How to Be Sober in College when Everyone is Drunk

Boozy conversations and endless drunken parties may not be what you had in mind when you went off to college. Or you may have wrestled with substance abuse in the past and you're concerned that being around a bunch of party animals could derail your success in the present. Whatever your concern, you can get through college, stay completely sober––and still have a blast.


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    Seek out like-minded people. Not everyone thinks that alcohol-infused hazes in between cramming and lecture attendance is what college is all about. Maintaining sobriety throughout college is the goal of quite a few college students, and not just those required to so for religious or teetotaler reasons. Notice the students who don't participate in the binge drinking, parties and all-night beer pong and seek to befriend them. In particular, look for companions through sport and hobby organizations/clubs –– people dedicated to training or pursuing a hobby are likely to have a lot less time and interest in getting drunk all of the time. Don't be afraid to ask whether people like partying a lot or not –– you'll soon get the answer you're looking for!
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    Live off campus. Another way to ease yourself out of permanent party time is to keep away from campus. Can you tee up with a friend or can you find suitable individual living digs somewhere else? By having a place to go to each day away from the influence of the constant party people, it can be a lot easier to avoid the temptation of yet-another-alcohol-infused event.
    • Take care about rooming blind –– you don't want to end up living with someone who drags the parties off-campus and right into your new home. Ask questions about the party preferences first! Or better yet, see if you can room with a friend or friend of a friend.
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    Support your like minded friends and fellow students. Being drunk a lot of the time isn't cool but it's often paraded as cool by those who like to see themselves as the party animals of campus. Let them be but at the same time, don't put yourself down. Instead, be supportive to friends and students who also don't want to spend a lot of time partying and drinking, letting them know that it's okay to be this way and it's fine to want to pursue other interests. Go out together to the movies or a meal in place of all the parties, so that you can still have a great time together, just minus the alcohol.
    • Hang out in clubs or coffee houses that don’t serve alcohol. Plenty of hip coffee houses or the student union are alcohol free but allow for plenty of social interaction.
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    Enjoy a few parties minus the alcohol. Try not to spend your entire life wedged between the library stacks––getting out and enjoying the parties can form part of your sobriety plan. There are a few tricks to staying socially involved on campus without falling for the darker side of permanent hangovers. First of all, don't back out of all invitations; instead, be choosy. Go to those parties that seem like there will be some fun to be had and where you know the people going. Assess the worthiness of every drinking occasion thrown your way before agreeing to it and have a ratio of agreeing to say, one out of every three invites. When you actually do attend, here are some other tricks to keep you sober:
    • Find out where the non-alcoholic beverages are. Juice is great for making the pretense of participation without too many questions being asked––after all, anything could be in the juice, right? Or, while everyone is destroying brain cells with a vodka tonic, have a club soda with a twist on the rocks. Other party goers will think you're pounding vodkas while instead you're staying lucid and watching the circus unfold around you.
    • Sip your drink as though it has some strong potion inside. If you chug your non-alcoholic drink, partygoers who think they're being helpful might start ordering you shots to cover your lack of a drink. Instead, be nonchalant about how your nurse your drink and make more of the focus on trying to have a discussion with your pals.
    • Surround yourself with trusted friends also disinterested in getting drunk. Find a reasonably quiet spot to chat and observe from.
    • Set a decent time to leave, preferably before the party antics are way out of control. Dropping in for an hour or two should suffice and ensure you get the atmosphere, catch up with people, enjoy yourself a little and still get back to bed at a decent hour.
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    Drink just a little. While this step is optional, staying sober during college doesn't mean being a complete teetotaler. The real art is in drinking just enough to enjoy without becoming drunk––for most people this is in the order of having only one to two glasses for the entire night. It means that you can enjoy a taste of something (and always choose quality alcohol to make this worthwhile) but then you acknowledge your limit and finish. It takes willpower, which is something that will set you in good stead for the rest of your life so learning it now can't hurt.
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    Go wild now and then. Let your hair down and be a little crazy around the drunk people––without actually being drunk yourself! The drunken mob around you won't remember if you danced the can-can or sang Lady Gaga songs at the top of your voice out of tune but they'll probably have a great laugh and even join in at the time. You don't need to be drunk to be a bit of an exhibitionist, and hanging in the drunk crowd can be the perfect excuse to let the crazy out then disappear back to your dorm quietly, with nobody remembering a thing the following day. (If they do remember, tell them they're exaggerating.)
    • Punk your friends. You have the advantage of being lucid and in total control, allowing you to play silly pranks on your pals while they're too drunk to know what is going on. The old hand in the warm water or mustache drawn on the face with eyeliner can be a fun way to get a little more mileage out of the evening and your sobriety. Obviously, don't do any pranking that involves something permanently damaging or harmful, including permanent alterations to the appearance, illegal activity, dangerous activity or reputation damage such as posting photos/videos on the Internet.
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    Avoid preaching. There is nothing more boring and more inclined to turn away potential friends and supporters than to hear someone pontificating about how evil alcohol is and how every drunk person is doomed to fail. People just want to have fun when it comes to parties and leisure time and many of the people drinking have probably worked really hard all day and see the party as a way to relax. You've decided that having fun is possible without alcohol and that's great but it's a whole lot better to show your strength by example, in the doing, than to go on and on about how superior you are to people who can't control their drinking tendencies. Seek to get the balance right between encouraging others to drink less and simply letting be but showing how you can still enjoy life without relying on alcohol all the time.
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    Find fun beyond parties. If the means of celebration has become a little too cliched and everyone heads off to the same bar or party hall each time, look for other ways to have fun at these times. Some examples include:
    • Hit some concerts. See a band with another sober-minded friend or group of friends. You can all focus on the music instead of drunken drama.
    • Go to dinner. With all the money you're saving on not having booze, you can most likely afford a meal that’s not Ramen or mac n’ cheese. Find a restaurant near campus you love and make a reservation and be sure to take a friend or two with you.
    • Enjoy a live sports game. Tee up a group of interested pals and head on to a sports match. Place limits on what can be drunk (if it's even allowed) and organize bets or some similar way of following the game that rewards everyone for making guesses about the event.
    • Enter a challenge of some sort, such as a sporting event, a competition related to your subject, etc., that involves travel or attending a large, exciting event. This can be something to look forward to, to prepare for and provides and opportunity to meet new people and discover new things or places.
    • Create parties that revolve around doing something themed rather than just turning up and drinking. Host a whodunnit night, plan lots of party games that require skill and bright thinking, show movies, run a book club, hold a cooking competition, etc. When people are focused on an actual activity rather than simply gathering, there is often a lot less pressure to drink and a lot more pressure to stay focused on the tasks at hand. It's still fun, as the mind is occupied in achieving something!


  • Keep a running total of how much money your friends have spent on alcohol and how much you’ve saved. Consider a financial goal such as purchasing a car or something substantial by graduation.
  • Try to keep your eye on the prize. Why did you go to college in the first place? If the answer is “to drink”, you should really re-examine why you're there!
  • Keep your sense of humor intact. Watching wobbly, giggly friends try to sit down in a chair (and fail) can be pretty hilarious and awfully good entertainment sometimes.
  • Avoid staying near people who drink a lot. Most of the time people stay near their friends who love drinking and that might make you obsess over it. Try to stay near people who are sober for years and ask them how it was.


  • If you're with someone who has had too much to drink and appears to be having trouble breathing or has lost consciousness for a considerable amount of time, perform CPR and call Emergency Services. Alcohol poisoning is real and can be deadly if not treated immediately.

Things You'll Need

  • Non-alcoholic drink alternatives
  • Alternative events to attend

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