On this blog we’re answering one of our most commonly asked questions at Daybreak – how to manage social situations when you aren’t drinking. For some people, social anxiety makes it tough to face social situations without a drink. For others, social expectations of former drinking buddies make a night out feel stressful and potentially full of awkward conversation. Alcohol and social situations often go together, so here are some tips for feeling more comfortable when going into one of these situations, sober.
1. Set expectations early
As much as we’d like people to be empathic and understanding, we have to acknowledge that sometimes people will be disappointed if we aren’t drinking, especially if they have been drinking buddies in the past. A good way to make sure that you aren’t pressured or put into an uncomfortable situation is to set expectations early on – whether this is a text to a friend as you’re arranging a catch-up letting them know you’re not drinking, or mentioning in conversation a few days ahead of time. This gives them time to get used to the fact that things will be a bit different, and your decision is more likely to be processed and understood.
2. You do ‘you’
Yes, we can be considerate to our friends by giving them some notice about our decision to take a break, but it is also important to remember that this is your own personal decision. If people are pressing you on your reasons for this, or debating with you the values of non-drinking, you are well within your rights to set a boundary. It’s not really your issue if this makes someone feel uncomfortable about their own drinking, or if your decision not to drink means that the night will be a bit different. Our decision about how we use alcohol is really personal, and we don’t really have to explain this to anyone if we don’t want to, and we certainly don’t need to feel guilty or uncomfortable about it.
3. Tasty Replacements
Once you’ve taken care of the interpersonal side of things, you can then focus on what will replace alcohol for you in these moments. Some people focus on hydrating with water (and wake up feeling amazing), and others find alcohol-free wine or beer is a good in-between – especially since there are now some great selections available. For BBQs and home events, kombucha with soda and lime, or fresh juice or iced tea can be a refreshing replacement, and if you’re out on the town, virgin mojitos and fancy alcohol-free cocktails can be a real treat.
4. Focus on conversations
When we’re drinking, often our conversations can be a bit superficial and unsatisfying – we aren’t really making an effort to get to know someone or make a connection. When we’re not drinking, we have the opportunity to pay attention and be present in our conversations in a really interesting way. People who are new to not drinking find this is a good way to get through the first few social events without alcohol – focus on the value of having good and meaningful conversations with people, which you could also argue is one of the purposes of having these social catch-ups!
5. Self-care and reward
As great as it can be to attend social events sober, what with being able to drive, the lack of hangover or money spent, and the opportunity to have interesting conversations that we remember – we also need to make sure we are practising self-care and rewarding ourselves for making this change. This might look like scheduling something nice the following day that we can enjoy in the morning, or making sure we have a curfew that gets us home in time for a couple of episodes of our favourite TV show and a cup of tea. These kinds of things can help reinforce the value of our decisions, and can give us the chance to decompress from a social situation and reflect on how things went.
We hope you’ve found these tips useful. If you’re thinking it is time to make some changes to your relationship with alcohol, I’d recommend you visit the Daybreak app at the link below. You can get the help and support you need from a community of people with similar goals to you, as well as help with getting tailored support by our Care Navigators, if you need it. Changing your relationship with alcohol doesn’t have to be drastic or involve huge changes to your lifestyle – it is more about figuring out what is going to work for you.