If your social life is opening up but you dread the hangovers, how do you not drink? In a culture where it is normative to “have a few”, it can be tricky.
If you want to win at not drinking, visualise it. "Visualise yourself at the party, wafting around the room, smelling fabulous, looking fabulous and talking to people, and when you want to leave, you can just kind of go," says Kate Baily, a sobriety and wellbeing coach at lovesober.com. "It's a mind trick. Our minds don't necessarily register that this hasn't happened yet, so it's like having evidence."
Play it forward
A big bonus of not drinking is being hangover-free the next day. Double the bonus by booking something – brunch with a friend, a hot yoga class. Make it something you love to do, says Baily. Then play forward the scenario. "One is that you cave, you drink too much, your sleep is wrecked and you feel bad the next day. The other is that you are going to feel really proud of yourself." The trick with habits is to make them rewarding.
If you are party-bound, bring an alcohol-free alternative as a statement of intent. From spritzes to punches, ginger beers and "clean" spirits, sober socialising is no longer about waterboarding yourself with Ballygowan.
Going to the pub? Planning your first drink is a strong start: “I’ll have a tonic with a slice of lemon please.” Or getting the first round can side step an inquisition, says Baily. “After a couple of drinks, people honestly don’t care. It’s about getting through that first half hour.”
Shaken, not stirred
Pregnant, on antibiotics, a problem drinker – there's nothing like not drinking to get the rumour mill humming. Soberistas should have a preprepared response. "It's called 'ragging',' says Baily. "That means identifying the red, amber and green people, and responding accordingly."
A red person could be that drunken uncle, or indeed anyone trying to persuade you to “go on, just have one”. “They are not going to hear any sense. So with someone like that, play the antibiotics card or say you’re doing a charity challenge.” That should shake them off.
Amber people have a bit more nous. “These could be people that know you and kind of get it,” says Baily. “You can give a slightly more real response that will satisfy them and satisfy you that you are being authentic.” You might say, “I find it makes me quite anxious the next day.”
If someone wants a break from booze, it’s probably for a good reason. “It’s obviously a good reason for you, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it.”
Green people get it. This is a person who knows what you are doing and can help, says Baily. “If you feel you are struggling, send them a text. Or it could be your partner to whom you say, ‘I’ve had enough, I just need to leave the party now’.”
Ever hit that point at the party where, to stave off ennui and propel yourself on, you have another drink? You've probably hit the limit of your social window, says Baily. "People drink to mask it." And if you aren't drinking, this limit will be all the more noticeable.
“What will happen is you start getting slightly activated, you might feel a sense of ‘fight or flight,’ and often people drink to calm it, they think it’s nerves,” she says. Take a sensory break to reset. “Go to the loo, text someone, take a break or just leave a bit early. If people have had a few, they probably won’t notice.”