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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Alex Borg poses for a photo with an accordion on Soldiers and Sailors Lawn.
Alex Borg: Her accordion anchors a ‘no-man Jimmy Buffett band’
By Patrick Swain, Culture Editor • April 12, 2024
Opinion | CPCs, get off our campus
By India Krug, Senior Staff Columnist • April 12, 2024

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Alex Borg poses for a photo with an accordion on Soldiers and Sailors Lawn.
Alex Borg: Her accordion anchors a ‘no-man Jimmy Buffett band’
By Patrick Swain, Culture Editor • April 12, 2024
Opinion | CPCs, get off our campus
By India Krug, Senior Staff Columnist • April 12, 2024

Beyond the brew, Pitt students share sober stories

Wine+is+poured+into+a+sink.
Kelechi Anucha | Staff Photographer
Wine is poured into a sink.

In a world where campus culture often revolves around parties, late-night gatherings and weekend revelry, it’s easy to overlook the presence of people who abstain from alcohol. Some students choose to trade in the hangovers for clarity and the shots for shared stories.

For some, the essence of a college experience is not bound to the bottom of a red Solo cup. The decision to abstain from alcohol and all other forms of drugs can be obvious for some or very complicated and difficult for others. Regardless, sober students exist at Pitt, and each of them has a different story to tell. 

Everett Cannon, a junior data science and computer science major, said the decision to be sober has always been clear due to his family history. To him, being sober means not experiencing the effects of addiction, which those close to him have lived through. 

“The biggest thing is family history. Addiction and substance abuse are pretty common in my family, so I know that I’m genetically predisposed to an irresponsible relationship with substances,” Cannon said. “Seeing firsthand how addiction affected them and set their lives back and how it affected me and pretty much everyone in their lives, I saw how easy it is to fall down that hill. Just seeing and experiencing that really turned me off of it.” 

Despite having a strong reason to be sober himself, Cannon does not think any reasoning is necessary to abstain from drinking. He said those who question someone’s reasoning to be sober tend to do so because they feel judged. 

“Your reasoning shouldn’t matter, but for some people, they almost need a rationalization as to why you don’t drink,” Cannon said. “I think to them, it’s almost a defensive response. They feel as though your abstaining is criticizing their choice, when really, I couldn’t care any less if someone else drinks.” 

Michael McMahon, a former Pitt student, found his way to sobriety through music. McMahon said he never had any interest in the drinking culture he grew up around, and music only helped him understand that preference more. 

“Before I came to Pitt, I went to a high school that had a strong culture of drinking and partying,” McMahon said. “Around that same time, I found straight edge, which is a subculture of hardcore punk that abstains from all drugs including alcohol, and that type of music really appealed to me and I latched onto it, and now it’s like my life’s obsession.” 

McMahon said being sober can keep you young and helps him live a happy life without needing substances. 

“For me, it really was just music and bands like Minor Threat and Youth of Today that made me set on being sober,” McMahon said. “One line from the song ‘Betray’ by Minor Threat says ‘Goddammit, we were supposed to stay young.’ To me, that means if you don’t let drugs and alcohol influence you, you do maintain your youth in a way. It’s not like maintaining innocence, but more in the sense that I can have fun without drinking or getting high. My life is awesome and I’ve never really needed drugs or alcohol to have fun.”

McMahon said his ability to be in an environment where people are drunk changed as he got older and people responded to his presence differently. 

“In high school, I really didn’t like being around people who were drinking, but I’m fine with it now,” McMahon said. “Through college, I learned that some people are just going to get drunk, and I don’t have to make it my problem if they don’t make it mine. And people tend to appreciate it for practical reasons like having the designated driver and someone to be a bit more responsible when things are crazy, so I no longer have a problem with it.”

For Maher Oueida, a master’s student in public and international affairs, the decision to be sober wasn’t exclusively a matter of preference, but something more complicated. Oueida said his decision not to drink was influenced by religion, finances and personal awareness of his habits. 

“I grew up in a Muslim household, my mom is a very devout Shia Muslim, and because of that drinking never really interested me growing up and it doesn’t interest me to this day,” Oueida said. “I feel like I have an addictive personality so this is also personal for me, but at the same time I don’t want to take on a financial burden, but mostly it’s a religious thing.”

Oueida said constantly being surrounded by drinking culture has made it difficult for him to voice his discomfort with drinking. He said this experience changed as he became more comfortable with his choice. 

“During undergrad, out of fear of being excluded, I would push myself towards being around people that were drinking,” Oueida said. “More recently I learned how to put my foot down and just recognize that I do not like being around people who drink. It’s okay if people do, but I just have no desire to be in those environments, especially because I was forcing myself to go to those places.” 

Oueida’s experience highlights how friendships influence the decision to embrace sobriety. For those trying to find a path toward sobriety, McMahon said analyzing your friendships is an important step. 

“Honestly, I would say really consider the people that you’re surrounding yourself with and the activities that you’re doing,” McMahon said. “A question a lot of people should ask is ‘Would we all be hanging out if we weren’t getting drunk every weekend?’ Maybe don’t surround yourself with people that can’t have fun without drinking, because you’ll feel like falling into that too.” 

Whether a person abstains from alcohol because of religion, or familial reasons or personal preferences, Cannon said choosing to be sober is a decision only you should make for yourself. 

“There’s definitely some anxiety around drinking, but for the most part I don’t feel any judgment towards people drinking around me,” Cannon said. “When I go to a party and people are drinking, I just stay until it’s not fun for me anymore. There’s no pressure to abstain but there’s also no pressure to drink, do what you want, and make an informed decision based on the risks and on your own values.”

About the Contributor
Nada Abdulaziz, Senior Staff Writer
Nada Abdulaziz is a senior majoring in Philosophy and Biological Sciences. She loves spending her free time reading, hiking, and watching Studio Ghibli films.