been completely teetotal. 

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Even though the thought of completely abstaining from drinking alcohol sounds shockingly horrific and utterly impossible to some people, I have found that not drinking alcohol also has some other perks. The headaches and hangovers are most certainly something I don’t miss out on, and I don’t mind the extra pounds I’ve saved through not buying booze, which can very easily kiss goodbye your student loan. Not drinking alcohol also does my body the world of good. I know, probably just as well as other people, that alcohol has numerous effects on your internal organs, from your brain to your bones, liver to your heart, and whilst you shouldn’t live your life in fear of these health effects, especially when only drinking in moderation, I know that my body will thank me when I’m older. 

In particular, of course alcohol acts as a depressant within the nervous system and I am personally deterred by the idea of not being in complete control of my own thoughts, feelings and actions. Waking up the next morning without even a single memory of the previous night really just scares me, and the potential long-term effects alcohol consumption can have on your mental health, again just make me glad I choose to avoid it. 

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Now, as a university student, I often get asked whether I can still have fun without alcohol. Can I still socialise with friends who are all drinking and getting drunk, or am I just left feeling isolated as the sober one? Whilst I may not be a wild party animal who makes regular appearances in all the clubs, I have been on nights out with friends and they have definitely made some great memories. Here at university I have been more social than ever in my entire life, adventuring out to clubs, eating out with friends, and playing pool in bars, and alcohol has not once been on the cards. Abstaining from drinking really doesn’t bother me and I’d like more people to feel confident enough to say the same. 

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Of course, I don’t have a problem at all with those who choose to drink alcohol sensibly. It is ultimately your own personal decision and no one else should stop you if you want to drink in moderation. However, I am pretty certain that there are many people, especially teenagers at both school and university, who feel they need to drink alcohol just to fit in or be like their friends. As one of the messages I would like to spread through my influence online, I hope to show people that you can say no to alcohol. You don’t have to drink just to follow the crowd, and you certainly don’t need alcohol to still have fun. It is ok to be different and if alcohol really isn’t for you, then that is perfectly fine. After all, I hope I’ve possibly convinced you that being teetotal really isn’t too bad after all. 

Holly Gabrielle