When we think of the stereotypical college experience, we think of booze. Cheap wine, beer, vodka, tequila…you name it. But although we all love those fuzzy nights where you just can’t quite remember everything, alcohol is not the make all, break all of college. How do I know this? I gave up drinking alcohol for a month.
Yes, I gave up alcohol for an entire month. Me – a college student. Little would you know that this isn’t entirely uncommon. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, one of five students don’t drink in college. And hey, they’re doing just fine, right?
So why did I decide to abstain from alcohol for a month? It wasn’t just for the sake of writing a Spoon article (although that is a perk). Not only did I have a difficult academic quarter coming up, I was getting tired of the same party scene on campus, and I wanted to try something new.
So I gave up alcohol for a month. Here’s what I learned.
1. I had more time (and mornings)
We have all been there. Trying to wake up the night after you drink… it’s not exactly like you’re hungover but you’re just tired. You want to stay in your bed all day and sleep. Maybe it’s because you stayed up later and went out dancing, but something about the next morning ruins the whole day for me.
After I stopped drinking, even if I stayed up just as late, I was able to wake up with a better attitude the next day. I could go to the gym, I could go on a hike, I could go to San Francisco – the day was completely different.
More importantly, when I stopped drinking, I had more time. More time to go to a museum, more time to watch a movie, more time to read a book. Essentially, I had found a way for me to enjoy the things that I had enjoyed before college rather than following the inevitable pattern of going out every night. This alone made not drinking extremely rewarding for me.
2. Your true friends will stick with you
When I stopped drinking alcohol, I was (a little) worried that once I stopped drinking, I wouldn’t be able to hang out with my friends as much. Much of my collegiate social scene revolves around drinking: going out to parties, pre-gaming, beer pong, what have you.
However, what I came to realize was that my true friends were friends who didn’t ditch me at parties when they got drunk, friends who came and snuggled on a weekday and watched TV with me, and friends who made time to see me. In the constant ebb and flow of college, finding constant friends is difficult but I found my rocks.
I’m not going to lie to you though…there were times that I did feel left out. Times where I thought, “Huh, if only I took a shot, maybe this party would be so much better!” But when I started thinking in these ways, I thought to myself, “If that’s how I feel, I should just leave.” So I did. And I was able to spend quality time with friends who I hadn’t seen for a while or call friends from home. Once again, by choosing not to drink, I was able to spend high quality time, doing things that truly made me happy.
3. Unfortunately (and fortunately), alcohol has a ton of calories
This was a fact that I knew for the longest time but chose to ignore lest I miss out on a “fun night.” Did you know that every shot is around 100 calories? And who takes just one shot? Unfortunately, just one “fun night” can amount to a lot more calories that it is sometimes worth (let’s not even talk about the drunchies). When I found out just how unhealthy alcohol was, I was horrified.
Just with the simple change of cutting out alcohol, I started to notice changes in my body slowly starting to lean out and build muscle. The combination of the calorie deficit and the mornings not spend hungover allowed me to start treating my body the way it deserves.
4. College is not just about alcohol
I think this was my biggest take-away. In all honesty, cutting out alcohol out of my life wasn’t earth-shattering. Nothing huge happened that drastically changed my life. Things remained, all in all, the same. Apart from a slightly healthier lifestyle with more sleep and more exercise, life stayed virtually the same. I still saw my friends, studied hard, and had fun on the weekends.
In short, I learned that college is fun with or without alcohol. And while I may have a “fun night” every once in a while, I think I’ll continue giving up alcohol for the foreseeable future.