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May 13, 2014 12:30 PM   Subscribe

After doing something at the weekend that I'm totally ashamed of I think I need to not drink again. I'm not sure how to manage that. I'd like advice from people who have been in the same situation. Apologies for length.

I started drinking quite young (early teens) as most people do where I grew up. As a shy person it helped me relax and especially talk to possible romantic partners and I liked being drunk. As a young adult though (early 20s) I was drinking a lot - half a bottle of vodka a day at one time. My liver wasnt good and I did a lot of things I wasn't proud of especially when it came to sex. Over the years I have had some drunken indiscretions when I was in a LTR - nothing went too far but that was usually down to luck like being interrupted - and I decided to make changes. I'm very flirty when drunk and was afraid of ending up properly cheating on my partner. I don't drink often now and when I do I never mix drinks and when I get to a certain point I switch to water. I'm now in a different relationship with someone I love hugely and I thought I was "safe" because I never even feel flirty with anyone now because I'm so into them.

Except this weekend I went on an away trip with some friends. I stupidly hadn't eaten all day because I was really busy and by the time I got there I started drinking to catch up with the others. I had wine, then there were shots, cocktails with dinner... Basically I drank in a way I don't anymore and I was totally drunk quite early on. And I spent the evening talking to some man in a bar then went back to his and had some sexual contact - just kissing and touching but obviously it's irrelevant how much happened, the fact is that anything happened. I was totally not into it and don't know why I went back with him, the only way I can describe it was like an out of body experience, like I was watching someone else do these things. I'm also lucky there was a point where I just walked out because I clearly put myself in a dangerous situation.

I'm completely ashamed about this and horrified at myself. My partner knows everything and we've had a rough few days but we are working things out and will hopefully be able to get past it, based on the fact that I was so out of it. However they have asked that I not drink again (at least for now and not when I'm out with friends to help rebuild trust) and I also want this, as I'm terrified of ever ending up like that again.

My problem is that my social life and culture is very oriented around alcohol. If someone isn't drinking for obvious reasons like pregancy or something it doesn't go unremarked-upon. I have a dinner to attend this week with people I hang out with a lot, and there will be a lot of wine and they will be dumbstruck and possibly disappointed that I'm not joining in. So I'm asking:

-how do you explain you're not drinking without saying "I can't trust myself"? I was thinking it might be easier at first to blame medication?
-how do I handle myself round people who are drinking or drunk like at parties. I can't help thinking how boring everyone is going to seem when I'm not laughing drunkenly at their jokes, and ill seem boring to them
-what exactly do people do when they don't drink? Meeting my friends usually involves a bottle of wine in the house / meeting at a bar / cocktails after work / beers at BBQs etc. I don't know how else to socialise it seems
-how do I stick to my goal when people invariably invite me to have "just the one" - I don't know anyone at all who doesn't drink and Im not sure how I'll manage being the odd one out.

TL;DR I messed up on a drunken night. I will do anything to keep this relationship and I can't believe I nearly destroyed it. They were devastated and I am happy to embrace sobriety for my sake as well as for them and us. But how do I go about it living somewhere where alcohol is the foundation for most activities?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (50 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
There is plenty of life to be lived without alcohol. Lots of people find AA helpful in not drinking, if only for a time. AA is free or near enough. If you are a youngish person in a big city, you can call AA and ask for a young people's group or just go the meeting nearest you.

AA has a practical guide called "living sober" you may want to check out even if you dont want to go to meetings. The AA "program" is contained in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, also known as The Big Book.

Lots of sober people here, myself included. Feel free to MeMail me.
posted by shothotbot at 12:36 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]


There's a lot of great information in the subreddit /r/stopdrinking.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 12:38 PM on May 13 [5 favorites]


Periodically I go for 30 to 90 days without drinking. The only time I've ever had to actually defend my decision was when a drunken friend-of-a-friend started loudly and publicly nannering me to have wine with dinner. Everyone was embarrassed for her and felt for me, so my best guess is that you would find the same thing to be true.

When people ask why (they may not even notice), you can tell them you're doing a cleanse or that you're trying to lose weight or that you've started a fitness regimen that you don't want to sabotage. But you might also consider saying something like "I don't like how much I've been drinking lately and I want to back off a lot so that I don't put myself in the position of having to quit forever." Even dedicated drinkers get that rationale.

I'm sorry to tell you that when you're the only one who is not drinking, you're the drunk one. It can be really trying to be sober around really drunk people. You won't seem boring to them. You can probably snap at them and they won't really remember the next day. But they will seem stupid to you and it very well may be that you cut evenings short where you might otherwise have stayed out until dawn. If you need a mantra, just keep telling yourself that they've all put up with you when you were stinking drunk and now it's your turn to be nice.

I drink diet coke or iced tea or water. You may very well go back to drinking from time to time, but you may find, as I often do when I go on one of these alcohol fasts (I'm on one now) that waking up is so much nicer when you haven't had any alcohol, and mornings are so much prettier, and your sleep is so much more restful, that you might curb your drinking for life.

In other words, it's a new world and one in which you might find yourself very comfortable. Oh plus sex when you're fully aware is way better.
posted by janey47 at 12:41 PM on May 13 [15 favorites]


-how do you explain you're not drinking without saying "I can't trust myself"? I was thinking it might be easier at first to blame medication?

"Not feeling it just now. So, how 'bout that local sporting endeavor and/or political scandal?"

-how do I handle myself round people who are drinking or drunk like at parties. I can't help thinking how boring everyone is going to seem when I'm not laughing drunkenly at their jokes, and ill seem boring to them

They really won't. Or you'll get used to it.

-what exactly do people do when they don't drink? Meeting my friends usually involves a bottle of wine in the house / meeting at a bar / cocktails after work / beers at BBQs etc. I don't know how else to socialise it seems

You do exactly the same things, except instead of drinking alcohol, you drink something that's not alcohol. Everybody comes over and opens a bottle of wine, and you have some cranberry juice. Go to a bar and ask for a Coke. Grill some steaks and drink a bottle of artisanal root beer.

-how do I stick to my goal when people invariably invite me to have "just the one" - I don't know anyone at all who doesn't drink and Im not sure how I'll manage being the odd one out.

"No, thanks. Anyway, I was watching that show everyone likes last night..." And if they press you on it, you take them aside and say, "Stu, I'm trying to be dry for a little while. I'm not judging you, I just want to take a break. Can you support me in this? Thanks."

To be honest, I had all the same questions and issues as you, and then I realized that I was looking for any excuse not to stop. You're stronger than your excuses. AA can be a great help -- look around and find a group that you like. MeMail if you need a hand.
posted by Etrigan at 12:43 PM on May 13 [8 favorites]


-how do you explain you're not drinking without saying "I can't trust myself"? I was thinking it might be easier at first to blame medication?

I think if your friends are going to press you on why you're not drinking, you are totally entitled to say, "Oh I'm taking a break, it's not agreeing with me right now!" You don't owe them a thorough explanation, and you don't have to tell them anything you don't want to. If they continue to press you, they're being rude and I, as an internet stranger, give you permission to tell white lies about it. You are under zero obligation to explain the whole story you just told us. In fact, I'd encourage you to NOT share all that. It is your private business and it sounds like you would rather keep it private.

You seem very self-aware and I wish you the best.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:43 PM on May 13 [5 favorites]


I rarely drink (literally one drink every three years) and hang out with drinkers and non-drinkers. But none of my friends drink to get drunk and would never comment on someone else not drinking. Maybe you need to expand your social circle?
posted by saucysault at 12:44 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]


how do you explain you're not drinking without saying "I can't trust myself"? I was thinking it might be easier at first to blame medication?

You don't explain unless someone asks. If someone asks, you tell them, "I'm just taking a break from it for a while. I found that I wasn't really having fun drinking, and drinking should be fun, you know?" That should be enough for reasonable people.

how do I handle myself round people who are drinking or drunk like at parties. I can't help thinking how boring everyone is going to seem when I'm not laughing drunkenly at their jokes, and ill seem boring to them

They won't seem boring. They might seem a little annoying. Weird as it sounds, it'll help if you're someone who's kind of impressionable or empathetic - a boisterous crowd may bring that out in you without needing to drink.

what exactly do people do when they don't drink? Meeting my friends usually involves a bottle of wine in the house / meeting at a bar / cocktails after work / beers at BBQs etc. I don't know how else to socialise it seems

Go out with them and just have a coke or a seltzer water or something you can slow-sip. No one will care. If someone gives you shit, they're an idiot.

A crucial thing is to make sure that you never convey a sense of judging other people. Be encouraging, even - "Nah, go for it. I'm just sitting this one out."

how do I stick to my goal when people invariably invite me to have "just the one" - I don't know anyone at all who doesn't drink and Im not sure how I'll manage being the odd one out.

Channeling Nancy Reagan here: Just say no. "Nah, I'm good. Thanks though!" Honestly, no one's going to care. No one's going to give you shit. If anyone does, just repeat yourself: "I'm good, but thanks." If they continue to harangue you, just let them, because they will look like assholes in front of everyone, and it ain't your problem.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:47 PM on May 13 [5 favorites]


Before I run off a few random thoughts, I'd like to just say I'm proud of you.
This takes guts.
I'm super glad you are doing this.

1) How old are you? You don't mention, but I am thinking that if your entire social life revolves around alcohol and people who love alcohol, it might be time to expand that social life. I am a BIG fan of, and always recommend MeetUp for this, because I'm a big ol' nerd and I love finding other people who are into the same things I am.
2) Think about something or some things that you might like to accomplish during this period of sobriety. Lift weights, go for a run more often, eat cleaner. This will give you even more reason to stay away from that demon rum.
3) When pressed for a reason, just say "I'm trying to get healthy/healthier." That pretty much should shut down any and all wisecracks. If it doesn't, well, then see point number one and get out and about with some different people who will grow to like and admire healthy sober You.

You can do this.
Work on yourself.
Work on getting healthy.
Work on rebuilding trust.
Work on YOU.

Because, hey - I heard you were awesome.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 12:50 PM on May 13 [9 favorites]


My husband quit drinking when we were in our late 20s. I will say that we had many of your concerns: What will he say when people ask why he isn't drinking? Will he spend the rest of his life being bored and annoyed? Is our social life going to suck now?

All of those things turned out to be vanishingly small deals. A large percentage of the time, nobody even noticed whether or not he was drinking, and if they did not notice, most said nothing. To those that did say something: "I'm not really drinking anymore, it hasn't been agreeing with me." And of the people he actually had to say those words to, almost all had a positive response. "Wow, that's great." "I wish I could do that." et cetera.

Really: the hard part of this is dealing with yourself. The social stuff will be less of a big deal than you're imagining, and it will become less and less so the longer you do it. And as you get older, if your social circle is anything like mine, a bunch more of your friends will quit drinking or cut way back, making it even easier. I'm 37 now and virtually everybody I know complains about how hangovers are terrible and it's not worth it to have more than a couple of drinks.

Good for you for seeing a problem and taking steps to fix it. There is no shame in asking for help, and if you feel like you're struggling with this I really encourage you to try an AA meeting or seek out some kind of counseling. Being able to honestly share your feelings and meet other people will the same struggles will help a lot.
posted by something something at 12:50 PM on May 13 [8 favorites]


I think one really helpful thing to remember is "I'm not drinking today." You're not making any huge pronouncement, or commitment, or anything other than, "Today, I'm not drinking." Somedays it's, "I'm not drinking right now."

Some people find that when they stop drinking that the people that they hang out with can be abrasive, obnoxious and deadly dull. So they find other people to hang out with.

When I was young in San Francisco, I went out for cocktails every weekend. Then as I got older, I was less able to metabolize alcohol, and I drank less, now I can't even finish one. Don't like it any more.

I went to visit some friends, and I really love them, but once we hit the bar, it got old, quickly. I gave everyone bessitos, and bounced.

Sometimes you mature faster than your friends, or your tastes change or whatever and as you've discovered, it's not really all that much fun to drink anymore.

So go out, drink a ginger ale with a lime in it (it looks like something, but it's nothing) and wade into the conversation.

I'd really wonder about my girlfriends who would let me wander off with some random dude though. I mean, even when I was in college, you left with who you came with, and if someone came off like a cock-blocking beyotch, oh well. If your friends are as you describe them, they're just drinking buddies, not really friends, and THAT'S what bears some deep, insightful thought.

So just for today, you're not drinking.

Do check out AA, I think you'll find it interesting and helpful, even if you don't really believe that you're as bad as the other people.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:53 PM on May 13 [15 favorites]


I know people who have had to quit drinking, and AA has been a positive force in their lives (and, by extension, in mine). Your bullet-point questions at the end are pretty much the basic questions that people ask when they want to stop drinking. They're discussed in a lot of AA materials that are available online.

They are naturally of interest to AA members; in some ways, solving those problems and dealing with those fears is the purpose of AA groups. It could be worth going to some meetings; groups vary, and you can (and some people say you should) try lots until you find one with a culture and degree of religiosity that you're comfortable with.

But those four questions at the end seem really familiar; lots of other people have grappled with them and you could probably benefit from their advice and experience. My guess is that you're overestimating how important alcohol is to your social circle, and how much you'll be judged if you don't drink, and underestimating the negative consequences that your drinking has on your friendships and your reputation.
posted by vogon_poet at 12:54 PM on May 13


A friend of mine had a great experience using online forums for support, specifically SoberRecovery.com.

Some people just can't drink. It's not a personality flaw any more than not being able to carry a tune. When you say "Oh I don't drink any more, baaaad news for me haha" any friend who isn't awful will understand.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:04 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Like a lot of the other respondents, I've found that when I've been abstaining from alcohol, a simple "I'm not drinking at the moment" has been all I've needed to say. If your friends are not willing to accept that - as in, this should ABSOLUTELY be a non-issue - another saying that I've heard in AA suggests that sometimes you need to change your "people, places, and things" to get and stay healthy.

Hopefully your friends won't make you make that decision, but if they do, remember that you deserve friends who support you when you make healthy choices for yourself.
posted by DingoMutt at 1:05 PM on May 13


You might find some ideas on how to ease into this from this askme.
posted by megancita at 1:06 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


-how do you explain you're not drinking without saying "I can't trust myself"? I was thinking it might be easier at first to blame medication?

No need to lie in this situation. I've embarrassed myself a few times with alcohol and have always found my friends to be accepting of my honesty when I say, "I was a mess last week. I'm just drinking water tonight."

Offer to DD. That is a positive way to still let everyone fully enjoy themselves.
posted by GrapeApiary at 1:06 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]


The first thing I would say is to slow down!

One thing I'd start with is to separate out all the complicated feelings and impulses that are going on here. I see at least three separate things happening:

1. The impact that an alcohol-fueled indiscretion has had on your relationship,

2. Your social interactions with friends in general (adults don't "drink to catch up"),

3. Your actual drinking behavior.

Also potentially 4 -- if you're anything like I have been when I made serious mistakes due to alcohol -- you probably physically feel like shit, or have strong sense-memories of the worst hangover ever.

I'm not here to tell you to keep drinking, at all! I think that if your takeaway from this is No More Drinking Ever, that's probably what's going to work for you.

But when something like this happened to me, I took it as an opportunity to examine the role drinking was playing in my life and some of the specific behaviors that led to my humiliating experience. I ended up drastically cutting back and making some very strict rules about drinking for myself, which worked well. Maybe this approach would work well for you, or maybe you're someone who really can't ever control your drinking, at all, in which case cold turkey is probably what you want.

Either way, I think examining heavily what actually happened and why you did what you did and what role your own insecurities, feelings of inadequacy, etc. played. I've found in my own life that there's a strong difference between times I just drank too large a quantity of alcohol maybe without eating enough and felt physically sick the next day, and times I made serious mistakes due to drinking. Usually when the latter happens, there are feelings in there that need to be sorted out. Not drinking doesn't make those feelings go away.

To answer your specific questions:

-how do you explain you're not drinking without saying "I can't trust myself"? I was thinking it might be easier at first to blame medication?

I have done well with just saying, "I've been overdoing it lately and have decided to take a break." You can also be a bit more jokey and say, "I dunno, I think I'm still hung over from last weekend..."

-how do I handle myself round people who are drinking or drunk like at parties. I can't help thinking how boring everyone is going to seem when I'm not laughing drunkenly at their jokes, and ill seem boring to them

I don't know if you live in a place with a strong car culture where people tend to drive to where they'll be drinking, but I have to say that being the designated driver has drastically improved my ability to not go shot for shot with people or feel like not being drunk is a problem at parties. When I moved to California from NYC I had all these same concerns. Like, what is even the point of going to a party if I can't get a little tipsy, and isn't it going to be incredibly dull to be the only sober one there, etc etc? It's actually really not a problem, unless the people in your social circle are still living in a college kid binge drinking lifestyle where everybody is completely off their ass wasted at all times.

For the most part, as a non-drunk person at lots of parties where the alcohol is flowing freely, I find that there are plenty of other people who are also not drunk. There's a whole spectrum of people, from folks who straight up do not drink and are stone sober, to people who've been nursing one beer and then switched to water or soda or something, to people who are a little buzzed, to maybe one or two people who are actually straight up drunk and you can tell by interacting with them. I will admit that alcohol can be a bit of a social lubricant, which is why I tend to have one beer, period, right when I arrive at a party, just to get over the hump of awkwardness. I know I can say no to a second beer -- in fact I know I'm driving, so I have to say no to the second beer -- but all in all it's really not the problem you're imagining, unless there are much deeper problems in your social circle that quitting drinking is not going to resolve.

-what exactly do people do when they don't drink? Meeting my friends usually involves a bottle of wine in the house / meeting at a bar / cocktails after work / beers at BBQs etc. I don't know how else to socialise it seems

I do all the same things and socialize in all the same places, I just stick to water or soft drinks. Lately I've been doing lots of pub trivia with friends at a bar with table service and a full food menu. This is nice because it's more of a context where one can have a drink if they choose, and there are lots of other things to get if you aren't drinking. It doesn't look quite as weird to drink water in a casual pub setting as it does to do that at some kind of SHOTSSHOTSSHOTS kind of place where people are only there to get blitzed. Also trivia tends to be on weeknights, and it's no fun to play if you're wasted because you won't know any answers.

You also really, REALLY need to get to a place where you can turn down alcohol at a more food and hangouts centered social activity like a barbecue or dinner party. This is sort of what I mean when I say that there might be more here than a simple binary cold turkey giving up alcohol is going to fix. I grew up in a drinking culture where it's common to start drinking in one's early teens, and where alcohol is a fixture of everyday life, and where it's quite possible that if you decline a drink someone will ask why. But it really is no problem to say, "I'm cutting back", or "I'm driving", or "just not feeling it today" or whatever. If it is a problem not to get shitfaced on beer at your friends' barbecues, the problem is your friends, not a particular mind-altering chemical.

-how do I stick to my goal when people invariably invite me to have "just the one" - I don't know anyone at all who doesn't drink and Im not sure how I'll manage being the odd one out.

I think "odd one out" is the key to all your problems here. Like, in a rational world, holding a fizzy water with lime instead of a gin & tonic is not an "odd one out" situation. It's just this beverage vs. that beverage. I can't tell whether this is something you're worrying about because you haven't experienced adult life without drinking and are making a lot of assumptions about what your friends value, or if this is a real concern because your friends are all terrible people you wouldn't actually like if you hung out with them sober. But, seriously, if anyone is actually making you feel like an outcast because the liquid in your glass doesn't have this one particular chemical in it, THEY ARE ASSHOLES AND YOU SHOULD DROP THEM. Also, consider that just asking if you want a glass of wine, or "sure I can't get you a beer" or whatever isn't a personal attack, it's just a request, the same way you'd offer a friend a mint if you were having one. Experiment with saying no in a casual tone and having a non-lying stock answer like "I'm taking a break from drinking". If you have to invent a medication to get out of one glass of wine, like for real and not because this is all very new territory for you, that is no bueno in terms of your social circle. If your friends actually like you and are good people, I promise they will take "I'm cutting back" as the last word.

Sorry for the gigantic novel, but this is territory I've dealt with a lot over the past few years. I'm not sure how old you are, but as you get into your later 20s and 30s you'll find that you're really not alone in this at all.

I wish I could offer up a TL;DR, but I think you should just read even if it's long.
posted by Sara C. at 1:07 PM on May 13 [12 favorites]


It's tremendously difficult to quit drinking when your social life is centered around it. Part of the solution is to add other ways to enjoy yourself. People who don't drink aren't an alien species. They go to dinner, concerts, camping, museums, vacations, just like you do. But their social lives aren't centered around alcohol.

I'm not saying you have to turn your life upside down. I'm saying your best bet is to add other activities to your social life.
posted by cnc at 1:08 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


I go to bars, and I don't drink. I also tend to feel overloaded on sweet things.

So, I tend to get one of three different nonalcoholic drinks, that aren't sweet.:

Seltzer water with lemon in it is actually quite refreshing, and looks like regular alcohol. Some people have bitters added to it, but I haven't yet. This is by far my favorite.

Tomato juice or a Virgin Mary - which is a Bloody Mary without the booze. Looks exactly like an alcoholic drink, esp. if you get all the garnishes with it. (Like celery, olive, lemon, beef stick, cheeseburger, etc.)

Coffee. It's non alcoholic and looks like it. But, people may just assume that you're the Designated Driver.

Good luck - you can do this!
posted by spinifex23 at 1:18 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


I drink rarely, and am often around people drinking when I'm sober. As long as you don't make a big deal of it, people don't really care. Drunk people can be a little tiring, but you will seem wittier than ever to them.

There is something I want to mention. Have you had "out of body experiences" before when drinking? Was this "watching someone else do these things" experience common when you drank a lot? It's possible that someone put something in your drink. Even if it was just alcohol, a man who took you back to his place when you were that drunk and not into it....

While you take alcohol out of your life, try to be kind to yourself.
posted by catalytics at 1:18 PM on May 13


If your friends give you a hard time about it, start working on expanding your social circle. But I have a lot of dietary issues and have done things like brought my own diet coke to parties, knowing they would not have anything I could drink, and the key is to keep it lowkey and non-blamey (it's not you, it's not them, it just is) and don't turn it into a big issue. Play it off casually.

It only becomes a big issue if you get into dramatics about how I AM RUINING MY LIFE, MY BF LAID DOWN AN ULTIMATUM, blah blah blah. And even if you do that a time or two, the next time is a fresh start. Just work on your casual patter. I try to not mention "I eat this way due to LIFE THREATENING MEDICAL CONDITION" and I just keep it low key with "Oh, you know, I have some blood sugar issues. No big. How are the kids?(or insert other topic change)"

Since you seem really uncomfortable with the issue of what your social circle might think and do: I and other non-drinkers I have known have done things at bars like order a sprite with cherries in it. It LOOKS alcoholic. It looks like "a drink" instead of just a soda. Tip the bartender big and master the art of saying "My usual!" (after the bartender has learned that your "usual" is whatever non-alcoholic beverage you choose to go with) and bartenders are often happy to go along with the ruse. You haven't lied to anyone but casual observers can assume whatever they want.
posted by Michele in California at 1:30 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


I'm from Ireland and can relate to your start-drinking-early in-life, every-friend-seems-to-drink-heavily, every-social-event-involves-alcohol descriptions, which describe my teens early adulthood in Dublin and expat life with fellow Paddies in NYC and Toronto perfectly. I quit drinking in my thirties and had to deal with the "why are you not doing shooooooots killjoy!" stuff even at that late stage. So what you're expecting and worrying about may seem odd to some respondents here but I know exactly what you're referring to and why you're stressing out about it. And I navigated it myself and can tell you it will be okay!

-how do you explain you're not drinking without saying "I can't trust myself"? I was thinking it might be easier at first to blame medication?
Don't lie. If you shrug and keep it to a smiling "taking some time off!" or "need a breather!" people will react accordingly. Keep it light, is what I'm suggesting, even if you don't feel light. If you want to get into a heavier discussion about alcohol with friends, do so over a coffee at lunchtime or something, not when others are drinking or about to crack open a bottle of wine.

-how do I handle myself round people who are drinking or drunk like at parties. I can't help thinking how boring everyone is going to seem when I'm not laughing drunkenly at their jokes, and ill seem boring to them
You won't seem boring. You can always arrive and leave early, or seek out the others who are taking it easy - they will be around! In the unlikely event you are bored out of your mind each time you meet, it may be time to find other social groups. But give your friends a chance to step up and be interesting people whether you have a drink or not.

-what exactly do people do when they don't drink? Meeting my friends usually involves a bottle of wine in the house / meeting at a bar / cocktails after work / beers at BBQs etc. I don't know how else to socialise it seems
Personally, I still go to pubs and sit round bbqs when others are drinking. The laughs and conversation are still the same, and if it gets to the point everyone is plastered I simply leave. I think you will see others are taking it easy or designated driver more often than you think, but you just haven't noticed in the past. As far as other options if you need to get away from it - social sports clubs, doggy walks, lunches, theatre/cinema, live music, cooking, classes, there are lots of options. But if you're in a very drinky crowd, ending up in the pub has a way of being part of everything, I get that. I have made new friends who are gym-buddies and so on who are not part of my old boozier group

-how do I stick to my goal when people invariably invite me to have "just the one" - I don't know anyone at all who doesn't drink and Im not sure how I'll manage being the odd one out.
If I were you I'd take aside a couple of friends at a non-drinking time/event and tell them you're taking some time off the booze and need some support. You don't need to tell them everything that's on your mind. People generally want to be helpful and like to be confided in, and I am sure they will be there for you. And your being sober will become the new normal quickly.

And it will be okay! The truth is, people aren't watching us as much as we think, and the odd idiot who polices others' glasses after a few rounds is manageable. You will still have fun at events and others will still find you fun when you're on the diet cokes, I promise, I've been there. And you will probably find as the next couple years go past that more people in your circle are doing as you are and cutting back or quitting.
posted by jamesonandwater at 1:30 PM on May 13 [5 favorites]


there will be a lot of wine and they will be dumbstruck and possibly disappointed that I'm not joining in.

They're going to be disappointed? You should re-evaluate the selfishness of your friends. And I mean that seriously -- if your friends are going to be disappointed because you not drinking is less fun for them, those people are giant jerkoffs.

As a young adult though (early 20s)

As gently as possible, how old are you now? Because the behaviour of the people around you sounds... very early 20s?

Anyway, on a purely practical basis, I would suggest an AA meeting for you (you don't have to say anything or interact or do anything but sit and listen) and telling your friends "30 day detox! No alcohol! Go clean eating!"
posted by DarlingBri at 1:34 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


One little piece of advice

You do not have to justify or explain not drinking to anyone.
posted by Postroad at 1:37 PM on May 13 [7 favorites]


People who have a healthy relationship with alcohol don't really care if you are drinking or not.
posted by thelonius at 1:38 PM on May 13 [21 favorites]


Some good advice above. I was somewhat like you - maybe started a bit later in my teems but more than made up for it over the next 15 or so years. Again, a heavy working-class pub culture meant that most social events revolved around drinking. Everyone got hammered at the weekends, during the week, at parties, at gigs, whatever. Then I just started to realise that feeling like death warmed over the next day was Not Fun and No Good so I just stopped. Not entirely - I wouldn't say I don't ever drink, but it might be six drinks a year as opposed to six pints a night.

There has not really been any pushback from anyone. Maybe some curiosity when it first happened but all I said was it was making me feel awful and it didn't agree with me. I am effectively the permanent DD now, but that's OK (and as said above, is another good reason if you do feel the need to explain - which of course you shouldn't have to). It's cheaper, healthier, and the joy of waking up the morning after without the godawful nausea and spinning head is worth any amount of immature prattling from people who should probably just mind their own.

You will probably find in any case that viewing things through the bottom of a non-alcoholic glass enables you to see all the other people around you, even in your wider circle of friends, who aren't drinking much or at all, who you might not have noticed while being drunk yourself.

Good luck!
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 1:39 PM on May 13


you will seem wittier than ever to them

This is very true, and once you learn to deal with the initial social awkwardness of a social gathering without alcohol, it's like having a super-power.

Have you ever been in a situation where you realized you were really smart, or good at something, or super together? Being the sober person at a party of people you genuinely like, and who aren't incoherently shitfaced, is like that. You're fucking Oscar Wilde, dazzling all your friends with your charm and wit and social graces, because you aren't operating through a thick layer of tipsy.
posted by Sara C. at 1:40 PM on May 13 [6 favorites]


I host parties. I always make sangria or have drinks, or whatever. But once I found out a few of my friends didn't drink, I immediately added non-alcoholic punch to the menu for my next party. It's what friends do.

If your friends want to drink and you're okay with that, then they should be okay with offering a non-alcoholic drink (or telling you it's OK to bring something yourself in the case of a potluck or what have you will) if they're hosting something at their house, and be fine with you drinking ginger ale or juice at a bar or restaurant. If they're ragging on you about that, that's really not OK.

Besides, there's a kind of "cool" factor in being the DD or the sober one in a crowd. I frequently fit that role in college, and one person talked smack to me about "nursing" my drink. I think she meant it as good-natured ribbing, and she was kind of tispy already, so I laughed it off and said that I was not going to drink and that would be that. Nobody bothered me about it afterward.

So just remember, try it one day at a time (this too shall pass), and if your friends are considerate at all, they'll be like "Oh, so Anon doesn't drink, let's make sure to have soda or tea for Anon" at our next party, along the same lines as if Anon were a vegetarian, lactose-intolerant, etc. It's just a thing, nothing more, nothing less.
posted by PearlRose at 1:47 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


I have done some stupid drunken things in my day, and within the last 18 months or so cut back on my drinking as a result. I know well the next morning feeling of "holy shit how much did i fuck things up." I'm in my 30s but I have friends in their 20s who drink more than I do, and friends that I know purely because we are regulars (or staff) at the same bars. I mean, that's a drinky crowd!

Yet I just want to emphasize what everyone has said in this awesome thread, which is that people aren't likely paying as much attention to what you are drinking as you think. Or they'll learn not to harass you after a couple lighthearted "No, for real, not feeling it today! [chuckle, big smile]" And if they keep being dicks, that's on them, not you.

As I've gotten older I've found the "Man, booze is just not agreeing with me lately" excuse works really well with my crowd. I've also met folks who are completely sober for a number of reasons, and watching them handle social situations surrounded by booze with grace and no hint of awkwardness is actually kind of an inspiration/reminder to me that I don't always need to drink to have fun. Maybe you'll become that inspiration to some of your friends!

Good luck, I wish you the best.
posted by misskaz at 1:49 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


-how do you explain you're not drinking without saying "I can't trust myself"? I was thinking it might be easier at first to blame medication?

Don't lie. Just say that you're not drinking tonight.

-how do I handle myself round people who are drinking or drunk like at parties. I can't help thinking how boring everyone is going to seem when I'm not laughing drunkenly at their jokes, and ill seem boring to them

You won't seem boring to them, but they may seem boring to you. I don't really drink and I do find it a bit insufferable to be around people who are drunk. It's not a bad thing, it just is. I think you'll end up seeking out and making new friends who aren't as likely to get drunk.


-what exactly do people do when they don't drink? Meeting my friends usually involves a bottle of wine in the house / meeting at a bar / cocktails after work / beers at BBQs etc. I don't know how else to socialise it seems


It's not about the beverages you consume. It's about socializing. It's about a shared experience. People do karaoke, pub quizzes, eat food, see movies, talk, play board games...if it's all about the drinking, then that's something that doesn't have much substance to your friendships.

-how do I stick to my goal when people invariably invite me to have "just the one" - I don't know anyone at all who doesn't drink and Im not sure how I'll manage being the odd one out.

You remember what's at stake here. What do you want more, the drink or your partner in your life? I hate to assume, but if you don't know many people in your life who don't drink, then you must be rather young or not have a ton of friends. Either way, this is something that will become less a problem in time as you will have fewer friends who drink all the time because life often won't let them (kids, job, etc.).

Good luck.
posted by inturnaround at 1:50 PM on May 13


Can you just tell friends you want to hang out without drinking? I had a friend come over one night and made dinner. I didn't drink because I had drunk a ton that weekend, and she didn't because she was driving. We realized it was the first time in... years that we'd had dinner with someone without having alcohol (not that I get trashed every time I eat with my friends, but usually everyone will have a drink or two). So anyway, after that, I decided to just start having friends over periodically for a no-alcohol evening, and it was perfectly enjoyable to hang out with them with no alcohol (which it really should be if you're friends...)

tl;dr: ask some friends if they want to come over and hang out without drinking.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 1:51 PM on May 13


-how do I handle myself round people who are drinking or drunk like at parties. I can't help thinking how boring everyone is going to seem when I'm not laughing drunkenly at their jokes, and ill seem boring to them

Sara C has the right idea with this one, but i wanted to expand on it a bit.

Even in highschool, but also all through undergrad and generally being a young adult i had friends who didn't drink, or who would only have like a single beer they nursed all night.

I never really asked why, because not only is it none of my business but i also didn't really care. It wasn't generally awkward, and additionally they didn't seem to care or they wouldn't have shown up.

Anyone who cared, or made a point of giving them(or me, if i wasn't drinking that night) a hard time about it was an asshole who invariably wasn't someone that fun to hang out with anyways.

Basically, what i wanted to get at with this and your other points wrt hanging out with people who are drinking while not drinking is that you will be surprised how little anyone cares if you have decent friends(which i'm sure you do!). Maybe, maybe one or two people will care. But you'll quickly realize that they aren't really that cool anyways, and likely have crappy projectiony reasons that are really about themselves and not you for having some issue with you not drinking or haranguing you about it.

I think the main thing is just not giving a fuck, and being really nonchalant about it. There's several people i know who i didn't even realize didn't drink for a while. They were just always there, hanging out, doing there own thing at parties and socializing and everything like normal. That's the sort of ideal you should be thinking of. If anyone asks, eh not right now.

I do like the idea of telling a couple close friends you're not drinking right now so they can help deflect questions to, and help avoid situations such as someone ordering everyone drinks by going "oh we only need 5, not 6" when someone goes up to the bar/kitchen/etc.
posted by emptythought at 1:56 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


If your friends razz you about it, just say, "Dude, I'm your DD today!" in a tone like, "Why would you even ask that since you're benefiting from me not drinking?"

In the past ten years I've watched my friend-group almost all transition go from regular drinkers to rare- or non-drinkers. If you feel you need an explanation of some sort, here are some common excuses that nobody really questions:

"Ugh, my allergies are terrible this year, alcohol gives me a splitting headache right now."
"Ugh, my allergies are terrible this year, I can't drink with my allergy medication unless I want to be a puddle on the floor."
"I think my metabolism just STOPPED when I turned 30; I decided I'd rather give up alcohol than take up jogging!"
"... rather give up alcohol than give up chocolate!"
"I'm on a cleanse, it was my mom's idea, so much kale."
"I'm driving."
"I have to get up SO early for work tomorrow."
"I think I'm coming down with a cold."

A lot of these allow you to pivot the conversation by being like, "Pollen, right?" "Moms, right?" "Work, right?" and segue into a new conversation instead of dwelling on your non-drinking.

People mostly want to make sure you're not going to be judgmental about THEM drinking. Once you aren't, 99% of people will shut up about it. The remaining 1% who literally can't socialize without everyone around them drinking are maybe not great people to have as friends.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:10 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


My father was an alcoholic, he always said he drank to make other people interesting, a quote he stole from who knows where. Do not worry about them finding you boring, if they are drinking they won't find you boring. You may find them boring, but if they are the sort of people to let you go off with a strange guy even knowing you are in a relationship that might not be a bad thing.

My Dads response when he stopped drinking was always a polite but firm "No thanks, Not drinking today." and he worked as a Chef in pubs in Australia so was knee deep in drinking culture.
posted by wwax at 2:11 PM on May 13


I don't drink often now and when I do I never mix drinks and when I get to a certain point I switch to water.

If you normally don't drink very often, not drinking at all shouldn't be as worrisome a change as you're fearing, so that might just be your anxiety talking.

You can talk to a doctor, no matter what the drinking culture is where you are. Maybe talk to her about anti-anxiety or anti-depressants for a while.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:23 PM on May 13


After getting into a bad 5-6 nights a week habit over a number of years, I decided to drink less to lose weight and am comfortable telling peoplt that; losing weight is a perfectly acceptable social goal, and booze is very fattening.

A mental hack I've found very successful is that I get a certain, fixed number of days to drink each month; 1 in jan, 2 in feb, 3 in march. That way I don't have to climb the hill of NEVER DRINKING AGAIN but I have a very clear and sharp line which I won't cross. And it keeps the agency with me and lets me pick fun nights out.

Interestingly I've found I enjoy non-drinking nights just as much, go figure!
posted by Sebmojo at 2:30 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


For some people drinking starts out as fun, becomes a habit, then a necessity. Necessity as in... I need it to socialize. And of course I almost always socialize with people who drink. People who drink like me. I mean doesn't everyone drink? Well, no they don't. If you think you have a problem... you have a problem. Short term solution? Tell your friends you are not drinking today/tonight. If they are friends they will honour your resolution. If not...? Well, you've just found out who your real friends are. There are long-term solutions, but you are not asking about that. Just strategies for the present. Good luck with that.
posted by Mister Bijou at 2:37 PM on May 13


If someone isn't drinking for obvious reasons like pregancy or something it doesn't go unremarked-upon.

If you would really like to avoid saying you don't trust yourself to drink or similar, tell them that you are setting the groundwork for being pregnant one day and not having everyone figure it out because you suddenly aren't drinking, by beginning random periods of not drinking for no reason. You are doing a fake pregnancy. You will refuse 'just one' the same way you would if really pregnant, or else the whole faking won't work.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 3:04 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


-how do you explain you're not drinking without saying "I can't trust myself"? I was thinking it might be easier at first to blame medication?

You say what you have to say. I know what'd I'd say, but you know your comfort level and friends better than I do.

I have a social circle that is probably not as heavily drinking as yours, but does usually have alcohol as a feature of get-togethers. I can't drink much, and one of us can't drink at all. It can seem a little awkward to be the odd one out, but you shouldn't feel embarrassed that you're not drinking (there are many good reasons not to) and if your friends pressure you to drink, you need to tell them that it's not their business - and then get better friends if they won't let up.

When I'm not drinking and my friends are, I usually have something else - like soda and a snack. It just feels a little more natural to have something to do with my hands in those situations. If you're at a place like a pub or bar, it might feel weird to order something non-alcoholic... but remember that in addition to teetotallers, there are people in that bar who are probably designated drivers, too! It's not as weird as you think.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:17 PM on May 13


I have news for you - a few drinks in and no one will notice you're not drinking. Your friends are partiers. They won't notice what you are or are not drinking once they're tipsy. I promise.

If you really can't think about how to navigate this and maintain your boundaries, skip the event.

Another idea? Stop hanging out with people who pressure you to drink, because they are super immature.
posted by jbenben at 3:43 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


You should consider (hopefully with the help of AA) whether a bar with a bunch of pushy friends is a safe place for you at this stage in your recovery. In early recovery, you may need to ask yourself honestly about whether you can be in such an environment and not drink.

Sometimes I find that people who pressure other people to drink are doing so because they are worried about their own alcoholic behavior. If they can get *you* to drink, they won't have to face their questions about their own drinking.

Just having that sense of compassion for them - that this is a struggle they're having - can help. After you say no thanks once or twice, you can say you're trying to not drink and that you'd appreciate it if they can stop pushing you. If they can't stop themselves, you may have to leave, because it sounds like the peer pressure is difficult to manage.
posted by jasper411 at 4:20 PM on May 13


I quit drinking almost a year ago and it was one of my best decisions ever. Hell pretty much froze over. During this time I've traveled to Paris and a few other "drinking" countries, attended heavy-booze work functions, family events, weddings and even just dates/nights out. Just don't drink. You don't need to explain yourself and you don't need to make a huge deal about it. If you act confident and like its no big deal it won't be. I run in circles of HEAVY drinkers and haven't had an issue. In fact, some have even started to follow my lead! Being sober is the new black, so just treat it that way.

However, always have A drink (water, seltzer, whatever) with you because it gives your hands something to do and you won't feel left out. I even take it up a notch and have mine put in a fancy glass or wine glass. I get lots of weird looks from waiters but they can go fuck themselves.

By quitting booze I:
- have tremendously grown as a person, I feel like I have more compassion and have become so resilient.

- lost weight and have glowing skin. People ask what I've been doing and I say "taking better care of myself." If they really pry the I just tell them I quit drinking. If they ask why I tell them because I'm in my mid thirties and it's time to cut the bullshit. This usually shuts them up pretty quickly (most people get self conscious about their own habits). Besides, don't they know how rude it is to dig at personal choices?! You have NO obligation to explain yourself when practicing a healthy habit. Ever. That is your personal territory and you may do as you please. Own it. People will be curious because choosing to be sober is not the easy way out. Most people choose the easy way out. You are not most people and that's pretty awesome!

- saved a ton of money

- feel like I can be myself. I do have a touch of social anxiety but after everyone ELSE has had a few drinks, I can open right up and be goofy. It's fun.

- think clearly, get better sleep.

- have time to pursue interests that I've been meaning to "get around to".

- perform better at work

- am better at listening to myself and my body's needs

- don't regret things, don't forget what I did last night and have been doing next to no apologizing. It's a HUGE weight that is simply gone.

...and so forth. I feel like I learn something new every day I don't drink.

Give it a shot. It's not as bad as it sounds. Besides, what good things in life are handed easily!?

Please feel free to mail me. You got this!
posted by floweredfish at 5:15 PM on May 13 [8 favorites]


Ugh, this sucks.

My advice is, there is no easy solution here. If you agree to quit drinking, which I agree is a good idea right now, you are going to lose some friends and will have to make big changes to how you socialize, relax, have fun, and manage social and other anxiety. That will not be an easy process no matter what.

Consider skipping this upcoming event.

Get ready to start saying things like, "I just don't feel like drinking right now" or "I'm trying to not drink, but Im not ready to talk about it yet" or "Honestly, I don't like what alcohol brings out in me. I want to make some changes to my life and I'm starting by quitting drinking" and finally, "It feels bad that you keep pressing me to drink. You can drink if you want but I hope you can respect I make my own choices."

Some people will be assholes about this - and it is assholish to pressure anyone to drink no matter what the culture of your social group is. Some people will not be able to adapt. Others may surprise you and continue to show up as good friends, and finally, if you stick with this, as the years go on other friends will likely cut down on alcohol or quit, and will likely eventually express gratitude to you for paving the way.


But you have to build in strategies to make this change work, and part of that is filling your time that you would have spent drinking, building new relationships that do not rely on alcohol, and finding ways to manage anxiety and to reflect meaningfully on why you have made certain choices, which is, for most people, psychotherapy.

Best of luck, you are on a long journey that will involve mistakes and successes, but what matters most is that you keep moving forward.
posted by latkes at 6:27 PM on May 13


I quit drinking shortly after I moved away from a drink-centric social group. On a visit back, I told them about my decision to quit permanently -- I was hesitant because I expected pressure and whinging and was afraid they would feel like I was rejecting them.

Every single one of them has been very supportive and accommodating. Not one of them has offered me a drink or pressured me to drink, except for a "Hey, we're going to have a bonfire and a bunch of wine, well, if you want to you can have some, but come anyway!"

I vote for making it clear to them that you are quitting drinking for your health and sanity for an indefinite period of time. If they're anything less than supportive and encouraging, then they aren't your friends and you've just made TWO good life choices in looking out for yourself and weeding out people who aren't actually friends.

I also suggest AA, at least for a few meetings, just to see that there are people with a life without drinking. I stopped after a few meetings because my schedule got full of things I couldn't do drunk or hungover (exercise . . . art . . . gardening . . . writing) but they got me through the first month or so.
posted by mibo at 6:43 PM on May 13


: "-how do I handle myself round people who are drinking or drunk like at parties. I can't help thinking how boring everyone is going to seem when I'm not laughing drunkenly at their jokes, and ill seem boring to them"

People won't notice you aren't drunk when they are; like someone said you'll appear to be an intellectual super-genius to drunk people. Sadly the reverse is also true so you might find drunk people boring especially if they are the get drunk and throw up over your shoes sort.

: "-what exactly do people do when they don't drink? Meeting my friends usually involves a bottle of wine in the house / meeting at a bar / cocktails after work / beers at BBQs etc. I don't know how else to socialise it seems"

Just drink non-alcoholic drinks. A word of warning though to watch your caffeine intake. It's pretty easy to get uncomfortably buzzed and jittery on caffeine over the course of a night of drinking coke.

: "-how do I stick to my goal when people invariably invite me to have "just the one" - I don't know anyone at all who doesn't drink and Im not sure how I'll manage being the odd one out.
"

I don't drink; never have. People offer me a drink when they are getting a round out of the fridge all the time and I just say no thanks. It helps to be drinking something else even if it is just water (also helps with the caffeine jitters). From what I've observed people are more curious why I've never drank then they are about why someone stops for a either a while or permanently. Everyone who drinks regularly has a story or three about the weekend they indulged too much and then gave it a rest for a while.

Sadly I've had more than one person tell me they don't trust people who don't drink *shrug* How is a person supposed to respond to that? Just blow them off and get on with living.
posted by Mitheral at 9:20 PM on May 13


My problem is that my social life and culture is very oriented around alcohol. If someone isn't drinking for obvious reasons like pregancy or something it doesn't go unremarked-upon.

I sympathise with this. I have a medical reason for not drinking (I occasionally have beer or wine at home, as this means I can deal with any side effects easily) which I'm not always comfortable disclosing when out with people professionally or whom I don't know well. I'm at the age where it would be reasonable to assume I might be pregnant so it's a bit awkward. Further annoyance - I don't like sodas so I end up drinking water or tea all night.

The best way to do things - unless you are happy to pretend to be on antibiotics a lot - is to respond to people saying 'you don't want one? Are you sure?' with a firm but friendly 'I just don't really feel like drinking today.' My friends know I don't drink much, so that's not an issue, but this is how I usually deal with it when meeting people for work reasons.

Do you have any social activities you can do with your friends that aren't based around bars or clubs? What would you all enjoy doing that isn't traditionally a drinking occasion?
posted by mippy at 4:42 AM on May 14


I know quite a few social drinkers who have gone through temporary periods of abstinence, often as a way to feel healthier or save money or focus on other parts of their life without distraction. It's not really that different from going on a diet, and it's common enough among people I know that friends are supportive and don't instantly assume the teetotaler has a drinking problem or has turned into a stick in the mud. I think once people hit a certain age and have a few hangovers under their belts, the response changes from "aw, just this one" to "that's a really good idea, I should try it."
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:05 AM on May 14


I decided to quit drinking at the start of 2013. At the time, my social life was very booze-oriented, and, like you, I didn't know anyone who didn't drink. I knew of people who didn't, but treated them kind of like an aberration. Why would anyone to choose not to drink when drinking was SO FUN? Except it ended up not being any fun at all.

What worked for me was continuing to go along to social events that involved alcohol and just not drinking. I carried on going to pubs and parties, because that's where my friends were. And for me, it wasn't hard not to drink while I was there - because I had hit a point where I really, really didn't want to do that any more. After a month or so, it started to hit me that I felt a lot better than I had done when I was drinking, both in terms of the effects drinking had been having on my long-standing depression & anxiety issues (which I'd been self-medicating in the first place, never successfully), and more generally in terms of not feeling hung over as hell half the time. At that point, it became even easier just not to drink.

I guess I was possibly unusual in that it wasn't at all hard for me to quit, because I'd hit the point where I just didn't want to be the person I was when I was drinking any more. I've not interacted with AA or any other alcohol programs, so I'm not going to talk about rock bottoms or use any of the other touchstones of those movements (they're not bad, and they're great for some people, but I didn't find I needed them and thus never engaged), but if you're not at a similar point yourself then you're probably going to find it harder to stay dry. I know that there were plenty of points during my seven-year fling (I started early and stopped early) with alcohol when I knew I should stop but couldn't or wouldn't because I just wasn't done with drinking. It felt like giving up too much. And then there came a day when it turned out I was done with drinking, and I'm really glad it came.

In terms of handling social situations, the deal is basically this: anyone who makes comments/asks about the fact that you're not drinking that is in any way rude, negative or a criticism is an asshole. Western society does not believe that alcohol is a drug, but it is (and a crappy one - you have to ingest so damn much of it to feel stuff, you pee all the time, the hangover's a bitch, the 'high' feels pretty out-of-control past a very low threshold, etc.), and there are some people who are going to be mad at you for not wanting to be complicit in that any more when it's working so well for them. And that is totally their problem.

No one was a dick about it with me, which really helped, but because I was ready to be done with it, I think I'd have been able to handle it if challenged. It's going to be tough in the early days, especially if you're not 100% of the way there on being done with booze even though you know you need to stop (maybe for a bit, maybe forever) and you're feeling fragile and sensitive about it. Depending on your situation, you might need to find new friends or hobbies that don't revolve around drinking.

If your friends are good friends, they'll be cool with you not drinking (or even kinda relieved, as some of mine were). If they're really good friends, they'll be more accommodating than that - planning non-alcohol-focused socialising, providing really delicious non-alcoholic alternatives, etc. And if they turn out to be dicks about it, they are not your friends. It sounds like you really, really value your relationship and want to save it, and your drinky friends might be a casualty of that. And that's not the worst thing in the world, even if it feels sad and lonely for a time.

Incidentally, my social life has ended up being much less booze-focused since I stopped drinking - more by accident than by design. My ex and I broke up, and since it was mostly his friends who were into pubs and booze parties, I see less of them now (though we do keep in touch). I've since started dating someone who doesn't drink and whose friends are used to being friends with a non-drinker, and it makes life so much easier.
posted by terretu at 5:13 AM on May 14


I stopped drinking early in 2013. I've found that with acquaintances, they usually don't pay much attention to whether or not I'm drinking at a social event, and with close friends, I basically tell them that I stopped drinking and that my life is just better without alcohol in it. I usually go for seltzer with lemon when I'm out, FWIW.

Also, I joined a 24 hour gym. Now if I have nervous energy in the 9pm-1am block, I can go for a run, a swim, or bang a racquetball around for a bit, and a trip to the gym suffices a "plans" if there's nothing going on.
posted by alphanerd at 6:55 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


This part of Sara C.'s advice should be in bold, blinking text:
"Either way, I think examining heavily what actually happened and why you did what you did and what role your own insecurities, feelings of inadequacy, etc. played. I've found in my own life that there's a strong difference between times I just drank too large a quantity of alcohol maybe without eating enough and felt physically sick the next day, and times I made serious mistakes due to drinking. Usually when the latter happens, there are feelings in there that need to be sorted out. Not drinking doesn't make those feelings go away."

Since you alreadysuccessfully cut back on drinking and switch to water after your limit, etc, it sounds like the "bad" drinking is a crutch for something, be it social anxiety (what activities will i even do without alcohol?), general shyness, relationship questioning, a need to feel desired (leading you to do something that makes you more open to fooling around), FOMO (drinking to "catch up"),whatever. Figure out what that issue is and try to fix that.

I went through a similar period and basically figured out that I was (still!) painfully shy and being drunk made that Not A Problem, so now I just accept that I open up to people at a slower pace and I'm one of the more quiet ones at teh table (until I get comfortable after knowing people, then im a monsta!)

Side note: if you go to some fancyish cocktail bars, read teh cocktail menu and see what kinds of syrups and purees might be in some of the drinks. I really like seltzer with rose syrup or blackberry puree in seltzer. Just ask the bartender for whatevs and seltzer, they will be happy to make it for you!
posted by WeekendJen at 12:34 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I think your difficulty lies more in what you are telling yourself, not in what to tell others. Get straight on that first.
posted by LiverOdor at 8:13 AM on May 16


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