Words by: Gitika Garg Art by: Madison Marshall
I’ve always been partial to a good night out, and my routine has been somewhat perfected. It goes like this: pres beforehand at someone’s house or occasionally just sculling your drink in an alleyway before waiting in line to enter a bar or club (trashy I know, but don’t tell me you haven’t done it). After several hours of dancing — or what could only be counted as simply head-bopping — nothing beats the 3am Macca’s run that follows. Then comes the impossible quest of finding your Uber on crowded Chapel Street to finally return home, ready to crash.
The worst part? That feeling the next day, especially when the night turns out to be wilder than anticipated. It’s a feeling I don’t need to describe, as I’m sure many of you will shudder with flashbacks, knowing it all too well. The thing is, more often than not, drinking has been a big part of a ‘good night out’, and for me — without sounding too dramatic — it’s always presented a constant internal battle. Let me explain.
I’ve never been one to particularly enjoy the taste of alcohol (I mean, who really does?), so I’ve tended to only drink in one of two social situations: the cute cocktail-or-two at dinner, or the drink-to-get-drunk-at-a-party kind of vibe. But through it all, the question ‘should I even drink?’ has, without fail, always played in the back of my mind.
I oscillate between the ‘drinking isn’t good for me and my body is a temple’ argument and the ‘I’m young, just have some fun’ rebuttal. You’d think it’d be an easy conflict to resolve, especially if I morally feel like drinking isn’t for me — but it’s been far from it. On the occasions that I’ve chosen to be sober — and there have certainly been many — I’ve felt a kind of pressure that’s hard to put into words. No one is forcing me, no one is shoving a drink in my hand, and yet the pressure to drink to ‘have a good time’ rings louder than the quiet voice inside me.
Ironically, I’ve proved to myself on more than one occasion that alcohol is not a prerequisite in enjoying myself. I can dance till I drop without a single drink and survive social situations. Honestly, sometimes my best nights are the ones where I’ve stayed sober. I’ve saved money, saved myself the headache the next day, and actually remembered the night.
So why don’t I just give up drinking, if it’s something I’ve repeatedly thought about?
I guess I’ve always worried that by choosing to not drink, I might miss out or be seen as boring or uncool. I’m not quite sure what it is about the social stigma around drinking, but choosing to be sober warrants a different kind of judgment. It tends not to be seen as triumphant but rather somewhat of an oddity or weakness. I get it, drinking is the norm. Most people drink, particularly in uni where drinking forms part of student culture. Yet interestingly enough, sobriety is on the rise amongst young people who have been increasingly choosing not to drink. While in 2001, just 8.9 per cent of young Australians forwent alcohol, this figure increased to 22 per cent in 2019. In spite of the statistics, choosing not to drink has still made me feel like perhaps I’m doing something wrong.
And so, after much back and forth with myself, I’ve slowly come to embrace my thoughts and choices when it comes to drinking.
What does this look like? Choosing to drive (a great excuse for being sober), having only one drink rather than going all out, or just not drinking at all because I simply don’t want to.
On a deeper note (and yes, I have turned drinking into a full-blown identity crisis) it means understanding that it’s okay to not want to drink anymore. It’s okay if others judge and create their own conclusions about me. It also means being kind to myself and not beating myself up about the fact that I haven’t quite reached a concrete resolution.
Nowadays, my motto is: drink if you feel like it, and don’t drink when you feel like it. ‘You’ is the keyword, of course. It might seem glaringly obvious, but it’s been an important lesson in understanding that I should be doing something because I want to and not because I feel the need to since everyone else is. Will I get to a stage where I leave drinking all together? Probably. I’d definitely like to, but it’s going to take a bit longer to break down that stigma for me.
So if you’ve ever considered choosing not to drink or going down a path of sobriety but felt that strange kind of pressure or uncertainty, I hope you know that you are not alone. For whatever reason it may be that you’ve joined, welcome to the sorority.