Originally published on my previous blog- From Wine to Fine - on 9/17/17
Let's face it. Drinking surrounds us. You can't turn on the TV or scroll through social media without some sort of call to alcohol. Driving down the road you hear advertisements on the radio or see billboards promoting "safe" consumption. Even health clubs are excited to host events like "WineBarre," "Yoga + Beer" or "Margarita Madness 5K Run." (Yes, that's an actual local event here in Sacramento).
The reality is that while there are many people on the sober train, the majority of the world is not.
So does that mean in order to be sober you have to hole up in your house and turn off all communication to people other than your sober tribes? Nope! You just have to find ways in which to handle those situations.
As much as I enjoy being a homebody, I also crave all the adult time I can get. I love to get together with friends or go on vacations with other families. I am always up for a concert, and I will never turn down a comedy show.
Obviously, some of these gatherings involve booze. In the early days of sobriety, the thought of attending anything where alcohol would be present would cause a great deal of anxiety. Sometimes it still does, depending on my mood. But here are some ways I've learned ways to cope when everyone else is drinking and I'm not:
Play out the night drinking in your head. I envision what would happen if I had one drink. The warm feeling would come over me, my nerves would calm, and I'd get the happy, giddy feeling. I'd be chatty but I'd also be a little self-conscious. By the end of the drink, I'd most likely start to get a little tired. How would I fix feeling tired? Another drink. Then another and another... The night would probably end with guilt, emotions, tears, and passing out. The next morning would be a hangover from hell, and my day would be ruined. Do I want that? Just to join the rest of the crowd? Nope, NOT AT ALL! Not worth it to me anymore.
Treat yourself to a mocktail, special dessert, or both! Mocktails have become my jam lately. I love restaurants that offer them on the menu, and on a Friday night, I'm all about trying new mixes at home. It gives you the feeling of treating yourself without all the repercussions. I also treat myself to dessert. Since I'm saving on all the calories from booze, why not indulge in my sweet tooth?
Get out of your head. Engage with others! This comes with time and self-confidence. In the early days, I'd get so anxious about what others were thinking of me not drinking that I'd get lost in my head. I wouldn't have as much fun. But now I shake those feelings ASAP and just be present. I'm with people for their company, not the booze. I want to know what is going on their lives, not what drink I want next. I'm there for laughter, stories, entertainment; not a hangover.
Ground yourself. If I feel the anxiety creeping in, then I remind myself to breathe. I look around and identify things around me (in my head ;). I pray. I become aware of what my hands, legs, arms, and feet are doing. I bring myself back to the moment and remind myself that I'm OK. The anxious wave will pass.
Know your boundaries. Know when to say "No" to a get-together or outing. Know when you've had enough of your setting. Know how and when to leave a situation, if need be. If the party wants to continue past your bedtime, know that it's OK to depart for those lovely, precious sober ZzZ's that you've come to embrace. Take care of YOU because no one else will.
Being sober does not equate to being boring. If anything, I believe it makes you more interesting. But when it feels tough, just listen to your heart and lean into the experiences. It's so worth it in the end!