It’s 8pm on a Monday. Shouts of “ref SERIOUSLY what are you at?” filter from the NuBar into the corridor of The Hub and travel upstairs to The Mezz. Here, another bunch of students have gathered to make even more noise. Usually, a Music Soc open mic night finishes with the committee members clearing the empty cans of Jack Slattery’s off tables and floor. Tonight, the revellers are going dry.
The open mic night is being held together with Sober Society, a new society in DCU aimed at bringing back the idea we had when we were nine years old; all you need to have fun is good friends and a can of Coke. The society was set up by its current chairperson, Ferdia Mooney, as a way to help sober people socialise, as well as promote safe drinking in a culture where alcohol features in many of our social events.
Making friends in your first year of college is hard. Making friends when you’re the only one who doesn’t drink on a night out makes it even harder.
“I found myself with nothing to do, with nowhere to go,” says Ferdia, a first year Multimedia student. “You can go out to a nightclub and not drink, which is fine, but it’s tough when everyone around you is drunk. So this an alternative, where people can go and nobody’s drinking. People can just talk and have a good time. If you go to a club or an event where people are drinking and it’s just drunk people, there’s not a lot of talking. You can talk at our events, you can come and make friends.”
It’s a sentiment shared by final year Irish and Business student Seán Ó Grifin. He hasn’t drunk alcohol since he was 17, as the lack of control he felt when drunk frightened him. “You think you’re unstoppable, you do stupid things you instantly regret. After my third time drinking, I just said no more.” Seán has found it tough to talk to people while on nights out, especially when people question his abstinence. “People don’t know what to say to you. The one that really gets to me is when people think I’m looking down on them for drinking, they come up to me and say they feel conscious around me because I’ll remember the things they’ve done.” As this makes Seán himself feel uncomfortable, he tries to distance himself from people with this viewpoint on his lifestyle.
While some of the reaction to the society hasn’t been ideal- “Dominos’ Pizza shared our Facebook page recently in a bad light”- the overall reaction has been “hugely supportive”, beginning with the society’s AGM two weeks ago. “I thought it would just be my friends coming up to support me,” Ferdia recalls. “But there were people there who were actually interested in the society and in what we do. There wasn’t an empty seat in The Mezz. We’ve surpassed Friends Soc in terms of Facebook likes, and they just won Best New Society at the Society Awards.”
The SU have gotten on board with this new idea, and Ferdia hopes to work with Kenneth and Eve next year, both of whom have pushed for more alcohol-free events around DCU next year. “It would be great to work with the SU, not just to put the society out there, but to promote its idea too.” Both the current and incoming Welfare Officers were available to Ferdia whenever help was needed to set up the society. “Lorna really helped me set it up and pushed me to make sure it happened. Eve was also on hand any time I had a question.”
Ferdia hopes the new society will help to improve the negative press students have burdened after the drinking craze “NekNominations” swept the country. “I don’t know if it’s going to overshadow it, because there are a lot of negative things that can be said about students. But I do hope this will help push the positive things we do. We hope this will shine a new light (on students) and give people something new to talk about.”