Stoptober - Staying Sober at Uni

If you think Stoptober is difficult, I’ve done the equivalent of 22 Stoptobers in the last two years.

I gave up booze almost two years ago after a near death experience (unrelated to drinking) convinced me that whilst living healthily involves way too much exercise, life is too precious to spend quaffing pint after pint of a known poison. Strictly no more chugging beer, vodka or ricin milkshakes for me.

By and large it’s been a positive experience. My bank balance remains at mysteriously high levels long after I’ve been paid (the first month of being sober, I assumed my bank had made a mistake and would shortly hound me for the money). I feel healthier and I rarely have issues with slurring.

But there are down sides, and mixing with uni friends in this sober state has definitely been one of the more difficult challenges of the whole thing.

If you're attempting Stoptober, or are trying to stay sober at uni, here's what to prepare for and some tips on how to stay entertained in a nightclub at 3am when everyone else is off their face.

The Conversational Cliff

It’s around 10pm, people are sat around drinking in the kitchen or lounge, having sophisticated conversation (maybe about politics, or the correct way to wear a cummerbund) and shots are suggested. Beware. The conversational cliff is approaching.

It’s an odd experience (one you’ve probably all been through at some point) when you are sober and the person you’re talking to suddenly becomes drunk. It feels like the moment in Roadrunner cartoons, where the Wile e Coyote runs over the edge of a cliff but doesn’t fall until he looks down.

You’ll be talking away with your sober(ish) friend (the cliff) and having a coherent conversation, when suddenly you look down and realise the person you’re having the conversation isn’t really there, they’ve been replaced by a drunk (in this already straining metaphor- air). You try to recover by dumbing down your conversation, but it’s too late. All that’s left to do is hold up a hilarious sign and then meet your fate:

Drunk conversation dive

From here on out conversation is about to take a massive dive. It will mainly consist of “banter” and naming things that look like penises (or, if you live with a more sophisticated crowd, Shakespeare quotes about penises) and then saying the word “banter”.

But don’t despair; there is still fun to be had with incredibly drunk people if you get a little creative.

Get drunk on power

You may not be able to outsmart others when they’ve got their wits about them, but it’s surprisingly easy to outsmart even philosophy PhD students when they’re off their face on Jaeger-bombs.

I personally spent most of a sober birthday party convincing my friends that a “toilet selfie” was a thing, then that a toilet selfie was a thing they should be doing, and finally that a Facebook is the perfect medium for sharing their toilet selfies. It was one of my proudest moments.

Drinking game for sober people

There are alternatives, but treating close friends like human puppets is by far my favourite.

Another fun game is pretending to be drunk, and then revealing at 3am that you're stone cold sober. Order non-alcoholic beers and pour them into pint glasses. Get the right brand (Becks Blue, for example) and they’ll taste terrible and will make you feel ill, which will only help strengthen the illusion that you’re getting drunk. Act like the drunkest person in the room. Let your jaw go slack and keep telling loose acquaintances that you love them even though they’re a dickhead.

Then at around 3am reveal you’re stone cold sober. Straighten up your jaw and tell loose acquaintances that you approve of them generally even though you've heard mixed opinions.

No-one will believe you're sober at first. I’ve done it many times, leading to several bizarre (but entertaining) arguments with a friend informing me that I was so off my face I just thought I was sober, and it was probably time I got my stomach pumped.

When they finally do believe you it they'll look at you like you've performed some kind of bizarre witchcraft, and will never be thought of as the "boring sober one" ever again.

The night is for the drunks, but you own the morning.

At around 3am when everyone is incapable of forming coherent thoughts longer than "kebab me hungry eat kebab yum food" it's bound to get a little boring for sober spectators, whilst the drunks are entertained by every pretty light they walk past. But don't despair, the morning is yours to enjoy, if you've put your prep in.

Whilst the fun part for drunken friends is doing or saying embarrassing things that they can forget about by the morning, your fun part is reminding them of what they did in the morning. Make sure you mine the drunken conversation: You’ll be surprised how often asking “what’s your darkest secret” will yield blackmail gold.

Embrace non-alcoholic drinks

I've tasted pretty much every non-alcoholic alternative to booze there is, in search of something that vaguely resembles beer. I didn't realise I was basically looking for the Holy Grail until I'd spent around the same amount of money the Nazis in Indianna Jones and The Holy Grail did on their doomed search.

As far as I can tell, making something that tastes like beer without alcohol is impossible, just like making something that tastes like bacon is impossible without a pig and the willingness to kill and eat that pig. However, that doesn't mean Quorn doesn't taste delicious, it just means they have a naming problem. They shouldn't be calling it bacon flavour Quorn, because people know what bacon tastes like. What people haven't tasted is panda. Call it panda and no-one will be able to say "but this tastes nothing like panda" without being hounded by Unicef.

In the same way you shouldn't think of non-alcoholic beer as "beer" but as "miscellaneous drink substitute", and you'll enjoy it a lot more.

Best alternatives to beer:

Best tasting alcohol free beers

By far the best non-alcoholic beer has to be Bavaria 0% Wheat Beer, followed closely by Cobra Zero. You can generally find a six pack of Bavaria for around £2.00, with Cobra just a little pricier in most shops. Bavaria tastes practically as good as Hoegaarden, and Cobra Zero as good as Cobra, though the flavours are somewhat unique. Bavaria really is the panda of non-alcoholic beers.

They're much cheaper than regular beers, but the main advantage of course is that they can be drunk at 9:00am in a lecture or seminar without judgement. You can openly down pint after pint of non-alcoholic beer every morning until someone approaches, concerned, and inform them that they're non alcoholic.

I'll level with you; it's very nearly the only upside of being sober at university.

Please be Drinkaware.

Strictly for AFTER Stoptober, why not check out 7 drinking games every fresher should know...