How to Avoid Drinking Culture When You're Not Feeling It

By: Andie Horowitz

As a rising senior in college, binge-drinking culture is no foreign concept - especially at a Big Ten school like the University of Michigan. When I'm there, I’m frequently surrounded by drinking-focused events but it's actually been this summer, in particular, that's been the most challenging season in regard to drinking.

It makes sense: longer days spent outside in the warm weather with friends who are ready to socialize in the modern post-quarantine era. While the frequent celebration is an exciting change of pace, it can also lead to unwanted side-effects. Headaches and nausea... anxiety and fatigue... sometimes you're just not in the mood for it.

Some opt to take alcohol's negatives with the positives, weekend after weekend. On the other hand, I'm the first to admit when hangovers become too disruptive to deal with regularly. But summer's in full-swing and the alcohol-based events are in no short supply. With that in mind, I wanted to investigate the best methods and alternatives to curb binge-drinking culture, keeping in mind convenience not only for myself but for those around me. After scouring the internet for tips and tricks, here are some of the most effective techniques I’ve found to stay enjoyably sober (especially when everyone around you isn’t). 

1. Mocktails

One of the best parts about drinking is the variety. Summer beers, delicious cocktails filled with bright-tasting ingredients, and seltzers are weekend go-to's. While they're tempting when everyone is out in the sun - mocktails have your back if you want to take a breather. You may not get the buzz, but the internet is plastered in recipes that offer the flavor and energy boost without the ABV. Simple, store-bought ingredients like mint and cucumbers can serve as appetizing and aesthetically pleasing add-ons. And companies like Seedlip and Ritual Zero Proof offer direct nonalcoholic substitutes for liquors like Gin and Tequila. 

2. Herbal and CBD pre-made drinks

Still looking for a relaxing and elevating buzz? New beverage companies have come onto the scene offering nonalcoholic drinks infused with other botanical ingredients to help you achieve precisely that. Brands like Kin Euphorics and Pulp Culture advertise herb-based drinks with dependable flavor, while Proposition Cocktail Co. boasts CBD cocktails that claim to ease customers into tranquility. While fun to consume, do keep in mind that these products have little research on their claimed efficacy. 

3. Consider more out-of-the-box activities

While casual parties and relaxing kickbacks are easy and reliable, it’s always exciting to spice up the repertoire. Try advocating for some alcohol-friendly (but not required) group activities like outdoor concerts, walking food tours, or drive-in movie screenings. Looking for something more active? Consider a low-movement but engaging sport like a friendly game of beach volleyball. Everyone will be hyped to get involved and if you stay sober, you'll probably be the best player in the sand!

4. Offer to DD

Everybody loves the designated driver! It's a win-win. You can help guarantee the safety of your friends and family while simultaneously taking care of yourself. Keep your keys handy and dedicate yourself to an alcohol-free night, all while helping the party curb the Uber surcharge. You'll be thanked instead of judged for offering up the ride.

Make it cool to not drink when you don't want to

The days of pressuring friends to drink are over. If someone wants to go for it, let them! If you want to chill out for the night, that's cool too. There are many online resources that can help you successfully integrate all of the tips in this post, from flavorful mocktail recipes to local notifiers for finding fun events. Take advantage of the options and remember: you can still be the fun friend even if you don't drink.

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Hell is a half-filled auditorium.

// Robert Frost