How to stop drinking and keep my social life?
September 4, 2011 7:41 PM   Subscribe

How can I stop drinking and maintain a social life?

I haven't done regrettable things while drinking. It just makes me gain weight and feel sicker. I didn't drink until I was 20, and I remember being a lot healthier then.

I'm a student, and everyone goes out to the bars after class. Working people hit the bars all the time too, so it seems like there's no end to this. I've known a few people who don't drink, but those are people who go to bed at 11 PM and have a very, very small social circle. That won't ever be me. Plus people like that are often sanctimonious about their lifestyle and put others off.

I don't think I can just go out and have one drink, because I'm kind of an extreme person. So where can I go to make friends and date normally without looking awkward?
posted by CorduroyCorset to Human Relations (28 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
the trick is to go to places you can't or don't normally drink -book readings, movies, art galleries (there's usually some wine or something, but not enough to get blitzed on), some concerts/plays/etc. start looking in your school periodical. go to coffee shops instead of bars.

if you still want to go to bars occasionally, only bring enough cash for two drinks (and tip!). leave your debit card at home. tell your friends not to buy you any rounds.

as an aside, don't knock going to bed early, it'll probably help your health as much as quitting drinking.
posted by nadawi at 7:48 PM on September 4, 2011

Hi! I don't drink! And I'm not a sanctimonious, antisocial asshole, either, but thanks for asking.

Go to the bars with your friends and just...don't drink alcohol. That's about as complicated as it needs to be. If you feel weird just drinking water, get some ginger ale or club soda with lime or something.

It's really not a big deal. People might notice, but all you need to say is, "no thanks" when offered a drink or "none for me to tonight" if people ask why. You don't need to launch into some spiel about weight gain and being healthy. That's your own business.

It seems like there's a question like this on Ask at least once a month, about how to maintain a social life without alcohol. And it's just like...seriously? Go do whatever the heck you'd be doing anyway, except drink a different beverage. The not-drinking thing is really not as big of a deal as you people seem to imagine it to be. /rant
posted by phunniemee at 7:48 PM on September 4, 2011 [34 favorites]

My secret is that I order a beer in a dark bottle. I have a few sips to appreciate the taste, and then I go to the bathroom and dump it out, and refill it with water from the tap. That way I can keep "drinking" and no one notices any difference.
posted by hermitosis at 7:51 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't drink, and I love bars and spend a lot of time at them. As phunniemee says, it's not hard, you just... don't drink. If you feel like you need an excuse, drive wherever you're going -- nobody questions a designated driver -- but it's really not a big deal to say "no thanks", nobody cares that much about what you're drinking unless, well, they're a sanctimonious asshole. I'm not a big (non-euphemistic) drinker at all, so I'm not one to have a fancy-looking water or a sparkling thing with a lime in it, I just don't have a glass, and it's fine. If someone asks? "No thanks, I'm good."
posted by brainmouse at 7:58 PM on September 4, 2011

i think the poster is saying they don't feel they could go to a bar and not drink.
posted by nadawi at 8:04 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

As long as you're not one of those "I don't put poison in my body" people, I don't think you have anything to worry about. People who pressure you to drink aren't your friends. Just do as brainmouse says, "No thanks, I'm good," should do you fine. I drink, but if someone said that to me I wouldn't think twice or ask any questions, if I were volunteering to buy a round (although at my age, most female friends who suddenly stop drinking make me think they're pregnant, but even then I wouldn't just ask, and also that's not your crowd just yet sounds like).
posted by sweetkid at 8:06 PM on September 4, 2011

I'm a little confused about the question.

When you say keep your social life, do you mean keep your current social circles, which are full of people who spend all their time at bars? If so, yeah, try not having any drinks at all when you go out and just order a soda. This is pretty much the only solution if this is what you mean by the question. I think having zero drinks is easier than stopping at one. Bonus: you'll save a lot of money! Hermitosis' suggestion is clever, but doesn't that seem like a pretty big expense just to avoid saying, "Oh just a coke for me."?

Or do you mean where can you find a new social life populated by people who aren't the fuddy-duddy teetotallers you're imagining but who don't go out to bars? You're an extreme person, take up an extreme sport. Or join the outdoors club. Or go to meetups. Or start volunteering. Your new friends don't all have to be people who don't drink, but the context in which you meet them and primarily socialize with them should be organized around other activities rather than around the alcohol. Personally I find pretty much all activities are more fun than sitting at a bar. Why do you think any of these types of activities are going to result in you "looking awkward"? If you're looking to date, I bet you'll impress a lot more potential partners with your cool new hobby than with the number of hours per week you spend in bars.

Note that if you insist on not going to bars because you can't abstain in that setting, you probably won't ever have the sort of social life that keeps you out past 11 pm most nights, because there just aren't many non-bar locations open that late. This is probably not the horror you're imagining it to be -- the appeal of being out into the wee hours of the morning fades pretty quickly as you get into your mid to late twenties, in my experience.
posted by ootandaboot at 8:07 PM on September 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sometimes I AM a sanctimonious asshole and I still can't go to a bar without drinking. (Without just getting tired and leaving really early). I think it's probably better to find other 'extreme' things to rock climbing or something, have some kind of hobby where you meet people that way doing something cool and interesting (that you like!!!). They might want to go for a drink afterwards but in that case it is okay just to have one, two or none because the whole evening is not about 'drinking' but about 'doing the activity and then hanging out afterwards'. I'm over the bars right now because I am sick of spending too much money. Replacement activities are where it's at. (although to reiterate, I am a s.a. who often goes to bed at 11, so you may disregard this advice, although I am older, and when you are older you will probably appreciate sleeping more too!:)
posted by bquarters at 8:09 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

(Oh hey, looks like my advice and ootandaboot is almost exactly the much for my slow typing and non-previewing I guess! Maybe Canadians think alike??)
posted by bquarters at 8:14 PM on September 4, 2011

Given that you're a student, it probably really depends on the culture of your school in general and your (graduate?) cohort in particular. Because students also typically have limited means and restricted transport options, it really depends on your college town.

To give an example, the place where I work is trying to kick a reputation as a frat school. It's the huge flagship campus of a state university. You will not find nearby non-alcoholic events in our student newspaper. Our "college town" is dominated by chain restaurants and we have no art galleries and no cafes besides a Starbucks, which closes early to keep the rowdy frat boys out. We do have several loud college bars.

But even at the bars, which are full of drunk, glowing students, it's still easily possible to get a burger and a basket of onion rings and no drink. So it comes down to who you're hanging out with. Are your classmates or cohort mates really such drunken sots that they only order drinks and no food and will berate you if you won't have a drink? Then you might have to look for an alternative after-hours crowd to hang out with, perhaps to the detriment of your academic experience.
posted by Nomyte at 8:16 PM on September 4, 2011

people who go to bed at 11 PM and have a very, very small social circle. That won't ever be me.

I've typed and then deleted a number of varying-degrees-of-humorous-snarkiness responses to this and will instead stick with absolutely straightforward:

Based on your statement that you are a student, you are, at most, in your early to mid-twenties.

You have no idea what will or won't "be you" in the future.

Maybe you get a job where you need to be at your desk, alert and awake and ready to work, at 7:00 am. Unless you live next door to your office and can get yourself out of bed, groomed and dressed and ready, and out the door in under 10 minutes, either you'll be going to bed by 11 PM on work nights or you'll be operating on an ongoing sleep deficit and hating life.

Maybe you develop a spiritual practice that requires you to be up and on your meditation cushion before sunrise. Maybe you wind up providing care to somebody else and having to adapt to their schedule. Maybe you wind up living in San Francisco while working a New York schedule (happened to my sister-in-law).

You have no idea who or where or what you will be ten years from now. You may think you do, but you don't. This is a good thing. If you let yourself stay open to the possibilities that life presents you, who and where and what you wind up being may surprise and delight you beyond anything you can imagine today. If you can avoid wasting mental and emotional energy on things like "I will never be one of those people who go to bed at 11 PM" you're more likely to recognize unexpected opportunities when they appear.
posted by Lexica at 8:52 PM on September 4, 2011 [15 favorites]

I think this might be an easier situation than you realize - usually this question is posed by alcoholics who cannot safely spend time in bars - but as an entirely voluntary abstainer, I don't see what the problem is. Hang out with your friends, and order whatever you like. If you find hanging out in bars without drinking boring, I understand, but that's a function of who you hang out with.
posted by moxiedoll at 8:55 PM on September 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I don't want you to be put of by the sanctimoniousness of my comment, but plenty of people maintain a vibrant healthy social life without drinking - and yes, the often attend public houses without drinking or feeling superior.

Do you really want to tie your social life to the consumption of alcohol? Sure go to bars, don't drink so much or not at all. Perhaps look for other activities as well.
posted by the noob at 9:32 PM on September 4, 2011

You need to stop putting people, including yourself, into boxes. You're seeing walls where they don't exist. You seem to think that to be social and have lots of friends it's necessary to stay out late drinking and going to bars. People who don't must be "sanctimonious assholes" with no social life. As for yourself, you self-identify as an "extreme" person who will always stay up late at night drinking and partying. Here's the thing, though: you're not a static character. You may always be a night owl, but then again, you might not. In your question, you ask how you can change, yet your mindset is extremely self-limiting.

Give people - again, including yourself - a chance. If you believe you must stay up late, drink heavily, and hang out with drinkers to have friends and to have a good time, then that's going to be true for you. You've got to address your frame of mind before you try anything else. Otherwise, it's all just self-sabotage.
posted by pecanpies at 9:37 PM on September 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

One of the most fun, most social people I know is a strict non-drinker. She has a ginger ale or a cranberry juice at bars and social events. I didn't even notice she was a non-drinker until I offered to buy her a drink.

Paul Fussell's book Class has an amusing passage on class and drinking habits where in certain circles, not drinking can be taken as an unspoken boast of, "yes, back in the day I used to be quite the drinker."
posted by deanc at 9:45 PM on September 4, 2011

OP, I want to acknowledge your concerns for a moment. Many, many non-drinkers -- like the people in this thread, for instance -- are probably people you'd get along with. But let's not pretend that there isn't a certain type of non-drinking person who comes off as sanctimonious. What you're missing, though, is that the reason they come off that way isn't because of their teetotalling -- it's usually due to some combination of:

a) being somewhat socially naive and sheltered,
b) having a stereotyped understanding of why people drink and how they respond to alcohol,
c) are vocally uncomfortable about being around people who are drinking, and
c) having primarily solitary/unusual interests that might make socializing in large groups less of a an option

If none of these things apply to you as a drinker, they won't magically become parts of your personality/lifestyle as a non-drinker. Your social life is unlikely to suffer if you abstain but continue to spend time with your current group of friends. I said "unlikely" because in the case where your friends do a lot of binge drinking-centric activities, you will probably begin to feel somewhat out of place. Finding new friends at places while indulging your non-drinking interests won't be a big deal either; the bottom line is that you're likely to attract open-minded drinkers and non-drinkers alike as long as your own attitudes about alcohol aren't judgmental.
posted by thisjax at 10:24 PM on September 4, 2011

When you go out to bars with friends who are all drinking, you can't help but join them. But you want to reduce your drinking. So perhaps you just don't go out with the drinking crowd as often. Limit it to x nights a week. You don't cut them out of your life, but you make yourself less available. I guess the trick is to find something to fill the time instead.
posted by conrad53 at 10:49 PM on September 4, 2011

Join an extreme sports club.
posted by spec80 at 12:55 AM on September 5, 2011

I agree with pecanpies re imposition of non-existent walls, you suggest everyone is out drinking as the method for socialising, but I bet that many are socialising in other ways, going to or running events which pursue a hosit of different activities, many kids of sport (which will help with the health side of things too), arts & culture, charity, etc. Find some thing you would like to spend time on that doe snot require drinking, or even where drinking is impossible or stupid to do while pursuing the interest. You will find thta after graduatuon, having some interests outside of drinking and work are one of the best ways to meet new people if you end up working in new places.
posted by biffa at 1:21 AM on September 5, 2011

I'm not sure where you are, but here in the UK, I regularly visit pubs, I mostly order english breakfast (with milk) and the occasional earl grey or orange juice thrown in. It's a choice, one that I choose to take.

Also: I'm one of those who don't drink, and have a very small social circle. It's because I'm an introvert. Thanks.
posted by TrinsicWS at 1:30 AM on September 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

If one is not drinking, one notices that the sparkling wit and attractiveness of others seems to diminish as their drink count rises. If you notice this and your present social circle begins to bore you, you might need to find other social circles, such as some being suggested here. As people mature, many find that drinking in order to have fun is highly overrated, so you might merely be a little ahead of the curve on this.
posted by Anitanola at 2:24 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hey OP, you come over as "sanctimonious" yourself.

I've known a few people who confuse having a large number of facebook friends or drinking buddies with having a large social circle. That won't ever be me. Plus people like that are often sanctimonious about how socially active and popular they are and put others off.

You haven't thought this through, a major bond between people who meet up in drinking establishments is ... the drink. Your chances of successfully socialising with people like that, in a drinking environment are ... slim, either they'll find you boring or vice versa.

I used to drink socially, I now don't. I used to socialise in pubs, I now don't. I used to find the company of people who had been drinking interesting, I now don't.
posted by epo at 3:04 AM on September 5, 2011

I go to bars and clubs all the time, and I usually don't drink, and it's a complete non-issue. Even if someone asks - "Do you not drink?", you just say "I'm driving", or "Yeah, but I'm driving tonight". and I've never had anyone think that was the least bit odd.

So just be aware that it's normal for drinkers to go to these places and not drink, and no-one bats an eyebrow.

As for where else to go, how about a nightclub? It's almost exactly like a bar, but you can dance away some calories - it's a bar where people go to do stuff other than drinking!
posted by -harlequin- at 3:16 AM on September 5, 2011

I usually casually start a conversation where I slide in something to the effect of "I get shitfaced from 1 beer."

Whether that's actually the case or not, no one ever bugs me for only having one beer for the entire night. So I don't spend so much, consume lots of calories, and make a fool of myself at the end of the evening.

In the past I have also drank rum and coke and gradually switch to...uh, just coke.
posted by atetrachordofthree at 9:54 AM on September 5, 2011

Mmmm, yea, concur with epo, you've got a good bit of sanctimony going on there yourself. Might want to dial that back a little.

I often find that when people make a point of telling everyone that they're "extreme" and "can't" take their own behavior in hand, they don't actually want real advice. Rather, it nearly always is coming from a place of "please give me permission to not grow up. Please validate my behavior, because I don't actually want to change it." I am going to assume that you're actually looking for advice and not validation

How do you stop drinking and still have a social life? You simply stop drinking. Have a soda. Have iced tea. Hell, have fizzy water with a twist of lemon or lime if you feel like you need to put on a show for people so you appear to be drinking. If your friends are the type to berate you for not drinking? It's time to find new friends. If, OTOH, you're just pre-emptively worrying that you might be nagged about not drinking or you feel like simple questions will feel like nagging? It's time to get comfy in your own skin. No one is owed an explanation for your drinking habits (or lack thereof). If someone offers you a drink that you don't want, "No, thank you!" is sufficient. If they press for an explanation, a cheery smile and a "Heartburn, ugh." is more than enough.

I am just now winding down a four day house party. Some of my guests are extraordinary drinkers that put my own cast-iron liver to shame. Others never touch a drop of anything stronger than tea. NO ONE peeps about this. Adults understand that some people drink and some people don't, and it is simply not a big deal.
posted by MissySedai at 10:12 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I see this whole perception that something's wrong with you if you don't drink as the exclusive province of the young. You must apologize for, or hide, the fact that you choose to not get shitfaced. Because everyone wants to be wasted!! If you don't, then you're WEIRD, man!

MissySedai and Lexica nailed it. These are all expressions of immaturity. Adults are responsible for their behavior and do not need excuses or rationalizations for what they do/don't do.

If you want to drink, drink. If you don't, don't. If you can't control it, you have a deeper problem and you need help AND to stay out of bars. Pick the one that applies to you and own it like an adult.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:04 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

OK, I reread the original post and feel like I bashed you without answering your question, which was, "So where can I go to make friends and date normally without looking awkward?"

But- when I read this, I still feel like you are saying that the awkwardness comes from not having a drink in front of you (or a few drinks IN you). That "normal" dating/friendmaking must include alcohol and take place in locations where alcohol is served and/or readily available, or it's not... normal.

If this is what you are saying, my original answer stands and you need to get this perception that to be "normal" in social situations you must drink OUT OF YOUR HEAD.

If this is not what you are saying, then I suggest coffee shops, sports teams, volunteer opportunities, dog parks, the produce section at Whole Foods, yoga class, etc., in other words, places "normal" people gather to interact with each other while remaining stone cold sober and not feeling the least bit abnormal.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:12 PM on September 5, 2011

I used to LOVE drinking cocktails. But as i'm older now, I cant' handle the day-long hangover that even three glasses of wine will give me. My trick to quitting drinking is just switch to club soda with lemon. My problem was always going through drinks too quickly -- i fidget a lot and sipping my drink and mashing up the limes in it was such a comfort thing to me. Perhaps if you want the sensation of a drink in your hand, get something really sweet like a roy rogers that you can only take a sip from every few minutes.

Also -- for those trying to cut down on their alcohol intake -- I find I often drink more than I should just because i'm thirsty. Drink a pint of club soda between alcoholic beverages and you'll be hard pressed to be able to handle enough liquid to get drunk.

the problem is, if you want to keep your social life but just get rid of the alcohol -- being around friends who are getting steadily more and more tipsy throughout the night while you remain sober can be an annoying experience. You might find you just don't like doing the things that involve alcohol.
posted by custard heart at 12:28 PM on September 12, 2011

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