How to Stay Sober at a Party
I suppose it was inevitable, but my little suburban self didn’t really believe that alcohol and drug influence at my summer pre-college program in New York would “be a thing” until the Smirnoff was thrust at my face. Suddenly, I was faced with the age-old question: to take a swig/hit/huff/shot/blow/snort, or to...not?
Relying on my personal integrity (scary, ikr), I decided that participating in any of the aforementioned activities wouldn’t be for me. The challenge didn’t end there, however, and maintaining my decision—for the better of me—was a harsh test of myself. I'm sharing what I learned in hopes that you will be encouraged to stay true to you. I’ll drink (water w/ lemon) to that.
Find a role model.
It was during a Facebook IM convo with my lovely friend and Teen Dream curator, Brittany Natale, that she told me she had never once drank or done drugs. Often feeling lost and alone regarding the treacherous terrain that is the outside art world, I was sure that everyone I knew who inhabited this land led a life of casual drug and alcohol abuse. That’s just how things go, right?
A life in New York, college, work within the art scene, and her new popularity with Teen Dream Gallery hadn’t dented Brittany’s steel values when it came to what she was OK with putting in her body. When I was most weak and closest to throwing my intoxication virginity down the floor’s trash chute, I remembered Brittany in all of her sober success. The loneliness that I caught from being the supposed “outsider” at these parties was most easily deflected by the sense of comradery and responsibility I felt toward Brittany to keep myself above the hype and away from situations that I knew I wasn’t ready for/flat-out did not care to be in. Ultimately, the responsibility was towards myself; however, Brittany was there in role model-spirit to keep it in check.
Get a sober pal.
Impossible as it may seem, there are going to be others who share your lack of interest in toxic and/or illegal substances! I was lucky enough to have found one of these rare wunderkinds at a dorm party, where we connected over our interest in photo shoots, Instagram art celebs, and laughing our innocent asses off at these half-human, half-uncooked noodles flopping around us. Neither of us could stand to miss out (she’s a Cancer; I’m a Sagittarius), so we kept each other in check by being human outlets of understanding, as well as the only person that the other could look to in a shared moment of “Yes, I did just see that happen." No pact was ever made, but I knew that I couldn’t let her down by leaving her stranded as one of the last (and possibly the last) surviving members of our kind.
Take the creative angle.
"Oh come on, you would be SOO COOL high! Like, I bet you would make some rad art...yeah, hey, wouldn’t she do some sick drawings and stuff?” Every time I hear this dribble from someone’s limp mouth, it incites some feeling of rebellion in me (hah, maybe I am an artist after all!). All I want to do is wake up the next morning for the rest of my life and prove to all of the imbeciles who have told me this in my small lifetime that I don’t need their mini fridge vodka to be “cool," and that my art doesn’t need your acid to be “rad."
I once took my sketchbook to one of these parties and found that the lethargically slow-to-move forms of drunkards made par for figure drawing practice. Not only did I get some work in, but I quickly became the center of some attention. Apparently, drunk people are more interested in having themselves drawn than they are normally. The extra great part: Even when my sketches sucked, they loved them anyways. Although I never resolved how I felt about becoming a novelty to this crowd, with my sketchbook and charcoal in tow, I was certainly glad to have been able to find amusement and participate without relying on substances as the key in.
Remind yourself why you aren’t doing it.
I once had an editor say in an email that she doesn’t do drugs/drink when she is upset. She made sure before every time she did something that she was emotionally sound and wasn’t about to drown her blues in liquor or vaporize them with a joint. Along with Brittney’s anecdote, I kept this in mind whenever I considered substances. Survey says: 95% of the time I was depressed and looking for a way out; 5% of the time I was wanting to “fit in,” which has led me astray SO MANY TIMES before and therefore is a completely intolerable reason for doing anything, in my book.
By Alyson Zetta Williams, 17