Whenever I mention in a post about sober social events, particularly clubbing, it seems to strike a chord with a lot of people. Sober socialising is pretty terrifying for many of us.
I wanted to write a more detailed post about it because for me, a bit part of getting sober was begin ABSOLUTELY DETERMINED that it would not effect my social life, and that if I was going to be sober, I was going to learn how to have fun with it. I’m in my 20s, in a big exciting city with friends who are out making the most of it all. I thought My Life Was Over as I Knew It when I realised I had to get sober, but guess what? That was bollocks. It’s just got better, and I enjoy myself when socialising more than ever.
In the past year, I’ve been sober for 9 months out of 12. 7 months continuously, and 2 runs of around a month, followed by spectacular relapse. So this is based on a very short amount of experience, but I’ve packed in a lot of fun at that time… This is all just based on my experience, but I wanted to share how I’ve been navigating the world of socialising:
1. Choose your moment- I was not out partying from Day 1. As anyone who’s in those early weeks of sobriety knows, just getting through the day sober is exhausting. Cancel your plans, eat chocolate, get lots of sleep and focus on getting a couple of sober weeks (or months) under your belt. However long it takes. I learnt the hard way that trying to have it all too quickly is dangerous. In November last year, I had a couple of weeks of sobriety under my belt and held a huuuuge house party. I made it through and had a great time, but the overwhelm of doing this, plus stubbornly going to every Christmas party going meant that I was putting too much pressure on my delicate sobriety. I wore myself down and eventually had a horrible relapse that took me almost a month to get over.
2. Get excited- Half the fun of a great social event is the build up. The second I switched my mindset from dreading the social event to getting excited about it, everything changed. Carrie came up with the wonderful notion of Sober Tiaras, an invisible badge of sober pride and beauty that we wear when we socialise. I LOVED this notion, and have bought into it wholeheartedly. I make getting ready to go out an exercise in affirming my sobriety. I make sure I look my damn best, and take pleasure in the fact that all night, I’ll look that way. I used to suffer terribly from red cheeks when drinking, and now, I look sparkly eyed and prettier than I ever would have done with red wine down my dress and smeared mascara… I love getting ready for a night knowing that my sobriety will make it all the better.
3. Ritual is key– popping open that bottle of wine as I got ready and feeling it course through my veins was a big part of my getting ready routine. I’d drink half the bottle, and wobble out of the house ready for a night on the tiles. Now, I turn up my music, dance round the house getting ready and make myself a sober treat drink to get ready with. It gets me in the mood just as well, if not better, and I turn up to the party ready to have a good time, without a drop of alcohol in my system.
4. Find your sober drink of choice- very closely linked to the above is the importance of finding a non-alcoholic drink that, to you, signals down time. When we get sober, we discover that we were marking time for ourselves by opening that bottle, be it from a long day at work, after the kids have gone to bed or before we have to spend the evening working a room at an event we don’t really want to go to. Whilst tea has been a great ‘me time’ drink, finding a sober drink that signals fun and social time has been crucial to me. I opt for soda water, ice and tonne of lime, and love the feeling when I first take that sip. I’ve started to associate it with fun and socialising, so get a mini boost when I drink it, anticipating the night ahead.
5. Check in on how you’re feeling- some nights, you have to go to a social event that you really don’t want to. Such is life. Something that’s really helped me is having a little word with myself before I go, and working out why it is Im going. Is it to please someone else? Social obligation? Crucial work networking? A friend’s birthday that you’re just not in the mood for? If my heart really isn’t in it (which let’s face it, happens often when we don’t see every social occasion as an excuse to down the Pinot), I set myself an objective. I’ll just go for 2-3 hours to show my face, speak to the people I need to speak to and then slip away. Having a small goal like that helps me loads. Usually, I enjoy myself more than expected and stay. But if I’m not, I leave. More often than not people don’t mind, or (much to my ego’s horror) even notice. Knowing I can escape home to a book and a bath really helps me get through the tougher events. Give yourself a get-out clause, there’s no harm in that.
6. If you feel at risk of drinking, don’t go– If I examine my relapses, deep down, I knew I was going to drink before I did. If I’d been honest with myself, I wouldn’t have gone out. I’d have protected my precious sobriety by staying in. NOTHING is more important than staying sober. The world will wait for you. People who might be offended by your absence will forgive you. Being honest with myself is really important, as it’s helped me avoid impulses to drink up to this point.
7. Nobody cares what’s in your glass– I hear a lot of sober people say this when I was trying to get sober, but it’s true. At big social events in early sobriety, I was constantly on edge about being asked why I was clutching a diet coke, but more often than not, people didn’t. I’ve learnt with time that there are some occasions where being blatant about not drinking is fine, and others where it’s easier to not let on. When I’m at a work event where there’s more likely to be pressure to drink from people you don’t know and who don’t care about you, I always furnish myself with what looks like a G&T, or a non alcoholic beer if there’s one available. If people offer to buy my a round, I say I’ll have a soft drink on this one, and I’ll buy the next. That seems to work. Not once has anyone put any real pressure on me to drink. People might be inquisitive, but in my experience, they quickly forget you’re not drinking as they’re so focused on their own consumption. Or just don’t give a toss, because they have a normal relationship with alcohol…
8. Drinking isn’t All That– I still get pangs where I want to drink baaaaaadly. This is always before I go out, or watch a bottle of wine being opened at a restaurant. The anticipation feels way better than drinking would. I find that if I make it past the first drink or two, and settle into the occasion, the urge passes. Watching other people get drunk is GREAT for me because it reminds me drinking is not as fun as we’d have ourselves believe. Slurred words, memory loss, hangovers… It’s really overrated, as it turns out.
9. Get into the spirit– I was talking to Sober Journalist recently about one of the key things I’ve found helps me enjoy my sober social life. I fully enter into the spirit of being drunk, whilst staying sober. This is a little tricky to explain. Essentially, I match my energy to the rest of the room- so if people are giggly and silly and drunk, I get swept up in that and am giggly and silly too. If people are opening up and pouring their deepest darkest secrets, I get into the spirit of intimacy and share what I feel comfortable with, or empathise with them. When we’re in a nightclub, I make myself lose all inhibitions and dance like crazy, without the alcohol. This is easier said than done, but if you just commit to doing yourself and lose yourself in the music, it is GREAT. One of my fears when getting sober was ‘people won’t think I’m fun anymore.’ Well guess what, I am MORE fun now, because I’m not drained by wine, sneaking off to throw up or collapsing on the floor.
10. If you’re bored, leave– Some nights just aren’t that fun, an alcohol wouldn’t have improved them. Cut your losses and get outta there.
11. Caffeine is my friend- I’ve been on some looooomg clubbing nights recently. Like out until 5am. On these, I’ve made it through because the music and company was great and I was enjoying myself, but I’ve got to say, without an emergency espresso or Red Bull, I might not have done. Yes, it’s not ideal to drink a can of Red Bull (although the sugar free version makes me feel less guilty!), but if it’s between drinking that or eternally gong to bed at midnight and missing out on some great times with my friends, I choose the latter.
12. Being sober has opened up my social life- One of the things that made me realise my drinking was a problem was the fact that at some point, I changed from wanting to go out and socialise to drink, to wanting to drink alone. Alone, I could get drunk in the safety of my own home without worrying about getting too drunk in front of other people, getting home safely or collapsing in an embarrassing fashion. Now I’m sober, I go out all the time, I have energy, I have a new found excitement for life and because i’m rocking aforementioned sober tiara, I want to get out and show people that you can be fun and happy sober. I wouldn’t have done half the things I’ve done so far this year if I was drinking. Amen to that!
13. Be true to yourself- I’m not a natural partier. I’m a bookworm, someone who needs rest and solitude. But if I pick my moment right, I LOVE going out til the sun comes up. I live and work in an environment where I could (and often used to be) out every night. Now, I pick my moments, not forcing myself to do things that will make me uncomfortable. I was recently invited to an all night techno rave. My response: NO F**KING WAY. I wouldn’t enjoy that in the slightest drunk, so the idea of doing it with all my faculties intact is horrific. Likewise going to a Jazz show. Just not my bag. I’ve forced myself to say no when I know it’s the best decision for me, and it’s so empowering.
I could keep on writing forever, but I’m on my way out to a music festival in the pouring rain. Ahhh British Summer Time!
Happy Sunday all 🙂