‘Sober’ and ‘student’ are two words that rarely go together. However, third year student Carli Smith spent March alcohol-free in aid of Lincolnshire Police’s Operation Nova.

The initiative started in 2009 with three main aims to tackle domestic abuse, alcohol related anti-social behaviour and violence in the night-time economy.

Carli got involved in the campaign by chance as a friend was telling her about the campaign needing a slogan “so being a Marketing and PR student I jumped at the chance,” she said.

After coming up with the “sober student” slogan, Carli is not only the face of the campaign but is in charge of the social media surrounding it, including the Facebook page, Twitter account and writing the blog.

She updated the Operation Nova blog after every (sober) night out, with guest posts from friends who joined in having an alcohol-free night out.

Before her challenge began, Carli experienced a Friday night in Lincoln with Lincolnshire Police as part of the “Safe in the City” programme to see the effects of alcohol abuse first hand: “I was actually in the prison van itself, so I was responsible for taking people who had been arrested to and from the streets and putting them into the cells for the night,” she says.

“There was a young lady dressed in not very many clothes and her boyfriend had been handcuffed on what was quite a serious allegation, and she was linking arms with him and just joyfully eating pizza whilst her boyfriend was arrested.”

Before she began her alcohol-free month, Carli hoped that it would make students realise that you don’t need alcohol to have a good night out: “I think I’m trying to make the point [that] people put themselves at risk when they’ve had too much to drink and probably do things, say things and just act like general idiots when they have had too much to drink, so hopefully it will make me more aware as well.”

“I was slightly apprehensive [at the start]. I don’t think it was the fact I couldn’t drink, but more the freedom of being able to do it was taken away. I had my last ‘drinking’ night out on Saturday with friends and family and have to admit I don’t think I will miss how I felt on Sunday morning,” she says.

Carli’s Diary – Final day, March 19th

Pre-drinks were relatively easy, I sat sipping Lucozade from a cup and despite the pile of peer pressure that I was subjected to – “We won’t tell anyone” “No-one will see” – I didn’t give in! Was I tempted? Yes! Of course I was, the girls were giggling and dancing around in the lounge and kitchen and I was plonked on a chair.

I didn’t take much persuading into the dancing though and I was strangely more steady on my feet than I would have been had I had a drink. I certainly felt the cold more than I would have if I’d been drinking and kept yawning – not something that would happen if I had a double vodka and red bull! However, I broke through the tiredness and got to the Engine Shed.

One of the perks of not drinking meant I didn’t have to queue for a drink and when I fancied a drink of water I pushed through and asked someone to order one for me – due to it being free they didn’t mind and said it was their “good deed for the day”.

But it’s the end of the challenge, one whole month without alcohol… When embarking on this adventure I was extremely apprehensive, nervous I wouldn’t fit in with friends and scared that I wouldn’t enjoy nights out as much, but to be honest the only effects have been positive.

I can hear my liver thanking me for giving it a break, my stock of paracetamols is at an all time high as I have not had to use any and my bank balance has drastically improved!

Do I think I will stay alcohol free? In a word: no.

It has been an interesting month and hopefully I will have dispelled the myth that you have to be drunk to have a good night out… I certainly have proved it to myself.

Before the challenge I used to shudder with dread at the prospect of going out without drinking but now I don’t think I would give it a second thought.