The college drinking craze is widespread and has even become an expectation among students. From frat nights to pub crawls to tailgates, booze is not a rare bird in college towns.
Drinking alcohol isn’t for everyone, however. AlcoholEdu, Iowa State’s alcohol education program, reported that in the 2020-2021 school year, 54% of students who responded to the AlcoholEdu survey described themselves as “abstainers”. The program described this category of students who had “not consumed alcohol in the last year”.
The decision to abstain from alcohol is diverse. For some students, it’s legal, religious, medical, or emotional. These students go against the perpetuated college stereotype, for whatever reason.
Timothy Nessel is a graduate genetics student at Iowa State and president of the Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) on campus. The CRC is an on-campus peer support group that helps students struggling with substance abuse or addiction navigate their college experience and available resources for recovery.
As president of the Iowa State CRC, Nessel observes what abstinence from alcohol can do for a student’s social life.
“I think part of that is an expectation that individually or in our social groups, it’s integrally integrated into that college experience of meeting people…has to include partying and drinking,” Nessel said. “I think that kind of stigma, especially when shared by a large number of students… can make someone feel like an outsider or separate from a larger culture or environment. “
Nessel said friendships and other social outlets are important in establishing a booze-free circle.
“We kind of provide a community and a brotherhood to people who are struggling with this in their lives,” Nessel said. “In recovery, in a larger format…it’s really helpful. It’s really helpful for people to share their experiences and see that other people have the same experiences.
The CRC organizes two weekly meetings. Nessel hosts “Rootless” every Tuesday, which provides a space for students to check in with each other on recovery, socialize and support each other. On Thursday, a support group is facilitated by a trained recovery counsellor. To learn more about the CRC, visit their website.
Amber Mohmand is a journalism and philosophy junior. For her, drinking was never really a priority.
“I grew up a Muslim and my family don’t drink,” Mohmand said. “I never had alcohol around me, so I kind of learned to live without it. As I got older and went into college, I was curious, but I still didn’t really see it as a necessity.
Mohmand said abstaining from alcohol allows her to be more present with her friends and enjoy the things that are important to her.
“It’s just one thing I don’t do, like how some people don’t eat peanuts,” Mohmand said. “If you have good friends and good enough people around you, they’ll get around that.”
Mohmand said it’s sometimes difficult to make friends as a non-drinker or to set boundaries with friends who don’t fully understand his decision.
“Sometimes people ask me to be DD⁅designated driver⁆, which is hard to say ‘No,’ because of course I’ll be driving my friends home,” Mohmand said. “Don’t assume your sober friend has the mental energy to do it.”
Mohmand has found good friends who are both drinkers and non-drinkers. She says friends who understand her decision are the ones to keep.
“Once you’ve found someone who’s willing to put in the effort to make accommodation for you…that’s really good,” Mohmand said.
Carter Norgaard is a first year student in primary education. Being a non-drinker is pretty laid back and nonchalant for Norgaard.
“I always felt like I could have fun without drinking,” Norgaard said. “My friends and girlfriend supported this, and no one around me ever really drank. I just fell into it.
When he got to college, Norgaard said he noticed that drinking and having fun seemed to be linked. Having friends who share the same views and interests keeps him sober.
“There are almost 40,000 people on this campus and if you search long enough you will find sober people that you enjoy being with,” Norgaard said.
Alex Brown is a freshman computer engineering student. Brown said abstaining from alcohol is partly because he’s underage and partly because he’s not ready.
“I tell myself I’m going to stay away until I feel like it,” Brown said. “At this point, I just don’t feel like I need it in my life.”
He said things like his classes and his hobbies keep him busy and busy; alcohol might just get in the way of that.
Iowa State offers services for students seeking recovery from alcohol addiction through college. student welfare department. The department also offers frequent non-alcoholic campus events through groups such as the Student Union Board.