Life&Style Writer Grace Fynn draws upon her own experiences of being sober at university, offering her tricks of the trade and suggesting alternative social activities

Written by Grace Fynn

TW: This article discusses themes of alcohol use

‘So, how come you’re not drinking?’ – The question any sober person dreads. The ‘why?’ question. The question normally asked by a stranger at pres who is already slurring their words and shoving any random drink in your direction, because you can’t possibly not be drinking! Britain’s university culture is so deeply rooted in drinking alcohol and drinking to excess that anyone doing the opposite stands out like a sore thumb, making staying sober at university a battle of wills. As someone who rarely drinks (but isn’t doing Dry January, mainly because I forgot and had a glass of rosé two days ago), I know and loathe this experience. 

Recent YouGov surveys found that young people aged 18-24 are the biggest consumers of low and no-alcohol alternatives

You’re not alone in trying to drink less. Recent YouGov surveys found that young people aged 18-24 are the biggest consumers of low and no-alcohol alternatives. 44% say they consider themselves to be an occasional or regular drinker of alcohol alternatives. The survey also found that our generation is now the most sober age group overall, with 39% of us not drinking alcohol. So, it’s no surprise that more young people are attempting Dry January.

What is Dry January? 

Dry January is a month-long challenge to not drink any alcohol. The campaign was launched in 2013 by Alcohol Change UK, with the aim of changing the UK’s relationship with alcohol. The charity had record numbers of people taking part in Dry January in 2023, as over 175,000 participants signed up for the challenge in the UK. 

But what are the benefits of this? Is there any point in giving up the booze?

Research carried out by the Royal Free Hospital exploring the benefits of Dry January, published by the British Medical Journal in 2018, found that participating in the challenge can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, lower cholesterol, and reduce levels of cancer-related protein in the blood. Clearly, attempting the challenge is worth it. Alcohol Change UK also says that many people who complete the challenge continue drinking in a much healthier way after the month is over.

participating in the challenge can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, lower cholesterol, and levels of cancer-related protein in the blood

Tips and tricks to help you stay sober:

So you’ve told all your mates you’re doing ‘Dry Jan’, you’ve got every resolve to complete it, and surely it can’t be that hard!! But then the first sports night rolls around and how could you possibly face it stone-cold sober? Well, as a girl who has done such a thing (and yes sometimes it is as bad as it sounds), you’ve come to the right place to get all the tricks of the trade:

Take a soft drink to pres.

This will help stop all the intrusive questions. People will see the bottle of Pepsi Max in your hand and just assume it has lashings of vodka in it. Trust me, nosey people are the worst bit of being sober, so anything to distract them helps.

Pick your night.

I find that picking and choosing when to go out makes the biggest difference to whether or not you have a great sober night out or an awful one. Think about who is coming, how messy they’re likely to get and where you’re going out. Personally, going to Rosie’s sober is not a night I’m eager to repeat.


Or a nap. Either way, you’re going to get tired way before your drunk mates are, so you’ll be grateful for the caffeine.

If you want more tips and tricks for staying sober but still having lots and lots of fun, I recommend following Millie Gooch, creator of the Sober Girl Society, which champions fun without booze. 

What to do instead of a sober night out:

If the prospect of a sober night out is just too daunting for you, but you still want to do something fun (that isn’t just hiding in your room watching The Traitors), here’s my (very much not comprehensive) list:

Go to the cinema.

This is an obvious one but a good one. Use all that money you’ve saved not drinking and buy yourself a cinema ticket! What with all the bonkers films out at the moment (I’m looking at you Saltburn), there’s bound to be something interesting to watch.

Try Birmingham’s Roxy Ballroom.

Although technically a bar, Roxy Ballroom has many fun things to do, including bowling, ping-pong, and shuffleboard. You won’t need booze to keep things entertaining!

Go to the ballet.

We are extremely lucky that Birmingham is home to the incredible Birmingham Royal Ballet. It offers something very different to the typical Circo Monday but well worth it for students: a rare bit of culture. They also do student deals, which you can find on their online student sign-up page.

Go for dinner.

Treat yourself!! As I’ve already said, you’ll find that you save loads when you go sober, so why not splash out on a nice dinner?

And with that, you’re more than prepared, whether you are facing Dry January, or just trying to drink less in general. Good luck!

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