Tales From The Designated Sober Friend

Tales From The Designated Sober Friend

I may not be the person singing their heart out on the dance floor, but I get to keep my memories and laugh about them time and time again.


Every friend group has a designated sober member. This isn't necessarily a person who doesn't drink or who everyone looks up to, it's simply the friend who feels responsible for the safety of the group and usually ends up being assigned the title of "mom" for the evening. They're willing to have a low key night if they know that there's not another capable driver. They look out for the members who are notorious for leaving their drinks around at parties, and they always leave a glass of water on the bedside table of the friend who partied a little too hard and who's body has decided to turn in for the night.

I personally take on the title of the "designated sober friend" of the group because I feel obligated to look out for my friends' safety; I'm the type of person who tends to take on the responsibilities of the whole. It's not that I don't like alcohol, it's that I'm the pretentious friend who you roll your eyes at when I tell you that my idea of a night of drinking is a glass of wine with my mom at a French restaurant. While I respect that taking body shots of $10 vodka off your best friend might be a fun experience, I'd much rather observe the situation than partake in it. This leaves me in the position of not only the driver, but also the overall peacekeeper. Although it can be frustrating at times when I'm the only person in their right mind and I'm attempting to get a handful of intoxicated people home safe all by myself, I'm a very strong proponent of safety and I'd rather my friends know they can call me in times of need than have a calm evening to myself.

In my time as the designated sober friend of a variety of groups of people, I've gathered quite a few entertaining stories. Here are just a few of my experiences:

1. I watched a drunk girl try to pay her $8 entrance fee into a party with nothing but pennies.

2. Around 3:00 a.m., my suitemate accidentally called her dad instead of her friend, and when he answered, replied with, "You're not my friend! Shit!" and then promptly hung up.

She got a lecture about the danger of alcoholism from him the next day.

3. I once passed 5 different public safety officers while crossing campus with a couple of friends' arms draped around my shoulders and dragged them all the way home without being noticed.

4. I have a friend who drinks strawberry flavored vodka, walks up to people when drunk, and yells "strawberry breeze!" while blowing in their faces.

5. Me: "Hey, can you come help me?" Friend: "I'm sorry, but I am so intoxicated that I physically cannot move."

6. Since I'm known for being a huge Disney fan, I was approached at a party by a drunk acquaintance who suggested that we buy into a Disney Vacation Club membership together.

7. I herded a group of severely inebriated theatre majors who were belting lyrics from "Rent" across a six lane road safely.

8. People in my dorm building have paid me to pick them up from parties in advance, and I've even been referred to as the "Joyful Taxi Service".

9. Friends have been so far gone that they haven't recognized me, and strangers have confused me for family members or best friends.

10. Hurricane Joaquin: A Short Story

My most interesting designated sober friend experience happened during my semester at college on Long Island. Due to a nearby hurricane, we were all stuck in our dorms for the weekend until the storm blew over. Naturally, this meant that people had nothing better to do than sit in their common rooms and drink until the morning came. And of course, that is exactly what my friends decided to do.

To respect the identities of the people present that night, I'll call them friends A through H. We had all gotten together in a friend's suite to have a movie night while riding out the bad weather, but since this was college, it was only a matter of time before the alcohol bottles were slid out from various hiding places and the solo cups were dug out from under the couch. I could tell from the beginning that this night was going to be an adventure, and I was right; within half an hour of the whipped cream vodka making an appearance and the start of the dance party with participants severely lacking coordination, the first friend cracked and set in motion a domino effect.

Poor friend A had already been drinking earlier that night and had finally reached a point of intoxication where all she could think about were her flaws and everything negative she thought about herself. She sat down in a corner and cried her eyes out to friend B and me about how she would never be successful in her career and was afraid that she'd never be happy. We sat and comforted her for a bit, and when she finally calmed down, she asked if anyone wanted to go out to her car and smoke. I agreed to walk friends A and B outside and wait on them in my car while they participated in illicit activities without me, but just as we were about to leave, friend C got very sick in the bathroom, having reached her limit as well. I managed to enlist the assistance of friend D in helping me with her, but it was a lost cause, and I ended up having to call friend C's roommate to get her escorted home. Realizing that it wouldn't be long before everyone started hitting the ceiling, I began the process of mentally checking off each friend as I attempted to put them to bed.

With friend C on her way home with her roommate, making for one down, I went back into the room to check on the status of everyone else. I found friend E, who didn't have much experience with alcohol and therefore a minimum tolerance for it, sound asleep under her bed. The friends that still had functioning motor skills helped me lift her, limb by limb, onto her bed and attempted to tuck her in, as she snored through it all.

Just as one problem was taken care of, another arose. Friend D began talking nonsense and throwing up in the suite's very small and inadequate trash can. Friend A grabbed a bag from the communal bin in the hall and we guided his delirious self down the hall to his room. With a good bit of effort, we managed to get him onto his bed and some water in him, and, thinking he was taken care of, went back to the main room.

Ready to finally walk friends A and B safely outside to calm down, friend F decided to join us, but after making a brief stop by the bathroom on the way out, informed us that he had just puked his guts out and would be putting himself to bed now. Happy to have an easier one, I mentally checked off another box.

But of course, it couldn't be that easy. After walking friends A and B out to the parking lot, I came back inside just in time to find friend G running down the hall in tears. I quickly guided her outside to talk to her about why she was upset, where she promptly vomited in a nearby bush. We spent the next 15 minutes sitting on the pavement in the pouring rain while she told me about her concern for friend D and his drinking. Just as she had wound down and was ready to go back inside and head to sleep, friend D busted out of the front door, having somehow gotten back out of bed. His appearance sent friend G into another fit of hysterics, and I was stuck in a crossroad of which poor soul to help out first. Fortunately, I had my first lucky break of the night; friends A and B came back right at that moment and we were able to divide the task. I threw friend D's arm around my shoulder and got him back inside, and even managed to snag a trash bag just in time for him to start throwing up again. We made it about halfway back to his room before he passed out cold, leaving me with a body much bigger than my own to get up a flight of stairs. Taking inspiration from Jean Valjean in the sewers of Paris, I tossed him over my shoulders and somehow managed to lug him back to his bed, where he stayed for good this time.

Scrolling through the list of friends from the room in my head, I realized that I hadn't seen friend H in a while. I checked in the suite and no one was there, so I gave her a call. "Hey, it's Joy, where are you?" "Oh, everywhere." Crap. "Um, honey, can you be more specific?" "I think I'm on a couch." I crossed my fingers that she meant that she was in the building's lobby, because I was worried that I might have to go searching the nearby buildings for her. Luckily, she was exactly where I had hoped she was, lying upside on the common room's couch. I half escorted, half carried her back to her building, and since the umbrella we had been using was hers, trekked back to my complex in the hurricane.

Hoping that my pilgrimage was nearing an end, I went to look for friends A and B, the only remaining players. I found them in my room, where A was puking in my toilet and B, who didn't even live on campus, was asleep on my couch. Once A was recovered enough to move, she joined him and fell asleep within minutes.

It took me a few minutes to realize that I had successfully completed my mission. For the first time all night, it was quiet, and I could breath easy knowing that everyone was safe. I checked the time and was startled to find that I had been running around taking care of my friends for over 3 hours. It had been such a non-stop task that I hadn't paid attention to anything but them. Exhausted, it was finally my chance to get in bed, and in the short few seconds before I went to sleep, I was proud of myself for putting so much effort into being a good friend, even if most of them wouldn't remember what I had done by the morning.

College kids and people of all ages aren't going to stop making stupid decisions regarding alcohol anytime soon, but I'm going to do whatever I can to make sure that they get home safely.

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