Managing social situations while not drinking

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.

13 Comments

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  • These are great tips. I’m a few years into not drinking so these days my good friends are used to it. But a lot of people can try to make things difficult for you when you mention you’re not drinking – from gentle jokes to serious pressure to outright accusations that you’re ruining their fun. In some people, it seems to bring out deep seated fears that they might have a problem themselves. The more non-drinkers are aware that this is coming, the better we can prepare. We need to be honest that social situations can be quite hard, but the pay off is worth it. And your true friends will stick around. If they value your friendship, they will value you sober.

    By Paul
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    July 3, 2021
  • Thank you for this Blog, I have many social situations coming up soon, wedding’s etc, and I am already starting to stress how I will get through them. These ideas are great and I will put them in place to help me graduate to being a sober participant.

    By Jeanie
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    July 3, 2021
  • Thankyou
    Very helpful and correct during dry July

    By Adrienne
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    July 3, 2021
  • This is such a good reminder. I have been sober for 10.5 months and social situations are still so hard with the pressure from others. But even a message to my friends before it mentioning I won’t be drinking helps avoid awkwardness. 🙂

    By Sarah Burgett
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    July 3, 2021
  • I make myself the ‘official’ photographer for the night. Moving around the room and getting pics of people before they get too messy and sending them to them is a great way of opening conversations and keeping a record for the host and the attendees. It also opens up conversations with people I haven’t met before, keeps me busy and connected before I slip out the door completely unnoticed by anyone, go home, put my feet up having enjoyed a sober night out.

    By Sally
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    July 3, 2021
  • Thank you for this x

    By Amy
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    July 3, 2021
  • Very good and another useful tip is to give yourself permission to leave when you’ve had enough of watching others who are inebriated

    By Norah Byrne
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    July 3, 2021
  • I have always had really complicated relationship with alcohol abusing alcohol but here I am again embarking on my sobriety journey. I think we need more lovely and resourceful arcticles like these. Sometimes we know things but hearing or reading them reaffirms our views and decisions. Thank you

    By Richard Fazliu
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    July 3, 2021
  • Great tips, thanks guys 🙂

    By Edwin Bolanos
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    July 3, 2021
  • Really helpful things to think about and use before the situation and then after. thanks

    By LN
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    July 3, 2021
  • Most appreciative of this valuable realistic info and doable social scenarios- such a great supportive blog now that I am finally beginning to take it more seriously for my long term health ~ thank you.

    By Deanna
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    July 3, 2021
  • Thank you. This advice came just in time

    By Ann
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    July 3, 2021
  • An excellent blog, Briony. Thank you. It would be useful to save and read before attending social events, especially in those first few awkward months

    By Dunc
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    July 4, 2021
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