Tips for the sober college student

“Its going to get better” is that phrase many of us have heard. From parents, teachers, therapists, and strangers. We’ve all heard it. I’m sick of that damn saying. I heard it in middle school, high school, and I’m still hearing it in college. I don’t have many friends, I’m not in a relationship, I don’t go out much, but I am happy with myself. Many of us have been groomed to equate happiness with how other people make us feel, or perceive us. The worst possible place you could put your happiness is in the control of others. I would know, I’ve been doing it since I’m young, we all do it. That will set you up for disappointment without fail. Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. I find with being sober in college, I end up getting disappointed quite often. It isn’t on big things like driving accidents, or friends forgetting my name at a party. Its little things like introducing me as the sober girl, getting teased, or getting asked if “something happened” that made me avoid substances at all costs. Being sober in college is apparently such a phenomenon that it has become, in a sense, my identity. It has probably become many peoples identity as well, and there is no reason to feel embarrassed of it.

There are things I’ve learned along the way that continue to help me feel comfortable when placed into certain situations. One thing I’ve learned, and quite possibly the biggest, is to just be straight up honest. If something did happen and you feel comfortable stating that, say it. If you’re afraid to get bloated, say that. Or if you just don’t want it, guess what? Say that! It’s not something that should make or break anyones interactions with you, and if it does, its on them. There are also moments in which people will not invite you places. It will hurt your feelings, but in that hurt recognize that it still isn’t you. You aren’t a stick in the mud, and you don’t have a stick up your ass. You just choose to spend your time differently, and that is ok. Do not forget that. With that being said, do not criticize others as well. They have a choice too, it may be different than mine or yours, but it is still their choice.

All these substances, weed, alcohol, have become a social bridge that people need in order to connect with others. Its a “must” for every party, every get together, every celebration; that gets hard when that isn’t your go-to. My dad would always tell me “just hold a cup, or nurse a beer”, just so people would get off my back. But why the f*ck are they on my back in the first place? What is the big deal? This is a question I ask myself almost every-time I meet someone new and they ask me about it. It isn’t a big deal, it is just different. It isn’t the usual response. When most people say yes, you probably say no. Thats why its “weird”. I never nurse, or make a fake drink anymore. You shouldn’t have to do that in order to feel comfortable. If you want to order a water in a sea of beer and liquor, don’t feel bad. I do it all the time, and the reason is because I don’t feel the need to hide (and because I really just want the damn water). If someone tries to push you into ordering something else, calls you a wuss, or tries to make a spectacle of you, make a joke. One thing I tend to do in an instance like this is turn it on them. Not in a rude or accusatory way, just simply say “wow, have you been focused on me this whole time? Thats so weird. Why do you care so much what I do, focus on yourself”. Or one of my personal favorite lines is “Honey, I don’t need a drink to have a good time”. Saying this with a smile helps get your point across, but also allows you to still have a good time. When you stand your ground and proceed with your original intention, it sends the message that you’re not one who needs to change to fit the mood. You create you’re own. Own that.

There will also be many people who paint you out to be this person who thinks they are better than everyone else. That you’re trying to make people feel bad about their choices. These are the people you meet that are insecure. There are people who are uneasy about their choices and will project that onto you. This may have set them off simply because you made a different choice that they may not have been strong enough to make at a certain time. In moments like these, remain humble, be truthful and state that it is in no way your intention to do so. Remember that people who say things to hurt others are hurt themselves. Not all interactions are this deep, but many people who rely heavily on substances are hurt, or stressed, and that comes out occasionally on sober people like us. Do not take it personally, as you and they know, it isn’t true.

My last piece of advice would be to hold on. Im not going to tell you it will get better for you soon. “It” being the people and social settings you are surrounded by, but what can get better is your relationship with yourself. I encourage you to keep focusing on yourself and building You up in a social climate that is trying to put you in a box. It can get lonely to be sober. I find most days it does. And listen, if one day you want to have a drink, by all means do it. Don’t feel like then you are going against yourself. You are only doing that when you place your happiness, and identity in the hands of others. Its super hard, super confusing, and extremely frustrating. You may lose friends, get your feelings hurt, and will feel lonely at times. In reading this however, remember you truly are not the only one, you’re not weird, or a buzz kill. You’re just different from the norm, and as history has proven itself, that will most likely benefit you in the end.

O

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