Drunk on sobriety

Photo by Jessica Dik

Photo by Jessica Dik

Children of Wilfrid Laurier University: grab your blankets and hug your teddy bears. I’m about to tell you a horror story — one that will make you shiver and shudder and cause your little heads to shake with disbelief. One that will quake your reality and suck your imagination into unknown realms. You’ll think it’s a myth, an unruly fairy tale, a lie that defies all logic within the mystical boundaries of social dimensions.

Once upon a time, I went to a club sober.

Throw the confetti! Bake me a cake! Light the fuckin’ fireworks!

Legend has it, such a daring, bold and unthinkable act has been attempted by few brave knights before. Some have lived to tell the story. Some have been defeated by the fiery wrath of social expectations — the dragon deemed impossible to be slain.

Why would anyone enter the dungeon without a sword? To learn to battle the enforcing monster with nothing but their own two hands — and a pair of eyes that see a little more straightly.

Many students feel powerless in social situations without their ‘empowering’ liquid courage to save them from their sober selves. Imagine the tedious shame of soberly talking to strangers. Imagine the insecurity of dancing in public without dignity-maintaining elixir flowing through your veins. Such risks are a danger to the reputations we work tirelessly to protect. But as the great Simba of Pride Rock once said, “I laugh in the face of danger.”

Alongside my group of friends who are stumbling over their own feet, reeking of beer and rum, I walk into the the club with nothing but half a bottle of Gatorade bouncing in my stomach.

As usual, lights flash, music thumps, glasses clatter and chatter buzzes. But it’s all received more clearly than ever before, like a once-distorted television reception finally blasted to high definition. I’m alienated while registering the crystal-clear familiar.

Abandoning my typical routine of heading straight to the bar, I instead move towards the dance floor. The vibrating speakers get my foot tapping. Excitement stirs inside me. Fuck the dragon of social expectations. I can do this.

But wait: thoughts invade my mind. I can’t dance now. People will judge me.

They’ll know that I’m sober with my obvious coordination. They’ll question my sanity. It’s better to play it safe, to keep my secret hidden.

My buddies are pounding tequila shots at the bar. The liquor calls to me like the One Ring to rule them all, but as I stand soberly within the Cracks of Doom, I know the temptation must be destroyed.

So I surrender to the music, ignore the thoughts and do what I’d do if drunk. With my hooligan friends jumping into the action, I dance like the idiot I am.

Afterwards, I also talk to people. Somehow they respond. Apparently, being drunk is not the only bypass to talk to strangers. Also, believe it or not, no megaphones or translators are required.

A few more realizations pop into my abstemious mind.

People care far more about how they themselves are perceived than how they perceive me. Nobody gives a shit that I’m sober. Well, they do when they more deeply consider the idea of themselves being judged through clearer eyes. But that’s far from a secret that needs hiding.

Alcohol is part of our lives; it’s a prominent force within university culture. We may still raise our red solo cups — I refuse to believe that getting shitfaced is a sin — but we must also realize that having fun and intoxication doesn’t always need to be two sides of the same coin.

Some people often neglect going out because of the toll alcohol takes on their bodies. The thought of partying makes their stomach churn; anticipating the burn and fearing the expected damage keeps them locked behind their bedroom doors.

But, as I’ve learned on my brave and adventurous quest of sobriety, you don’t need to be drunk to do what you’d do when drunk. In fact, I’m a much better dancer without it — at least when I’m not kissing the sticky floor of Phil’s trying to do a handstand.

As the cliché often dictates, university is a place to learn in and out of the classroom. We want to explore socially, yet we find ourselves bound to the social lifeline known as liquid courage. For some cases it’s so extreme that students refuse to be in any social situation without a beer safely in hand. Is this really coming out of our shell? Or is it just using a magic potion to unlock the imagined chains holding us back?

Drinking is an escape that can build memories, forge relationships and alter your decisions for great stories.

It can also transform those that are timid and shy into all the brash confidence of Donald Drumpf — which, to clarify, is not to say that you could afford the entire bar a round (which many may believe once sucked into this cocky, financially-detrimental state), but a direct way of saying decent human beings can suddenly metamorphose into loud-mouthed, red-faced assholes that want to pick a fight with everyone who stands in their way. Confidence can be beneficial, but too much of it can make some enemies.

Altering your neurotransmitters every time you want to break the ice isn’t a sustainable way to socially explore.

Why? Because the following morning you’ll always find yourself right back where you started: lying in bed with a throbbing hangover and a half-eaten box of Pizza Maniac collecting flies on your beer-stained floor.

Few students are prepared to test their sober boundaries, and if they do, it’s as unbelievable as a fairy tale and as shocking as a horror story.

But in order to slay the dragon, we must not be afraid of the flames.

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