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How to Have Sober Fun in College

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

Happy days with friends

While it can’t be denied that the ostensible purpose of college is to prepare young people for careers and nurture their minds, for many freshmen entering college the main thing they look forward to is having a fun time. In the popular imagination college is a time for partying, drinking, and hooking up.

In fact, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, one third of college students regularly engage in binge drinking. Almost 10% of college students engage in binge drinking very frequently — defined as 5 or more days per month. College students drink heavily for a number of reasons. 

For many, it is a form of stress relief from academic and social pressures. Others do it because they want to be accepted by their peer groups, especially during this time of being away from family for the first time. Others drink because they suffer from addiction.

How to Have Sober Fun in College?

For sober students this heavy drinking can appear to be an unwelcome aspect of the college experience. Many sober students worry that their sobriety will prevent them from having fun. Will they be unable to attend parties? Will it be more difficult to make friends? Will college just be a boring academic slog?

These are questions and fears that everyone in early sobriety has. Ultimately, college is no different from every other part of life. It is always possible to have fun. After a while, most people in recovery come to the conclusion that staying sober is actually more fun than abusing drugs and alcohol.

Ideas for Having Sober Fun in College

  • Throw sober parties. For many students, the college experience is about partying. This is true in particular at a party school. There’s no reason to abandon those experiences even if you’re sober. There are likely plenty of other sober students on campus. Chances are, even students who aren’t in recovery would have a good time at a sober party.
  • Join a student organization. Universities always have a wide assortment of student organizations to join. They have student organizations for every kind of interest. There are organizations devoted to political purposes, organizations for career networking, or more hobby-focused organizations. If you don’t see an organization that interests you, you can create one yourself. These organizations can be incredibly great ways to meet people with shared interests, and most have nothing to do with alcohol.
  • Play a sport or work out. Joining a league to play a team sport like basketball or dodgeball can be a great way to let loose and release some of that extra stress. Not only will you meet people, you’ll get in shape in the process. Some studies have even shown that exercise decreases the chances of relapse. Chances are, you’ll also end up looking a lot hotter than the average drinker with a beer belly. And if team sports aren’t your thing, you can always hit the gym and do a solo workout!
  • Schedule a game night. Invite some friends over and let the good times roll! You can set out some old fashioned board games or the latest video games. If you’re worried about sober social occasions being awkward or filled with long silent pauses, playing games can be a great way of breaking the ice and giving people something to focus on.
  • Plan a movie marathon. Watching movies can be another great way of lessening some of the pressure involved in having a conversation. Not only does it give you something to focus your attention on for two hours, but you’ll have a shared experience to talk about afterwards!

How to Refuse Drinks

If you worry about looking lame not drinking at a non-sober event, there are many ways to refuse a drink smoothly.

  • Offer to be the designated driver. Not only is it a great excuse, but your friends will be grateful — and safe.
  • Hold an alternative drink in your hand. Holding a soda or Gatorade can be a great way of not feeling like an empty-handed weirdo at a party. For many people, having a drink in the hand is just about having a prop — not getting drunk.
  • Get up and dance. If you’re being active and doing something physical, chances are no one will wonder why you’re not taking shots. In fact, they’re likely to put down their own drinks and join you on the dance floor!

Getting Help

Staying sober in college can be difficult. It’s never fun to do it alone. If you have a problem with substance abuse, it is often a good idea to attend 12-step meetings. 

For those who need more structure and social support, aftercare programs like  sober living homes can be wonderful opportunities. People enrolled in sober living homes tend to have higher rates of recovery. Having a strong sober social support system can also be one of the best ways of having sober fun in college!


Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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