Turning 21 While Being Sober

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674875FF-067E-4E7C-813F-EC434A4D1822Written by: Sammie Lee Wilhoit

Art by: Izzy Dickey


By the time this is published, I will have turned 21. When I think of 21 as a milestone in life, I think of the glamorous Instagram posts of my friends at a bar with a glass of wine or beer or a fancy drink in front of them. I know that my day will not be spent in this way. Although if it was, I would want to have a glass of champagne because that sounds like the kind of “extra” I crave in my life.

Instead, I will be going to Deli 126 which has a deli in the front and a speakeasy in the back. My therapist recommended the place because it apparently has a decent mocktail menu. That way, I get a nonalcoholic experience in a bar and live my 1920s dreams in 2020 all at once.

When I was young, I decided I did not want to drink. There are many alcoholics in my extended family and I do not want to have that experience. I am also currently on medication that amplifies the effects of alcohol. In other words, it’s best that I don’t  drink.

So far in my college experience, this hasn’t really bothered me. I haven’t gone to a party and I don’t plan on going to one in the future. During my freshman year, I really wanted to go to a party, until I realized there wasn’t anything there for me to enjoy. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, and I don’t like getting hit on by people—intoxicated or otherwise. Plus, in the few times I’ve been around drunk people, I become the Caring Best Friend character. I make sure they stay hydrated and that I am there for them in general.  

Also, I don’t feel comfortable being sober and flirting with drunk people because I can’t be sure that they are making consensual decisions. After all, anyone even slightly under the influence cannot give consent. Overall, the idea of partying really stresses me out. Still, every now and then I wonder if I’m missing out; until someone in class complains of the drama happening in their social life due to something they apparently said to one of their ex-friends when they were blackout drunk at a party.

But this birthday feels different. Momentous, perhaps. When I turned 18, I legally  became an adult and was allowed to vote. Now I’ve voted a few times, and am ready to have a check-in with my adult status. When I turn 21, I will be legally allowed to buy alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. However, I’m not interested in any of it. So, while society might assume that I will take advantage of this birthday and drink, I will celebrate it for what it is—another year of my life in this beautiful city.

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