A Dry Night: A how-to guide to a sober night out

There's more to university life than hangovers and tequila shots. Trust us. We pull together our top tips for a good night out (that also happens to be a sober one)

Article by Graham Peacock | 08 Sep 2023
  • A Dry Night

I can’t smell rum and coke without being hurled back to my first year at uni. In the final hours of the 2010s, when I first became a student, it was my drink of choice. It’s a smell that brings back the sticky bar floors and questionable club basements that littered my stint at academia. At university, drinking invades almost every space, and it often feels like making friends mandates a questionable pint at the pub, or an over-caffeinated Four Loco downed in the back of an Uber.

It’s something I wasn’t always into, but I’d feel obligated to partake in. An empty hand on a night out is usually met with an earnest look of concern and a plastic cup thrust in to fill the gap. Looking back, I wish I’d been more upfront about when I wanted to drink, and when I wasn’t interested. 

Whether you’re fully sober, or just want to avoid weekday hangovers in your 9am lectures, there’s ways to make sure you have the formative experiences that matter without a drink.  

Most importantly, don’t miss out

I don’t smoke, but I’m a firm believer that the smoking area isn’t so much a communal activity as it is a shared mindset. The same goes for clubs in general. Even though it’s an environment that seemingly revolves around alcohol, as long as you feel comfortable, you shouldn’t feel unwelcome if you’re sober. You’re just as entitled to be there as the guy up against the DJ booth, seven cans deep. When you’ve had enough techno, remember to grab chips on your way home with everyone else – it’s all part of the experience.

Actual sober nights out are an option

If you’d rather not be around alcohol or drugs at all, there’s places that seek to create sober environments for all guests. One such place is Good Clean Fun a Glasgow-based, alcohol-free club night. It’s a space which removes the challenges of being surrounded by alcohol, while providing the freedom to enjoy music and clubbing. If you’re sober, or dislike how intertwined clubs are with drinking, it’s a great place to meet like-minded people.    

Timing is everything

If you know you’re going out in a group where most people will be drinking or taking drugs, don’t try to match their speed. You’re going to have to take things at your own pace. Establish a pre-night-out ritual. Get plenty of rest. Have a Red Bull. Listen to Soundcloud remixes at an unreasonable volume. And, remember, you also don’t have to stay till the end of the night. Know your limits – if you’re getting too tired or feel uncomfortable, just leave.

Relax – you're all good

When people say they can’t go on a night out without drinking, they mean they can’t let loose without feeling self-conscious. Alcohol or drugs can be more of a placebo to help people feel at ease. To enjoy a night out sober you need to get out of the mindset that alcohol equals fun and sobriety equals boredom. Alcohol is an inhibition killer, but you can do that independently by focusing on yourself and your own fun rather than everyone else in the room. Surround yourself with good people and, eventually, it’ll come easily. 

Diversify the plans

When you’re a student, between working and studying, the imagination takes a hit. Drinks at the nearest pub or a night at whichever club has free entry can become the go-to. These are spaces where alcohol and drugs are pretty standard. There’s a lot more you can do though if you look for it. Check out which gallery spaces have evening exhibitions on, what restaurants do cheap weekday deals, or revive the lost art of a flat dinner party. It comes as a shock to us all but it’s true – you can actually hang out with people during the day, whether that’s for a hike, a coffee, or a rollerskate. Make the most of your student weekdays – you’ll miss them when the 9 to 5 comes. 

Whether you’re going into first year or you’ve been a student for a while, being upfront about what you’re comfortable with can be intimidating. But setting your boundaries when it comes to drinking is essential – even if it’s just for the night. Any awkwardness is probably one-sided, and you’ll get used to it fast. It’s also important to remember that it's not that serious. No one actually cares if you have the vodka soda lime or not.