My main strategy to deal with boozy events is the same now as it was when I first quit drinking. That is: to focus on all the factors inherent in the situation that aren’t about the liquid in my glass.
Easier said than done…
Easier said than done early on.
In the first few months of my sobriety it was impossible to get past the point that my glass didn’t contain alcohol. The fact that I was a non-drinker dominated my thoughts in the lead-up to and during numerous events, and as a result these events were pretty much ruined.
Hard to have fun when your brain is telling you things like, “I’m so boring now I don’t drink wine.” And, “Everyone else is drinking and having a fabulous time and you’re on the outside”.
Luckily early on I read a couple of books (by Allan Carr and Jason Vale) which helped open my eyes to the myth that alcohol makes every event fun and special. I began to develop a new strategy to help combat any woe-is-me feelings. That is, to list out very clearly in my head all the factors about the event that make it good.
Bullet points in my head
I would literally do this as though I was making a bullet-pointed list in my brain.
So for a wedding I would go;
- Today is about Bob and Shirley celebrating their love (I made those names up)
- Today is about being away from the kids for a while (always a winner)
- Today is about being dressed up in a fancy dress and heels (that won’t stay on for long)
- Today is about catching up with friends I haven’t seen for ages
- Today is about sampling all the delicious food
- Today is about listening to fun speeches
- Hopefully today will be about having a dance to some cheesy music
And if I made this mental list literally as I walked into the wedding, and reminded myself of it as the first hour or two went by.. sure enough over time I’d relax and realise there was much more to focus on than the fact that rather than champagne my glass contained something else.
Same thing when going to a concert:
- Tonight is about me and Mr D going to enjoy some adult time together
- Tonight is about me getting to wear my new boots-and-dress combo and feel super foxy
- Tonight is about listening to a band that I love in a dark room
- Tonight is about feeling the buzz of being in a big crowd
- Tonight is about the light show and surround sound
- Tonight is about singing along and swaying in time to the music and feeling great!
There are always at least three or four things that I can find to list out that is good about an event I am going to (and if there isn’t I seriously question whether I should be going to it or not).
Alcohol has no power over me…
Once I started working this technique and really focussing on these other elements the more I started to realise how ridiculous it was that I gave alcohol so much power.
Socialising is about so much more than having a brain-bending liquid in my glass. Socialising is about connecting with my fellow humans and giving myself a break from chores and work to relax and have fun.
And even now, after 5 years of sobriety, I work this technique. This New Year’s Eve I found a little bit hard for a short while. There was a point in the evening where mostly everyone else started hooking into the booze and I felt a little sad and lost.
But I remembered my technique and made a mental list..
- Tonight is about saying goodbye to 2016
- Tonight is about being away on holiday with other families we love
- Tonight is about looking after my kids who want to try and stay awake until midnight
- Tonight is about enjoying the guitar music and singalong
- Tonight is about quietly reflecting and making resolutions for the year ahead
It worked. I relaxed. I had a lovely fun night. And I saw in 2017 with a clear head.