As someone who doesn’t drink, I can say firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate socializing when you’re sober. This is for a host of reasons! First – university social culture puts such a huge emphasis on drinking. I can’t count how many get-togethers or parties I’ve been to where alcohol has been the main concern of the night. 

“Hey can we stop by the liquor store?”

“What do you have to drink?”

“Is it a BYOB situation?”

“Do you have any mixers?”

Sound familiar?

Secondly – alcohol can ease nerves making it easier to socialize. This is one of the reasons I think it seems to pop up so much while socializing. However, I know all too well how this can be abused. My dad is a recovering alcoholic who used to suffer from a lot of social anxiety. Alcohol was his band aid solution to this problem. With his loss of inhibition however, my dad would cause fights, and say and do things he would regret. Seeing how alcohol can tear families apart really lowered its appeal to me. 

With this in mind, here are a few things I’ve found that have helped me to stay true to my own boundaries around alcohol while still having fun and living the university experience:

#1: Be confident in your boundaries

You know the phrase “know your limits, stay within it”? This applies to not drinking too! Before socializing, I like to think about what my limit is depending on the day, context, and situation. Most of the time, my limit is 0, and it feels affirming to think about this before I socialize.

#2: Find friends that respect your boundaries

This is definitely easier said than done, but know that anyone who is worth your time will take “no” for an answer when offering alcohol. Peer pressure is real and I’ve found that it’s a huge relief to have friends who support me and understand when I don’t feel like drinking. 

#3: Offer to be the designated driver

This is the oldest trick in the book, and works especially well if you want a go-to explanation for why you’re not drinking. The only caveat – of course – is that you have to drive. 

#4: Bring your own drinks

I know that for me, I often feel fidgety at parties and feel like I stick out when I don’t have a drink in my hand. Something that helps me to fill the void in my hand is bringing my own non-alcoholic drinks so that I feel a bit more included while still staying true to my boundaries. Having something in my hand also helps with feelings of social anxiety by giving me something to focus on when I’m nervous. 

#5: Suggest activities that don't center around drinking

By having an activity to do that doesn’t center around drinking, I’ve found that I often feel a lot more comfortable and included in social situations.  

Some ideas:

  • Movies
  • Going out for food
  • Taking a hike
  • Old school slumber party
  • Exploring the touristy areas of Victoria
  • Board game party
  • Art night
  • Going to the beach
  • Picnic
  • Escape room
  • Museum
  • Etc…

#6: Take a look at the non-alcoholic menus/order food instead

When my friends suggest going out to bars/pubs, I used to feel super anxious thinking about how excluded I would feel. That was until I discovered that most bars/pubs have non-alcoholic menus and (most of the time) pretty decent food! Going to places that you may never have explored before also allow you to try new foods and menu items you may not have had the opportunity to try otherwise. 

#7: Know that drinking is not a precursor to fun

Despite what university culture may tell you, sometimes it’s way more fun to be sober! You get to just be you, and I think you might find that even without substance, you’re pretty great. 


Thanks for reading!


The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the University of Victoria. I monitor posts and comments to ensure all content complies with the University of Victoria Guidelines on Blogging.