How To Take a Break From Drinking Without Losing Your Social Life

The older you get, the more impossible giving up drinking seems.

You may have thought that your college years of keg parties were the worst of it, but early adulthood throws booze at you from all sides. You’re not necessarily consuming as many drinks in one sitting, but there’s a good chance you’ll actually be drinking more frequently — even if it’s just one glass of wine after work each night.

Drinks become the lube for networking events, for co-worker bonding, for finding love via 1,000 Tinder dates, and for taking off the edge after a long day. But I was determined to quit.

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I knew it was going to be awkward. All the “let’s meet for drinks” would have to be changed to “let’s meet for coffees.” At every event I went to, I’d have to politely decline cocktails from servers every time they made their way around the room. When I went out with my friends, many of whom are heavy drinkers and some of whom are still in college, they’d wonder where the hell my blackout alter ego – otherwise known as “Snuzer” – went.

But alcohol wasn’t doing me any favors. It was fucking with my mental health, the hangovers made my days completely useless, and it was an easy way to numb the dissatisfaction I was feeling with my current post-grad lifestyle.

So I stopped. And It’s been three months now. My life didn’t suddenly turn into a magic rainbow factory, but I also don’t miss alcohol. And guess what? My social life has been just fine. In fact, I may have made more friends – real friends, not the kind you meet in the bar bathroom and never speak to again – since I stopped drinking than I have in the last year.

Here’s how I said bye to booze without turning into a hermit, it’s not as hard as it sounds!

1. Don’t Mention It 

It didn’t take me long to realize that the hardest part of not drinking was dealing with other people. I had no problem resisting a glass of wine at dinner, and I definitely had no problem saving $12 on a cocktail after work, the thing I had a problem with was dealing with people’s reactions when I told them I wasn’t drinking.

“What? Why?” People would ask me as if I’d just told them I was murdering my firstborn child.

Or, they’d take the fake approach and give me a high-pitched, “Oh… cool! Good for you! I could never do that.”

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But the people who acted like my giving up of alcohol was a death sentence or that it was their responsibility to change that were the worst of them all.

“Oh, okay,” they’d say on a Thursday evening. “Well like, are you going to drink on Saturday night for my party? If not, maybe you shouldn’t come.”

On the plus side, giving up alcohol definitely shows you who your friends are! But that’s a story for another day. The bottom line is, sometimes it’s easier to just annoy the bartender by ordering a soda with a lime and pretending that you’re drinking. Unfortunately, this only gets you so far if your one friend decides to order shots of Jose and you have to find a way out of it without mentioning your sobriety. If you do have to fess up to being the killjoy, there’s an art to it.

2. Own It

Like I said earlier, as soon you say the word “not” in front of the word “drinking,” people start coming at you like they’re in charge of changing your mind. It’s as if they’re thinking, “I’m going to ingest 600 extra calories tonight and feel like shit tomorrow morning, so this bitch has to too!”

So if you’re going to own up early on, say it with purpose. Don’t act embarrassed about it, and don’t act like it’s something you decided to do yesterday and probs won’t stick to. Be clear, and be unapologetic. Hell, you don’t even need to give them a reason. But if you do have a legit reason, such as to help your mental or physical health, then people are extra sus for trying to get you to drink. Like I said before, real friends vs. drinking buddies.

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3. Fill Your Social Calendar With Things You Actually Want To Do

There were lots of reasons I quit drinking, but one of the lesser reasons was that I was sick of wasting time (and potentially money) on things I didn’t want to do. I’d never been someone who enjoyed going to clubs, but because all my friends did, and I got free dinner and drinks thanks to promoters, I regularly found myself at the club. Every night was the same, I’d get dressed up, get hustled in and assessed by some promoter, and drink a couple glasses of champagne to “have fun” while wondering what was an acceptable time to leave without making everyone hate me.

Without alcohol, I no longer had an easy to way to “have fun” in situations I didn’t want to be in. At first, this may sound like a bad thing, but it’s not. Instead, quitting alcohol forced me to stop doing shit I didn’t want to do and made me say “yes” to all the random things I got invited to that I may have skipped for another night at the club with my BFF before.

Instead of spending another Friday night at some dark club with shitty house music, I went to a music video shoot and fake-partied for the camera — and it was way more fun. I also started going to more events during the week — think fashion shows, networking events, and group dinners — and chose to spend a weekend night chilling instead. Everyone knows NYC weeknights are better anyway, but even if you don’t have the luxury of getting invited to cool events, you can find way more fun things to do than sitting in a bar pretending to have fun, I promise.

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4. Pick Places With Lit Music

If you’re like me and have spent your life relying on alcohol to seem “fun” or simply to dance, giving up drinking can seem like a death sentence for your social life. But it’s actually just a challenge that will make you a better person. Using alcohol to have fun leads you to doing shit you don’t actually want to do, it also leads you to potentially doing people you don’t want to do, or simply just being a drunk mess.

Besides, there are going to be times where you want/need to be fun and outgoing without alcohol in your life, so might as well practice now.

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One of the keys to acting like you’re drunk without being drunk is good music, at least for me. If I walk into a bar that’s playing 2000s throwbacks (or emo music, wishful thinking), I’ll hit the dance floor and turn up without a drop of alcohol in my system. If I walk in and some dubstep shit is playing, I’ll probably stand on the wall looking miserable and rando dudes will come up to me asking why I’m not smiling. Learn which places play music you like, and the rest will take care of itself.

5. Confuse People

Ever since I’ve been on my no-drinking thang, ginger beer has been my BFF. First off, I love anything ginger. Second off, most people are too clueless to realize that ginger beer has no alcohol. I can order it right next to people without them noticing that I’m not drinking. If you don’t like ginger beer, disregard this, but lots of restaurants do have non-alcoholic drinks that look (and sound) just like cocktails if you’re trying to be incognito.

I could go on and on about how not drinking has changed my perspective on things and led to me bettering my life (at least a little bit, baby steps guys) in the last three months, but for now I’ll just leave you with these tips for not defaulting to Netflix and chilling for the entirety of your sobriety stint. You can do it!

Gimme More Health

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