Overheard On Campus: I’m tired of the party scene. What can I say to my friends so they don’t think I’m blowing them off?

Contributed by Daniel Gittins, M.A., Rebecca Smith, M.A., L.C.P.C., C.S.A.T., & Amanda Anastasio, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.

My first thought after seeing this question on the Advice section of MyStudentBody was, “If they’re really your friends, then they won’t think you’re blowing them off.” Some of our experts had a similar reaction – read what they had to say to this student below …

Portrait of a young woman sitting at a bar counter with a drinkDaniel Gittins, a coordinator of alcohol and drug programs at Duquesne University, says …

As a follow-up question: Are you tired of drinking or of the social atmosphere involved? I’ve had many young adults ask what they can do if they don’t want to drink but still want to attend a party; others are just phasing out of “the scene” and are moving on to other interests and activities. If you still want to go out but don’t want the alcohol, bring bottled water or soda to the event with you, and keep it with you throughout the evening. People are less likely to ask you if you want “a drink” if you already have something in your hand. This way, it kind of reduces the direct, or sometimes passive, pressure you would feel to grab a drink.

If you’re phasing out of “the scene,” then there may be some decisions to make. First, have an informal sitdown with some of your closer friends over a cup of coffee in a relaxed setting, and explain to them how you are feeling. You might be surprised to find many others may be feeling the same. By showing them you trust them enough to share these feelings, you may prove that they understand and are supportive. Sometimes others want to do alternative things, too, but just aren’t sure what to do or how to bring it up. If they feel like you are “blowing them off” and tend to hold that against you, then maybe it’s time to meet some new people with the same interests you have. It’s good to explore new “scenes,” and it might open a lot of new possibilities for you. That doesn’t mean your friends are “bad” or “wrong;” you might just be evolving into a new era in your life. That can be exciting, can add a lot of fun, and can maybe reduce some drama.

Rebecca Smith, a counselor at Aurora University, says …

Help your friends understand why you are getting tired of the party scene. There are many reasons why students decide they don’t want to party anymore.

For example, if your grades have dropped because you sleep a lot after a night of partying, then let your friends know you have to take more time to focus on your classes instead of going out drinking.

Or maybe you are realizing that you need more downtime. Being in college means you are surrounded by a lot of people and usually have a very hectic schedule. If you are more introverted, you may need to get away from people for a few hours to restore your energy. Extroverts usually become more energized while being with a group of people, but this is not the case for everyone. Tell your friends you want to chill by yourself a couple nights a week.

You could also be worried about the amount of alcohol you drink while at a party and want to avoid that altogether.

Just be honest with your friends that you want to avoid alcohol for awhile and suggest other options like bowling, a movie night, or a game night in your dorm room. If they are real friends, they will be there for you even if you don’t party with them anymore.

Amanda Anastasio, a clinical social worker, says …

Nobody wants to be Debbie Downer. But when the scene is all about drinking and alcohol, it’s normal and healthy to be able to recognize when enough is enough. I commend you for acknowledging your own limits, which is often a very difficult thing to do. What can be even more difficult is changing things up in a group that may have some social routines.

The quick fix would be to say you’re not feeling well or have studying to do, etc., but it’s not a long-term solution. The best way to handle it is to tell your friends that you would rather switch things up from time to time and suggest some non-drinking-related activities that you could do as a group. This sounds more sugary sweet than that margarita you’re passing on, but if you should be able to be yourself with anyone, it’s your friends, and if they are worth their salt, they will hear you out.

Ask yourself, and your friends too, why is it that you are drinking all the time – to escape pressures or work? Does it seem to help you relax, forget responsibilities? Is it purely a social thing, ending up the default activity? The truth is the reasons are probably different for different people, but acknowledging what they are will bring to the forefront the idea that always having alcohol when getting together and being social isn’t the norm, and it doesn’t have to be, just because you are young and fabulous.

Suggesting new escapist, relaxing activities may be the key to not blowing off or backing down but stepping up and being the one that makes something happen. Every group of friends needs this person; why not let it be you?

Chances are really good that there are at least a few others who would jump at the idea to hang out sans booze and try new fun activities, but they have the same worries and fears that you have and don’t want to be the only buzzkill.

Have some ideas to throw out there that you can do as a group, or have people suggest some and pick some favorites. I have always loved movie night, trying a new recipe, or doing a potluck dinner complete with themed dress (Is that too much information about me?). You can’t go wrong with baking dessert and playing a game in teams. It is always fun to look up live music in your area, maybe go bowling, or try a new restaurant or coffee shop.

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