Drink or don't: it's your choice

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For a first-year teetotaler, abstaining from alcohol was an isolating decision.

Going into university as a non-drinker, my high school friends joked that I would have trouble fitting in. Yet I remained optimistic that there would be plenty of others like me at Queen’s, and that my choice to be sober would surely be respected.

That wasn’t necessarily the case. Frosh Week came and went and I witnessed the excessive university drinking scene first-hand. People seemed to drink with the intent of becoming blackout drunk, making out with strangers and wearing the least amount of clothing in cold weather.

Social invitations become increasingly limited when you take alcohol out of the picture. Stating the obvious — I don’t drink, period — was too daunting and intimidating of a task for an introvert.

Instead, I found myself fabricating excuses for not drinking: I claimed to be too tired, feeling sick or behind on readings.

In reality, I just had no interest.

Your decision to consume or not consume alcohol doesn’t need to be justified to anyone. It doesn’t matter whether you have moral objections or religious or medical reasons; it’s no one’s business but your own and you shouldn’t be judged based on that singular fact.

According to the 2013 National College Health Assessment survey, which included approximately 1,200 Queen’s students, 72.3 per cent of first-year students consume alcohol. This means more than a quarter of first-years don’t drink. Evidently, I wasn’t as alone as I imagined.

Yet I still felt as though I didn’t fit the Queen’s mold. We were supposed to work hard and party hard. In a social setting where it seems that nearly everyone binge drinks, non-drinkers can sometimes feel like outsiders.

Looking back, I realize you have to actively seek out like-minded individuals.

Immerse yourself in friendships with people who accept your personal decisions and make you feel comfortable being yourself. Religious groups, clubs and sports teams are all good starting places, especially when you feel trapped in your residence environment. Nowadays, I enjoy a few drinks as much as anyone else. But I also don’t mind staying in some nights to cook a meal, watch Netflix or Skype with old friends. I still prefer being a homebody because it’s what feels the most true to myself.

Like most things in life, there’s a balance. It’s okay to let loose every so often and it’s also okay to hole up inside your dorm room with a bowl of popcorn.

Abstinence doesn’t make you any less of a Queen’s student.

Chloë is the Journal's Lifestyle Editor. She’s a fourth-year English major.

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