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Sunday, February 05, 2023
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Finding solace in Sundrop as a teetotaler at UW-Madison

Close your eyes and picture a party. What is the first thing you imagine? Chances are, you pictured alcohol in some form. Alcohol is at the heart of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s reputation as a party school. Yet here I am, an oddity. While I may stick out like a sore thumb for several reasons, there is no reason more striking than me being a teetotaler: someone who does not drink alcohol.

People have asked me why I don’t drink and more often than not, I think to myself that it is none of their business. Although, if the question comes from people I care about, I try to give an answer along the lines of, “I’ve never really cared for it.” In reality, there’s a lot more to it. 

It is true that I don’t really care about alcohol. I was raised in the United Arab Emirates — a predominantly dry country — so I came to Madison not knowing much. Now, I am adept at recognizing the smell of beer, which is probably the effect you’d expect Wisconsin to have on me. However, I just don’t like the smell. I remember asking some staffers at The Daily Cardinal before the pandemic why they drank alcohol, and none of them enjoyed the taste or smell. All of them, as far as I remember, enjoyed the intoxicating effects.

This leads me to my next point: I don’t like the idea of being intoxicated. The idea of letting the warm embrace of booze carry me to a deep slumber sounds enticing. Who does not want to escape from the day to day? But I don’t want to lose control. I’ve not witnessed people lose control first hand, but the unpredictability of drunkenness and the subsequent hangover is not something I want to explore. 

Lastly, the health ramifications of binge drinking are no secret. I don’t want to drink a little, and then drink more and then drink too much. If I wanted to give my body a bad time, I’d rather drink something that tastes nice and is not nearly as addictive. 

Enter Sundrop soda. I was first introduced to Sundrop during the summer at a picnic in celebration of the drink. While Sundrop is refreshing, citrusy and an all-round great drink, it symbolizes something greater to me. Alcohol is typically the showpiece of the college social setting, and whenever I’m in such a setting, my options are an afterthought. On good days, I’ve had Capri-Sun or Gatorade, and on bad days, I’ve had tap water. 

In Sundrop, I found a drink that is not an afterthought and by extension, I feel less like one myself in alcohol-heavy social settings. For once, I find myself on level footing, even if it comes at the cost of ingesting more caffeine than the average soda. Had it not been for the infectious enthusiasm of Sundrop fans around me, I’d never have tried the drink. For that, I am grateful. 

I am not the first person to write about a teetotaler experience at UW-Madison, and I doubt I will be the last. There are more of us than one may believe. Misconceptions come down to the glorification of drinking culture, which pushes us teetotalers to the fringes of the college social scene. A study by University Health Services confirms this. But some of us are fortunate to find support in things like Sundrop. All of a sudden, we’re at equal footing, drinking away intrusive thoughts on days that will live long in memory. 

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Anupras Mohapatra

Anupras Mohapatra is a former opinion editor for The Daily Cardinal and currently serves on the Editorial Board. He is a senior double majoring in Computer Science and Journalism. 

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