• Aggie Connor

Socialise sober... SAY WHAAAAT??

Have you seen the new hype of alcohol-free living? Have you read all those blog posts about how it’s so great for your skin, your waistline and your bank account? There have even been alcohol-free bars open in big cities. If someone is ready to invest cash in this weird oxymoron-like business, then there definitely must be a trend behind it.

According to Metro, one quarter of British adults claim that they want to reduce their alcohol intake and almost one third of 16-24-year-olds do not drink at all! Low or non-alcohol drink sales have been on a steep rise in the last year and it seems like the trend has only just been born!

Just imagine not drinking ever again… I can bet I have just made many readers uncomfortable. How, you may ask, do you put it into practice? How do you have a social life without the wine (whiskey, g&t, vodka, insert the poison of your choice)? Let me give you some well-tested pro advice.

· If you are planning to go out, make sure you check the menu in advance and see what alcohol-free options there are. There is no reason why you shouldn’t have something beautiful, healthy and yummy in your glass. Most places are very creative these days and have some amazing choices. When you know what you will be drinking, you will feel a bit less anxious about doing it differently this time.

· Don’t make a big deal out of it. Other people care less than you think – the main drama is taking place in your head. If you have always had wine in a restaurant, making a different choice can seem scary. Your brain wants you to run on autopilot. It will be telling you stories about all the bad things that can happen, all the people mocking you, all your friends pressuring you into drinking… guess what – it probably won’t happen. Acknowledge the anxious thoughts, thank them for trying to keep you safe and do your thing anyway.

· If you find it hard to socialise sober, please don’t judge yourself too harshly. I have been there myself and I know that if alcohol has been an important part of your social life, you can feel very awkward and clumsy at first. It’s all good, you’re just learning a new skill. The best tip I can give you is: move the focus from yourself to the other person or people. Actively listen to what they are saying. Be engaged and interested. You have another human being in front of you, they have a story and they want to be heard. Challenge yourself to create true connections – something that is hardly possible when everyone is tipsy.

· Give yourself permission to leave early. When you are sober, you will find it very hard to hang out with people who are getting drunk. You will see and hear everything: how their behaviour changes, how they become loud, how nobody listens anymore, how they start to slur… It’s an amazing reality check, but it can be a bit of a challenge. You might notice that it’s not as much fun as you thought it would be. You can feel impatient and irritated. Or simply bored out of your mind. It’s ok to go home, you don’t need to try and please anyone and there is no reason why you shouldn’t be your own priority. But please reflect on this experience. This is what your social life has looked like for quite a while. Could it be time to make some changes?

· If you are really serious about becoming alcohol-free, consider not going. There are many people who have experienced plenty of negative consequences of drinking alcohol and if you are one of them – know that you are not alone, and it does not define you as a person. Alcohol is a powerful drug, it alters perception and behaviour. If you are committed to removing it from your diet once and for all, not exposing yourself to events that involve a lot of drinking is the best thing you can do for yourself. There is nothing more empowering than knowing that you have done the right thing for yourself regardless of the discomfort on the way. Just don’t go. The planet won’t fall apart and you will wake up feeling fresh and proud tomorrow.

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