Anxious about maintaining healthy drinking habits as you come out of lockdown?

As the world opens up and the atmosphere is feeling more celebratory, you may find yourself struggling to refuse drinks during reunions with families, friends and colleagues. Hello Sunday Morning gets how hard it is to stay the course when everyone around you seems to be raising their glasses to new-found freedoms.

There’s no denying that everyone approached the challenges of these last two years differently. Many used COVID restrictions to revisit their personal relationship with alcohol.

As reported, Australian media darling and broadcaster Chrissie Swan turned away from drinking and towards walking during Victoria’s lockdowns. She’s enjoyed the health and lifestyle benefits, sharing after a recent alcohol-free Karaoke night, “I can’t quite believe it but it IS POSSIBLE. Fresh as a daisy this morning and I still have my voice!’”

 

Chrissie focussed on what worked for her to achieve her health goals. But we know that as socialising gets into full swing, maintaining a choice to not drink isn’t always straightforward. Our Hello Sunday Morning Health Coaches remind us that “Making a change is hard. Changing our relationship with alcohol is a big step and it comes with its share of challenges.”

Especially at a time when everyone wants to celebrate.

We know from research that “the highest likelihood of consuming alcohol is around social occasions such as at a party or relaxing with friends”  

As we come out of lockdowns, and towards border re-openings and greater access to friends, we’re more likely to find ourselves in situations where we’re encouraged to consume alcohol. Sharing the news that you’re choosing not to drink can sometimes feel daunting too. 

Hello Sunday Morning’s social media posts have touched on the anxieties some of us feel in maintaining change while emerging from restrictions. Our Care Navigators (who offer additional and personalised support for our members through the Daybreak app) share that the secret to staying the course is having a strategy to keep you focussed. 

Whether you’re taking a break from alcohol altogether, or cutting back, try these 6 tips to keep you on track:

1. Practice your new social script

Having an idea of what you’ll say in advance really can take the pressure off, and help you stand your ground if someone’s insistent on pressing a drink into your hands. Be firm, thank them for the offer and try these lines to encourage them to respect your refusal:

“I don’t drink anymore”

 “I’m not drinking this year”

“I’m focusing on my health at the moment”

 “I have to drive home, but please don’t let that stop you.”


2. Include others

There’s strength in inclusivity. You may feel alone in your situation, but you might meet others who also taking steps away from socialising with alcohol. If you notice someone else abstaining from drinking, keeping them company could lead to stronger support strategies and create new bonds. This could help you stay alcohol-free as you’re building the habit to abstain .  


3. Social roles and jobs 

If refusing a drink feels all too hard, but you crave the company, why not appoint yourself a social role at each event? You could become the chief caterer, kid wrangler, games host, or even the person documenting the fun. Hello Sunday Morning community member Sally gets behind her camera to get way from temptation. 

“I make myself the ‘official’ photographer for the night. Moving around the room, getting pics of people and sending them to them is a great way of opening conversations and keeping a record for the host and 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 and put my feet up having enjoyed a sober night out.” 

 

4. Set a new social time 

You might remember George’s story. He altered his interactions with mates to stay on the sober curious wagon. “My daily routine became one revolving around the gym, study and seeing mates for breakfast or lunch instead of going to the pub.” 

Changing the way he interacted with others helped avoid tricky circumstances and awkward conversations while George was finding his feet. That may work for you too. 

5. Goal accountability

You could give yourself a self-talk session in the mirror to remind yourself why you’d invested in making the change. Or, you may need to lean on the support of others to help you stay on task, and remind you of the benefits

Kim re-evaluated her drinking in order to address her digestive health. She turned to the Hello Sunday Morning community to help her check in each day. “I know this festive season might be a challenge with celebrations, but I’m grateful for this community of people to help me through,” Kim shared.

Your own goals may centre around being more mindful for family, revisiting health benefits, or feeling more productive with your days. Asking yourself why you made the alcohol-free change, or asking others to help keep you accountable, can make all the difference in reaching your goals.

 

6. Forgive yourself

Even if you do accept a drink, or drink one too many, forgive yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for having a drink; others who choose to make change also struggle at times. Feeling guilty will only give you more stress, making you more inclined to drink again! You’re not weak, you’re just learning to adapt. Don’t lose sight of your initial commitment to drink less, or not at all.

If you feel you need company while moderating drinking, check in with the Daybreak community.  

Our Daybreak app is made up of a community of people who want to change their drinking habits, one day at a time. Its anonymous and supportive environment helps you check in with others, with Care Navigators to stay focussed on your goals, during festive times, and beyond.

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  • Some great tips thankyou. I’ve been avoiding social events but that with have to change soon. Sober for 2 months now☺️🏃‍♀️💪

    By Dedejoy
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    December 4, 2021
  • I have bought some of the non alcoholic drinks. I’m not sure I will drink them but I have them in stock as an option. My family tradition is centred around alcohol and I feel like an outsider. Tips by others would be good to hear!

    By Nicole
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    December 4, 2021
  • I don’t feel the pull in social situations anymore. It’s been 2 years since i stopped drinking and i love being able to jump in my car and drive home when i want to. I find taking a bottle of non alcoholic wine or beer or gin, gives me the social lubrication without the alcohol. Also my friends all know i no longer drink so there’s never any pressure or walking on eggshells (unnecessarily) around me. Thank goodness there are fi ally some decent alcohol free wines and champers on the market now that don’t taste like grape juice.

    By Othello
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    December 4, 2021
    • Othello, are you able to share your finds in particular with White Wine as I have a yet to find a decent non-alc white, they all are very vinegar/tangy/grape juice tasting.

      By KP
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      December 5, 2021
      • I’d also like to know what the drinks are too.

        By Michelle Beaven l
        |
        December 6, 2021
      • Yes I agree, I can’t find any that actually taste like wine

        By Kylie Stegeman
        |
        December 8, 2021
    • I feel the same! It’s also been just over two years for me as well – congrats! 🙂 Now that everyone knows I stopped drinking, most people never even offer anymore, or they even have non-alcoholic drinks on hand for me, which is nice! Like you said, it feels great to know you can leave and safely drive home at any time 🙂

      By TC
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      December 6, 2021
  • This is my third attempt at quitting alcohol for good and by far and away the easiest because I have already negotiated a lot of the issues involved, in particular my friends know not to pressure me to have a drink because they value our friendship. One really important lesson I learned early on was that the only people who care about what other people are drinking have major issues with drink themselves. Herbert Fingarette talks about this in his book Heavy Drinking- heavy drinkers seek out other heavy drinkers in the way people who like fishing seek out other anglers. Any friend I have lost because I don’t want to get drunk with them was not a real friend to begin with.

    By Richo
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    December 5, 2021
  • Thanks for sharing this! Lots of great tips. I’ve been alcohol free for over two years now. Some other things I’ve found helpful:

    1) As Othello mentioned, I recommend bringing something fun for yourself to drink. A new brand/flavor of kombucha to try, non-alcoholic beer/wine, fun sparkling drink flavors (like from Trader Joe’s here in the U.S.), or whatever you want. There may be others not drinking as well that you can share these with. (I like keeping mine in a small cooler or bag with my stuff, away from the alcoholic drinks.)

    2) If someone at a party asks if you’d like a cocktail, see if they’ll make it a mocktail for you instead of feeling like you have to immediately say no! I have a friend who is a former bartender; she always makes drinks for the group, including a non-alcoholic one for me that’s always very good. It’s a nice way to feel included, and for the host (or friend) to do something to include you, even if you’re not drinking alcohol like everyone else. I also like to ask bartenders what kind of fun mocktail they can make for me. I love seeing what they come up with!

    3) If you can, avoid the table or area with the open wine and liquor bottles. I just walk right past it. Don’t stop to peruse and see what’s there; do your best to act like those things are invisible to you. Sounds hard, but if you already have a non-alcoholic drink in your hand, you can just sail right past the drinks table to catch up with a friend or family member.

    4) If you see that a friend or loved one has drank too much, try to be kind and get them home safely, while also silently being grateful it’s not you. This isn’t meant to be mean; for me, it helps me clearly see how I used to be, and the impact my drinking had on others. It makes it easier for me to forgive the things people do when they’re drunk, while at the same completely reinforcing why I chose to give up alcohol. I no longer have to experience the shame and embarrassment of not knowing what I did the night before. I have WAY less stress now than I did while I was still drinking.

    It can take time and repeating yourself a few times before friends and family get the memo that you’re not drinking. After a while (at least in my experience), they will remember and respect your choice by offering you something else other than alcohol.

    Remember: You are strong. You can do this!

    By TC
    |
    December 6, 2021
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