Twenty-one and sober

Personal prohibition at a previous party school

Like a true Torch editor-in-chief, I spent my 21st birthday editing newspaper files and eating free at the Gypsy Nickel. I even managed to do it without a drink in my hand.

There are decades’ worth of jokes about drinking to pass the time in a small town. I have heard “What else is there to do here?” more times than I can count. While I’ve certainly felt the Big Rapids boredom on Saturday nights, I stand by my decision to keep alcohol out of my diet.

I get a few common responses when I tell people that I don’t drink and never have. Some feel the immediate need justify or rationalize their own alcohol intake. They tell me that they also don’t drink “that much.” Others ask how I have fun without it. A few people, including my family members, look so deeply confused when I turn down their offers of beer or tequila and say again “I don’t drink.” They aren’t familiar with the concept.

It’s not my business how much anyone drinks besides myself. I don’t judge my classmates for going to Shooters, parties or tailgates if that works for them. If anyone wants to tell me that you don’t have to drink in those situations, I invite them to count the enjoyable elements of a frat party while sober.

It also feels that some expect me to have a deep-seated or even traumatic reason to boycott the bottle. While I’ve probably seen more family drunkenness than I’d like to in my life, I’m sure the same can be said for millions of other people my age. I truthfully never felt any sort of draw to it and find it misguided to force an unhealthy habit onto myself.

Nearly everyone who drinks eventually tries to cut down on it later in their life. It’s easy to see why.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s recent statistics show that 1,519 college-aged students died from alcohol related injuries in one calendar year. 

Alcohol consumption is among the three most prevalent preventable risk factors for cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. It is linked to at least seven types of cancer and accounts for 6% of all cancer diagnoses. 

Combine the long list of health risks with the staggering price and sugar content of a mixed drink, the pros never outweigh the cons. It is sometimes hard to understand how so many “broke college students” find the cash for drinks every weekend.

I never made the conscious decision to swear off drinking in a heroic and dramatic fashion. In a way, I waited to feel the urge to do it but it never showed up. Today, I am so grateful for that.

I have no idea what a hangover feels like and wholeheartedly believe that I say enough embarrassing things while stone cold sober. Because I never started drinking, I’ll never have to go through the ordeal of deciding to stop. No part of me wants to wake up with a blinding headache and Snapchat memories that I certainly don’t remember, just to realize that my health and savings depend on me cutting down on drinking. 

Surely this decision has limited me socially to an extent. Plenty of college students meet friends at parties or even their significant other at a bar. It can be uncomfortable to be the only person not drinking, especially if you don’t want to be assigned the designated driver for life. Still, I was lucky to find a circle of people that feels a similar indifference to alcohol.

I hope everyone had fun at their welcome weekend parties. I had the time of my life drinking sparkling water at leftover birthday cake, and wouldn’t have it any other way.