It is tough to quit drinking. Not only do you need to re-wire your brain, you need to re-structure your life - every aspect of your life, including your social life.
In the beginning stages, it may seem easier just to avoid socializing all together; just the thought of a party can cause huge fear and anxiety. But eventually there will be a wedding, funeral, birthday party or family dinner that you simply cannot avoid - nor should you, because this event can help you to realize, it isn’t all about you. You need to show up for other people.
And so, how will you do it? Well, let me start by telling you what not to do - based on my own personal experiences:
1) Don’t spend every minute before the event, stressing about it and picturing yourself feeling embarrassed because you don’t drink. Don’t assume people will judge you or that they will think you are judging them. This negative thought loop could tie you up for hours or days… don’t go there. All the fear and anxiety lives in the moments before the event. When you get there, you will realize it was all for nothing. People really don’t care what you are drinking. It is YOU who is overthinking it, and only you.
2) Do not show up empty handed. Set yourself up for success by bringing your non-alcoholic drink of choice. My favourite is non-alcoholic Grolsh beer. Your host will be grateful there are no awkward moments that can happen when trying to find the sober person a non-alcoholic drink.
3) Do not look for evidence that you do not belong. Early in my sobriety, I went to a birthday party at which all I could do was pick out reasons I didn’t belong. People were talking about how much they love having alcohol available in grocery stores; people were complimenting the hosts on the fine wines they were serving; people were toasting and glasses were clinking. It was like the sound of a thousand nails on a chalkboard to me. I ran out of that house within minutes of arriving. All because I convinced myself I had no business being there, as a non-drinker. Of course this is ridiculous. Nobody changed their habits beside me. Nobody had decided I should not be there, in fact I was invited and therefore welcome to be there. It was all in my head. Don’t let this happen to you. Remember: You were invited. You belong.
4) Don’t judge. You quit drinking and I congratulate you and commend you on your choice. But don’t look for reasons why everyone else should quit too. Surely other people have problems they are not recognizing or dealing with, but it is not your business. Try to just be and let be. This can be hard to do when you have been working on your own awareness and trying to surround yourself with awesome people who inspire you - but at a party, it is not your place to judge. It is your place to be polite and honour the people you are there to celebrate.
5) Don’t stay late. Nothing good happens after 11 o’clock. Enjoy the conversation, the food and the fun and then get on outta there before things go sideways. Just don’t be there for it - go home.
6) Celebrate sobriety at home the next morning. Wake up after a great sleep, make yourself some pancakes and a healthy shake, drink some coffee, read, exercise and spend the day with your family or working or whatever floats your boat. It will come so easily to you because your mind is clear and you feel fantastic. You will be present for your children and proud of yourself for making the good choice.
So, go forth sober friends and embrace the celebrations ahead! You deserve to be there! Your true friends and family love the real you - the one who doesn’t drink. Go and support your loved ones in a genuine and healthy way!