According to the National Union of Students, 21 percent of uni students don’t drink. I include this fact because I assume that many readers, just like me, will be shocked by this statistic.
Prior to my arrival in Edinburgh, I had an expectation that uni life would be an endless stream of drinking to oblivion. Freshers’ Week did little to dispel this belief. Other than my enforced day of rest, due to the Fresher’s Flu, I spent every night of Freshers in some way inebriated. From my naïve English discovery of £2.75 Tenents in Southsider to Jägerbomb after Jägerbomb to fuel the Dutch courage required to greet 500 people with enthusiasm, with the intention of deciding which five I will spend the rest of my year with. After a fairly chilled-out summer, Freshers’ Week showed me things I hadn’t previously realised my body was capable of.
A couple of new friends have declared their profound appreciation for the ominous week and its help in assuaging their potential alcoholism (the abysmal nature of their hangovers was so potent that they have vowed to never touch tequila again). Many others said the ease at which they socialised after being pumped with giggle water had turned them into an alcoholic in ‘the most jokes way.’
This refusal to discuss issues of addiction with any seriousness or sobriety (excuse the pun) certainly helps to contribute to the problem. Whilst drunk antics can be comical, the truth behind the humour is far less funny. Alcohol is ranked as the most dangerous drug in the world. Your body is crying out for water, your brain swelling as every instinct is slowed and your judgement melts away.
The problem here is both that alcohol is deeply socialised into our way of life and that it genuinely is an enjoyable experience. Alcohol suits freshers so perfectly for many reasons, it’s an escape from any kind of curfew or the authoritarian dictatorship of high school. It can also be very stressful having to assert yourself as the angelic saint that you are. Alcohol relaxes you, and even if it doesn’t make you better at anything, it certainly feels like you become the social butterfly that your subconscious always told you lurked beneath the surface.
It seems inarguable then, that for many, freshers would be impossible to experience in the same way sober. Nevertheless, the drinking has slowed down. Last night, I spent the evening pottering between washing machines, having a headache from using the Circuit app, instead of from drinking to excess. But, I felt no obscene FOMO. Missing out on Love Wednesday’s was not the war crime that I thought it was 2 weeks ago. While, in that first week, binge drinking is certainly habitual, it seems very possible that as time goes on, I can be a bit more relaxed when it comes to my pints.