Drink/ Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Ditching the drink at university

There was a time when a university student’s decision to remain sober was considered ‘social suicide’ (as Mean Girls would put it). A teetotaller might have feared that they were isolating themselves, worrying that others would mock them for choosing to drink orange juice and skipping the vodka. But perhaps that’s all changing. If you’ve ever felt under pressure to keep up with the boozy student lifestyle, you’re not alone. Millennials are beginning to ditch the Dutch courage, replacing it with a ‘health is wealth’ mantra. According to recent studies, young people are spending less on alcohol than their parents and grandparents.

Alcohol is a depressant. With mental illnesses on the rise amongst the younger generation, perhaps there is a link between the clubbing culture amongst students and their mental-wellbeing.

I’ve often felt isolated by the concept of alcohol. It never appealed to me like it seemed to for everyone else

At university, a time of new-found independence and never-ending to-do lists, many students turn to binge-drinking. Binge-drinking can be particularly dangerous because it’s considered ‘typical uni-culture’ to go out every night and drink yourself into oblivion. The fun and relief that an alcoholic drink brings is only temporary. You wake up feeling even worse than you did before, skipping your 9am lectures and getting even more behind on work.

Social pressures might also be the cause for an increased alcohol intake. There’s a pressure to get drunk if you want to join a sports team in freshers. And you wake up the next day ridden with anxiety over things you don’t remember doing but are reminded of as they’re pasted over Snapchat for all to see.

Personally, I’ve often felt isolated by the concept of alcohol. It never appealed to me like it seemed to for everyone else. My decision not to down a Smirnoff Ice on New Year’s Eve when I was 16 cemented an image of ‘innocence’ that I couldn’t escape. By my first year, I was familiar enough with alcohol to follow the typical freshers’ tradition. After all, drinking was the only way to make friends, right? That’s what I thought, anyway.

It’s not to say that I don’t have fond memories of my first year, but when second year came along and my grades counted, I had to remember why I was at university.  I also had a part-time job, which meant I rarely went out.

Drinking only heightened the feelings of anxiety and depression I was already dealing with

Films, TV shows and the media portray the concept of getting drunk with an air of intrigue and mystique, as if one night out might be life-changing. We are sucked into this dream, and keep up a habit of going out all night, sleeping all day, and doing it all over again.

I suppose I was under this impression too.  But then I realised that I was going out for the sake of others and not for my own enjoyment. After that, drinking only heightened the feelings of anxiety and depression I was already dealing with. The following weekend after a Friday night out, I would remain ceased up with anxiety, mulling over an alcohol-induced embarrassment.

I’ve found that drinking doesn’t fit into the lifestyle I want anymore. I’ve begun to notice feeling physically and mentally drained the next day. I can’t focus on work and the gym is a no-go. Now, I stand by my decision not to get drunk and, if I don’t want to, I won’t go clubbing multiple times a week. I may be a 21-year-old student, but I’m happy staying in for the night.

The new statistics that prove that more millennials are ditching the drink have made me realise that maybe I’m not alone in feeling this.

Following young people’s decisions to withdraw from alcohol, brands are attempting to put more health-conscience beverages on the market.

It’s hard to eliminate the culture entirely – alcohol is an ingrained part of our social life, particularly at university

In the US and Mexico, the drink GEM&BOLT is just one example of an organic alcohol claiming to act as anti-depressant. The mocktail menus in most bars are getting longer and longer. And hangover-free alcohol is in development.

So, is alcohol really taking a back-seat and making room for our mental and physical wellness? It’s hard to eliminate the culture entirely – alcohol is an ingrained part of our social life, particularly at university.

Like with all things, a little bit of alcohol won’t do you much harm – everything in moderation. As students, we can’t be expected to go from getting wasted every night to becoming teetotal, but perhaps we are beginning to realise the impact that over-drinking could have on our overall wellbeing. Ultimately, whether you down or ditch the booze, it’s a personal choice. Understand your own body and limits, and don’t let anyone pressure you into drinking if you don’t want to.

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