Alcohol can quickly become a feature of all social situations – and our culture in New Zealand makes it tough to opt out when everyone else is sharing a bottle of pinot or enjoying an after-work beer.
But whether you’ve decided to break the habit of drinking every day or want to call time on your addiction, it’s important to work through your strategies of how to avoid situations where the alcohol is flowing freely or gain practical skills that let you learn to say no.
So here’s our guide to socialising without relying on a drink:
- Know your first drink: The most difficult part of not drinking at a social event is often turning down that first drink from your host. So, if it’s BYO, bring your own soft drink or if it’s at a bar or restaurant, know what you’re ordering – once that first one’s out of the way the rest of the event will be a lot easier.
- Know why you’re not drinking: Chances are someone’s going to ask you straight away why you’re not drinking – so be armed with an honest and straight answer, something like “I’m not drinking during the week” or “I’m giving it a miss for a while”.
- Find a new favourite drink: This might be a lime and soda, a chocolate milk, plain old water, or a pomegranate mojito mocktail – but it’s nice to still have a regular drink when you’re out and about with friends.
- Keep a drink in your hand: Quite simply people are less likely to offer you an alcoholic drink and you’re less likely to have that uncomfortable look of someone who doesn’t know what to do with your hands.
- Dance (or do something): If there’s great music enjoy it – and if you’re sober you’ll be a lot more coordinated! But even if there’s no dancing going on, find something to keep you occupied so you don’t dwell on not drinking.
- Watch the drinkers: If you need reinforcement about why you’re avoiding alcohol at a party, just take timeout to watch anyone who’s over-indulging.
- Watch yourself: It’s good to see who you really are and how you really react to others when you’re sober – this sort of mindfulness is important when it comes to reacting to social situations.
- Break the inhibition cycle: It’s important to remember that you don’t need alcohol to go out and meet new people – and once you’ve got used to being the life and soul of a party without having a few drinks, it’ll become second nature.
- Give yourself a reward: Set yourself the goal of not drinking at a party and then reward yourself with a meal out, a trip to the movies or a new coat. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a big prize or not, just make sure you realise it’s an achievement you’d like to repeat.
- Set rules: It might be that you don’t drink when there’s children at a party or maybe you don’t mix drink and sport – but if you’re just looking to cut down on your drinking, it’s good to set boundaries around the types of social events you drink at.
- Hold your own sober events: If you’re holding a daytime beach barbecue or a kids’ birthday party, spell out to those coming that it’s going to be alcohol-free.
- Gain the support of friends and family: Don’t just spring your sobriety on people at a social event – let them know that you’re not drinking beforehand and get them to help you.
- Enjoy your mornings: Get up and out early the day after a sober party and make the most of your clear head – it’s a sure fire way to keep you motivated the next time a party rolls round.
If you think you, a friend or a family member has an issue with alcohol, you can talk to a qualified therapist at Robert Street Clinic to discuss addressing the problem. For more information about the individual skills of our psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on 09 973 5950, or contact us via the website.