Being alcohol free in university

Daniel Phelan

The word “challenge” comes to mind when thinking about the proposition of going “alcohol free” whilst studying at university. 

What can seen like a laborious effort, particularly when alcohol is a pillar of socialising and ingrained in student life, it can be challenging to stay away from the allure of going out with your friends and indulging in the odd alcoholic beverage. 

Some things seem to go hand-in-hand. Like fire needs the air, university students seem to hold a similar dependency on alcohol to exist. 

However, for one student I spoke to, alcohol doesn’t seem to have the same powers of enticement it once did. 

Tiarnán McGonell, third-year primary teaching student, spoke to The College View, “so far, this college year I’ve been alcohol free. I don’t really feel like I’m missing out on anything and I’ve definitely seen the benefits of not going out and drinking”.

For McGonell, this is not even a sacrifice as for him it hasn’t come at the expense of his social life, “I don’t really think it affects my social life, I still go out with my friends but I’d just get a non-alcoholic beer or a pint of water. It’s still nice to be out in that environment but it definitely doesn’t stop me from socialising or inhibit me from enjoying myself at all”, he said. 

McGonell accredits much of the success of this alcohol-free endeavour to his friends, “they’ve all been supportive, they haven’t tried to persuade me to drink with them or pester me to go on a night out so the people that you have around you definitely makes a big difference too. There’s no peer pressure”, he said.

“The choices your friends make and the people you surround yourself definitely have an impact on the decisions that you make. I suppose I’m lucky that I’m surrounded by people that have a similar outlook to me and at least they can respect my decision not to drink. I suppose the saying ‘birds of a feather flock together’ is fitting and one that’s true in my case anyway”, said McGonell. 

Tiarnán didn’t always have this attitude regarding alcohol and he remembers there were times even last year that he would over-indulge, “I used to be going out two times a week, if not three times. That’d have a considerable effect on the outcome of my week. Looking back, I genuinely do not know how I used to do that, it was just excessive”, he said.

What might seem like a drastic change was not all that radical, as McGonell said he cut out his intake “bit by bit”. The change itself was almost brought about coincidentally as upon returning for his third year at university he found himself “disinterested” with the drinking culture that comes with being a student. 

“It genuinely wasn’t a conscious decision I made, it just sort of happened and I’m grateful it did. I suppose the start of the turnaround came from putting on a bit of weight which was definitely to do with the needless calories I was consuming from alcohol. I wasn’t performing how I’d like to in my sporting life and I’d attend college and just feel absolutely drained from the exploits of the night before. Whereas now, I actually feel like I’m just making the most of my potential. I enjoy going to the gym and going to college isn’t a chore like it used to be”, he said. 

McGonell believes that alcohol isn’t a necessary element of student life and encourages others to try and curtail their intake, “even if you just try to go a month without alcohol, you’ll see the benefits for yourself”, he said.

Daniel Phelan

Image Credit: Pxfuel