It’s all about being prepared going into it.
“I don’t judge you for drinking, so don’t judge me for not drinking” — Anonymous
When you first are on your alcohol-conscious journey, your sobriety is as shakey as the chances of a Shonda Rhimes series not being the most over the top dramatic thing you’ve watched in a long time (no disrespect to Shonda, but you can only create the SAME type of show with different characters so many times, can’t you?)
You are committed to not drinking, but you know your commitment is still early, and if someone even looks at you and asks why you’re not drinking, you might fold and grab the bottle for Fireball directly from the bartender and pour shots in your own mouth like a crazy person.
For this reason, when you are early in your sobriety, it is wise to stay away from all situations that will put you in a compromising situation in which you might end up facing charges for stealing a bottle of Fireball from a bar or at least make your friend wonder what possessed you to go all John Belushi in Animal House that night.
This doesn’t make for a very exciting life, however, as sitting at home every weekend can get a bit boring with time.
Therefore, at some point in your alcohol-conscious journey (probably closer to post six months), you’ll begin to feel strong enough that the fear of you taking shots of Fireball directly from the bottle begin to subside a bit, and you feel that you could actually stand to be in such a setting without being too overly encouraged to perform such an act.
Great for you.
You’ve just made a huge leap in your AC (alcohol-conscious) journey and this is a great accomplishment. Being able to be around others who are drinking is a huge step in one’s sobriety journey.
However, to ensure you don’t accidentally relapse and find yourself sleeping on someone’s dirty brown couch and beating yourself up in the morning because you were not as strong as you originally thought, there are three simple techniques that will prevent this from happening.
Have some kind of beverage in your hand at all times
This is a simple one tip that was a GAME CHANGER for me.
As shared in a previous article, physiologically, your body has become very used to alcohol.
Similar to Pavlov’s dog, the sounds and sights of people drinking in a bar create the “salivation” in your brain to automatically want alcohol in that scenario.
The bell has been rung, and it can be challenging for you to deny it.
For this reason, your body is going to be freaking out a bit as to why you are not partaking, and to stand there with nothing in your hand is going to make you feel like a sixth-grader at a middle school dance (pretty much the epitome of awkwardness).
To combat this, one only has to grab a drink of any grab (I typically go for club or a diet soda) and sip on it while everyone else is drinking their mai tai’s, margarita’s, or Jack and Coke’s.
You will be surprised at how this strategy will make you instantly feel better and make people not even realize that you are not drinking at all — a win-win when you want to avoid questions about why you’re not drinking if you can help it.
Find a partner
The second tip will make the time go by a bit faster and should prevent you from sitting in the corner all night looking like your sixth-grade middle school dance self from earlier.
Find someone who knows that you are cutting back on alcohol or doesn’t appear to be drinking and strike up a conversation with them.
On your alcohol-conscious journey, just having someone to be on it with you helps tremendously, so if you can find someone for one night when you’re out, then you put yourself in a much better situation as well.
It works because if this person knows you’re not drinking, then they are not going to be crazy enough (you would hope) to offer you a drink all the time or make it a big deal that you’re not drinking.
Unfortunately, some people feel a bit self-conscious when someone else isn’t drinking in a bar setting and will do one of three things: 1. Either try to get you to drink to make them feel better. 2. Keep asking you questions about why you decided to not drink to understand if they have a problem, or 3. Just not talk to you at all because they think you’re a weirdo.
It depends on where you are in your journey but either of these three situations may not be ideal for you, so if you can let someone know before the event that you are not drinking and lean on them for support or find someone who appears to share the same decision as you, it can make all the difference in the world as it relates to not being tempted.
This last tip is pretty much the break the glass in case of emergency tip.
You should be ready to pull it out like your significant other will probably pull out that promise you made to watch that show that you hate with them at the least desirable time (90-day fiance is a favorite of MANY people apparently).
It’s that simple.
If you find yourself in a situation in which you are truly thinking about drinking, bail.
All the work that you have put in the past previous months or years is not worth you relapsing to prove to Johnny from accounting that you can do it.
Just get out of there and try again at a later date if it makes sense.
We all have our own alcohol-conscious journey and various aspects of that journey that are going to be easier or more difficult based on the things we’ve done in the past.
Just because someone else can go to a bar and be around a bunch of people drinking doesn’t mean it’s for you, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up if that’s not the case.
Instead, remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible if you feel that the temptation is becoming too much to protect your sobriety and keep the momentum going on your journey.
You’ll have a chance to try again later when you’re ready, but for now, you should get out of there, go home and maybe spend time with your significant other and just watch a drama-filled Shonda Rhimes show or, even better, 90-Day Fiance to be safe.