When I quit drinking something that worried me a lot was how I would celebrate or attend certain occasions without alcohol. I remember going to a wedding for the first time knowing I wouldn’t be drinking. As soon as I arrived a glass of champagne was offered to me which I politely declined. At the table sat 3 bottles of wine. As the evening got into full swing the alcohol was flowing and people around me got more drunk and increasingly louder!
Weddings are often notoriously alcohol-fuelled events, what with the open bars and toasting the happy couple. This did not go unnoticed but even without the liquid courage I got up and danced to my favourite tunes and chatted to people I hadn’t seen for a long time. It really wasn’t as tough as I thought it might be. I definitely felt the anxiety rising beforehand as it’s hard to tell how you will feel until you are in the situation.
I realised that I wasn’t actually tempted to drink at all and started to think about why I was there. I was there to watch two people have one of the best days of their lives by promising to love each other forever…….not get hammered. It wasn’t about me!! Was being drunk really an essential part of enjoying occasions? No, it really wasn’t. It makes no sense to me at all now that I look back and think of when I believed alcohol was the necessary ingredient to enjoy every party or event. We are so conditioned to use alcohol to celebrate.
Alcohol has been intriguing and intoxicating human beings for a good ten thousand years. There is scarcely an age or culture where it was unknown. All societies without exception made use of alcohol and it has always been essentially a social activity, associated with celebration and festivity. There is definitely a traditional and historical aspect but it’s pretty simple really when you think about it. Learnt behaviour that drinking alcohol makes you feel good is bound to be naturally associated with celebrating.
Some people say they feel ok being around people drinking and going to boozy events at the beginning of sobriety, but for me, I chose to limit this in the early days. I did this because I wanted to be kind to myself and give myself the best chance possible. I decided it didn’t make sense to put extra pressure on myself and have alcohol around me if it wasn’t necessary. It depends on how you feel when you are new to sobriety.
It’s not just occasions like weddings or Christmas but the personal occasions too, like your own birthday. Giving up alcohol isn’t saying goodbye to all the fun and sparkle, it just means taking alcohol out of the equation. Yes, you can feel bubbly without the booze! In fact, you can do anything you want to do. It’s also worth acknowledging how many times you have got to the following day after partying and couldn’t even remember half of the night before? It’s actually really nice to have some good memories of your special day.
Why can’t you go dancing sober or make a reservation at that swanky new dinner spot? A spa day treat would also be great surrounded by your favourite people. We didn’t drink alcohol as children but always managed to have fun on our birthday. Get some inspiration from your childhood and think of all the different ways you used to celebrate and the things that brought fun and laughter, like the friends and family around you and that delicious cake.
The first thing you need to ask yourself when you receive an invitation is where are you at this particular point in time? You may be feeling strong and confident about being around alcohol or perhaps you are still feeling a little vulnerable? Self-care should always be the number one priority. Learn to say no if you feel you might be uncomfortable or tempted to drink. If they are friends they will understand.
When going to a celebration try and make sure you know the people there and what to expect. Try and remember all the reasons you stopped drinking in the first place and let that be the driving force. I always made sure that if I was going to an occasion where there was going to be a lot of drinking, I had a good exit plan in place. I gave myself permission to leave early if I needed to and had my reasons prepared.
While you are at any event or occasion be prepared to ask for alcohol-free options and be unapologetic for requesting something different. A non-alcoholic cocktail is a great option to keep it interesting. If you want to avoid being asked what you want to drink, keep a non-alcoholic drink in your hand so that people can see you already have one. Remember you don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why you are not drinking.
Although it is no one’s business, if you feel that you are not comfortable telling people about your sobriety then I would advise having an answer prepared that you are comfortable with as it is highly likely that someone will ask why you are not drinking. Rather than dread it and feel anxious, be confident in what you can say if it does happen. This type of preparation will prevent unnecessary worrying and anxiety.
The first holiday is another worry for some. Many enjoyed drinks by the pool and in the evening. This might have been a big part of the holiday experience, so enrich your time with new activities and plenty of relaxation. Start some new holiday traditions and create some new memories. It’s all about doing things a little bit differently but still enjoying everything just as much.
Give yourself time in the beginning to build your inner-strength and be kind to yourself. Let your new normal kick in. You will have a good time at all these occasions because of the people you are with, not because you are consuming alcohol. In reality alcohol doesn’t really deliver a lot at all, in fact sobriety delivers everything that alcohol promises.
When people around you look like they are having the time of their lives, perhaps they are in that moment, but the reality is that tomorrow will bring the lowest of the lows and little memory of what was good about it. To reach the next day, hangover-free and able to remember all the great moments of that occasion is priceless. Feeling happy in the moment is all well and good but rarely worth the negative emotions that you can be left with long after the bottle is empty!
I chose sobriety for a better life…… I stay sober because I’ve got one!