What to expect (and how to act) in an extended period of sobriety?
June 22, 2015 9:16 AM   Subscribe

I've decided to give myself the challenge of no alcohol (I don't do drugs or anything else) until my 39th birthday in late November. What's the best way to go forward?

I am a moderate drinker that loves beer. (Seriously, I want to do an all-ladies podcast about beer someday.) But I feel like I should maybe put the brakes on boozing for a bit. There are too many invitations and temptations for weekly drinks, and the weekend is also good too so I don't say no. I mostly want to do it because I'd like to lose the last bit of weight that's proving difficult to shed and also because I want to see if I can. (I love a self-imposed challenge, me.)

So what kind of drawbacks and benefits come from sobriety? I figure I can deal with friends asking about it (I don't have the kind of friends who would pressure me into drinking if I said I wasn't), but how to not use drinking as something one does at outings?

If it helps in your answers, I do suffer from anxiety and depression, so I think doing this will be a big help to my mental health and my focus (I started my online course for my library science degree in May). I figure a near 150-day period of not drinking will clarify my relationship to beer and if I want to even continue drinking or not.

Not going anonymous because I am aiming for public accountability and you're my online community.
posted by Kitteh to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The big thing with any of these projects (for anxious people especially) is that people will comment... and their comments may be weird (even if they come from a nice place) and it will be helpful to have some ready responses. A few things

- they will think you are pregnant, no matter what you say
- they will start talking about your weight if you say you are doing it to lose weight
- they will want to debate the value of light beers with you
- they will want to buy you a drink if you say you're doing it to save money
- they will worry that you have a drinking problem even if you specifically say that you don't

None of these are the textbook annoying "Come on just have ONE" obnoxiousness that you seem to be pretty confident that you'll avoid, but all of them may be wearing over time and it's useful to have responses. I grew up with a parent with a drinking problem and I drink pretty rarely now. So sometimes people will remark on my not drinking especially if I am at an event where drinking is sort of the thing that people do. Or sometimes I'll have a drink.

The most important thing, for me anyhow, is that I just drink something like everyone else (soda, club soda with lime, shirley temple, whatever, something that isn't water) so that I'm at some level participating in the event. And think about how much you want to bend too. Even when I was pretty well not drinking, I'd hold a glass of champagne during a wedding toast, for example. Easier to do it than to not do it a lot of times. If this isn't a thing you have a problem with, taking an occasional detour and being cool with yourself about that is a way to move forward with kindness. Even just having One Special Beer a week might be a way to maintain limits but not go all ascetic.
posted by jessamyn at 9:22 AM on June 22, 2015 [23 favorites]

Best answer: Family member just did this. Good for you! Hardest part is meeting one or two people at a bar. I mean...what am I doing here, right? If you must meet, try to steer the meetup somewhere that has food or something else besides just Drinking. The trick is to avoid events that are Just Drinking or places that are Just For Drinking unless you're there with sympathetic folks. If you can't get out of these events or places, it's all will-power. According to family member, anyway....

Good luck! The benefits are weight loss, better participation in events, not napping all day or having to sleep late, saving money, etc. And, possibly, either a renewed appreciation for alcoholic beverages or, with the distance, a realization that you don't appreciate them anymore. All good things.
posted by resurrexit at 9:25 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think you'll be shocked at how small of a deal this is (source: my husband quit drinking nine years ago and I quit five months ago, each of us for different reasons). You'll have to tell your friends about this one time and then, unless they are dicks, they'll leave you alone about it. Keep doing all the things you normally do; just don't drink alcohol. If somebody invites you for drinks, go and order a club soda. Or better yet, ask the bartender for a fancy non-alcoholic drink of some sort. But really, once you're a non-drinker you realize that pretty much nobody cares whether you drink or not.
posted by something something at 9:26 AM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've never been a big drinker and barely drink these days (I might have a glass of wine if I'm out with friends or on a date).

A big benefit for me when I abstain is my stomach is happy and my sleep isn't thrown off so it's easy to stay away from caffeine and other bad (for me) choices through the week. When I do have a drink I hate that it shortens my sleep cycle and I am hungover the next day and this can carry on through the week so that by the end of the week I'm a wreck because I stayed up too late and had a drink 5 days prior. I've noticed that weeks where I don't drink at all are a lot smoother for me because I'm not starting out tired. I also grind my teeth when I sleep and I find it's much worse when I have a drink.

When I'm out and don't want to drink I order a virgin version of a drink I like (for me a virgin caesar). If people ask I just explain that I need to function at a high level most days and that the benefits of having a drink to relax or whatever aren't outweighed by the costs for me right now (and I note that one drink is enough to have a negative impact and that usually surprises people but they take my word for it).
posted by lafemma at 9:27 AM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I've taken breaks from booze, and I straight up tell my friends when we go out that "I'm taking a break from booze" and mostly they've been supportive. I always volunteer to DD when necessary and people tend to like that. Bars and drinky places still serve soda (if you're into that) and, in my experience (which is mostly tiki bar based, now that I think about it), will mix up a tasty virgin drink that you can sip through the night. Obviously YMMV with friends being chill with it, but I have friends who dabble in veganism, etc. and taking a break from beer/alcohol is a thing that people do (I'm in the older millennial age group--late 20s to early 30s).

Edited to add: If you miss the brew-hunting aspect of craft beers, there is burgeoning craft soda movement that is leading towards a lot of dry (read: non sweet) sodas and vintage flavorings. The hardcore beer-nerd market near me has an entire fridge dedicated to craft sodas next to the beers.
posted by sleeping bear at 9:29 AM on June 22, 2015 [9 favorites]

Best answer: One thing to keep in mind is that I feel like the people I have known who have faced difficulty about not drinking are folks that are very defensive about it, and tend to overthink and overanalyze each and every comment someone makes about their non-drinking. Jessamyn is right that people will say stuff, and if they are your friends and colleagues, those things will mostly be well-meaning, even if they come out a bit rough. Just try and be confident in yourself and let any and all commentary roll off your back. Also, as jessamyn mentions, if you are not doing this for strict health reasons, it may be in your interest to be willing to make an exception now and again, rather than be a hardass about it, if you just want everyone to be casual about the whole situation.

I'll also add that, in my experience as a non-drinker people are generally very receptive to suggestions for non-bar activities to engage in -- a picnic, an art class, a sporting event -- most people are kind of burnt out on the bar dynamic and are eager to try something else.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:38 AM on June 22, 2015

Best answer: Yeah, if you want to deflect all those assumptions, your straightest route is to lie and say you're eliminating alcohol for 4 months for the purposes of allergy testing. It's just about the only bulletproof discussion-ender.

I have found that bartenders, as long as they're not completely slammed, enjoy concocting NA drinks that are as sophisticated as a cocktail. The downside of those drinks is that they are generally not calorie-free and the points can rack up over 2-3 with friends, but a fancy first drink and then lime-and-soda or lime-and-diet or iced tea will work. (You may be asked whether or not bitters are okay, as people who fully abstain can't have them but people who just don't want to drink aren't going to be affected by a couple drops of alcohol. If you use the allergy line, you're better off saying no.)

Use the time to try out some more non-drinking socialization with friends, or at least not-specifically-drinking. Go to museums or parks or sporting events, mini-golf, plan walk-and-talk or play outings to rack up some steps on your pedometer instead of being butt-in-chair at a bar or restaurant. I have found that sometimes switching the focus will draw out friends who have drifted away because the drinking thing was unappealing or blowing their diet or too expensive/loud/boring or whatever.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:39 AM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Reckon I'm averaging one beer a month over the last few years, and it's an extremely narrow selection of beers anyway. Haven't drunk any for a long while, now.

The benefits are many. They include, but are not limited to:

- "That's strange; I'm usually out of spare cash by this time of the month, but I've oddly got a heck of a lot of cash in my pocket."
- Mental health is better.
- Sleep is better, which also helps with the mental health.
- Your chances of being in an accident are lower.
- Your chance of getting one of a range of serious / life threatening medical conditions are reduced.
- The likelihood of doing something regrettable through impaired judgement is reduced.

Also, it's a good friend/not-friend filter. If someone who tries to persuade you several times to have a drink when you've stated you don't want one, then you might want to have a hard think about what role that person is, should, and should not, play in your life.
posted by Wordshore at 9:48 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Congratulations!
I haven't had a drink since April 25th. Part of me giving up was my relationship to alcohol. I have a very addictive personality and drinking had become a habit rather than an indulgence. I was drinking far too much. And once I start, I can't stop.
Secondly my body is just not fit to consume alcohol anymore. I basically get a hangover while drinking. My stomach hates me, my sleep is messed up and I feel terrible the next day, no matter how many drinks I have.
Thirdly, everyone I know, their social life revolves around bars and drinking and I just wasn't interested in that anymore. Now I don't see people as much because I just don't want to hang out in bars, drinking or not. I tend to meet people for dinner now so they're free to eat. I think it's good to be taken out of your comfort zone. I think I myself need to put more effort into doing different things. My boyfriend hasn't given up completely but we don't drink at all at home or when we go out for dinner. We go to the movies more, plan museum trips and spend even more time cooking and doing DIY stuff.

A couple things. It is definitely weird at first to be around people drinking, and to not drink. Every time I think about just having a drink, I remember how utterly terrible I felt last time I had a drink. I'm immediately put off.
But there are so many little things that have made me so much happier. I don't get stomach aches, I get less headaches, I feel better and more alert all the time, I sleep very well, I have so much more money, I'm coherent (most of the time). I just feel really great. And when drinking, it affects me for far longer than just the next day. I'm just generally under the weather. That doesn't really happen now.

One thing I would like to say though, and I'm sorry if this is disheartening. Despite giving up and consuming SO MANY less calories, I have put on weight. And it has been 2 months and I haven't lost it. This may not even be an issue for you, but if it does happen, please don't think it's just you. From what I've read online this happens to lots of being when they become sober.
And my craving for chocolate and treats went up a LOT. I eat so much chocolate now. I guess we feel the need to replace the reward/sugar from alcohol. This may also just be me. I was consuming a lot.

I think part of feeling so good is that I don't consume caffeine or any beverages containing sugar. I drink SO MUCH water and it's great for how I feel, my skin and my general health.

If you have any questions or want support, just message me!
posted by shesbenevolent at 9:52 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am like you but with wine instead of beer. My partner doesn't drink at all, so on the nights that I'm with him, I abstain or just have one glass--and on those nights, I sleep so so so so so much better than when I'm out with friends having all the wine I want.

Sleep is so huge and that benefit will extend to weight loss, energy levels, alertness, the whole thing. Also, saving money.
posted by witchen at 9:53 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh AND a fellow person with mental health issues. I have BPD. Addictive impulsive behavior is a big issue of mine. Doing this has been such a great thing for my issues and I'm really glad I'm doing it. It's a huge self esteem boost too. And alcohol isn't the best for people like us in general. But I'm just speaking for myself.
posted by shesbenevolent at 9:53 AM on June 22, 2015

Best answer: I did this, i decided to cut out all alcohol for a few months. I absolutely got the "are you pregnant" type assumptions, but the response that worked the best was, "I was getting uncomfortable with how much alcohol I was consuming, I don't think it is healthy, so I am cutting it out for a while. No biggie. And you know, since I cut it out I'm feeling great, so it is well worth it!"

The other (very true) explanation that worked well for me was to say "Man, it just isn't worth it. I swear, every time I have a drink I get a hangover, and it fucking suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks." No joke, it takes very little for me to feel hungover as ass the next day, where in my younger years I could drink like a fish and be perfectly find the next day. Part of this is because I am keto, but the other part is just I'm older.

One final line that works: "Dude, I had the WORST hangover a couple weeks ago where I was barfing and absolutely epically sick for a couple days afterwards.... I just can't stomach the idea of liquor right now after that, so I'm taking a break until I stop having horrible flashbacks of me barfing so hard it came out of my nose." Doesn't matter if it isn't true, people will nod sympathetically. No one challenges the hangover.

FWIW, when I cut out alcohol for a couple months to see what sort of health changes I might experience (weight loss, improvements to my depression, etc) I ended up not ever really bringing it back. I have found I simply feel better not drinking, I don't get enough out of it to have it be worth the cost or the hangover, and the caloric intake (both with the alcohol as well as the drunken food choices) were DEFINITELY not worth it. Yes, I will have the occasional glass of wine with dinner, but I do NOT get drunk anymore and I don't miss it. Not one bit. It took a while for my friends to really register that "fun time drinking Puppet McSockerson" was gone, but they're over it now.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:58 AM on June 22, 2015 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I think it's also good to give yourself permission to leave. Hanging around people at bars when you're not drinking can be really boring, and from my experience that can make a non-drinker feel anxious and out of place. I just think it's good to know that it's ok to take off.

I also think that by a certain point, a lot of people who drinking have considered putting it away for a time. I think most people are actually fine with you saying "I decided to take a break. I just felt like I hadn't taken a break in a long time."
posted by vunder at 10:00 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: People will absolutely be fussy about it, both publicly and privately, so it ends up being a good way to practice being calm and self-confident and assertive about a thing that is really no big deal at all, but which social norms can often make into an ungodly ordeal.

For me there have been zero drawbacks. I don't care if my friends are drinking in my presence, I don't care if someone wants to bring over a 6-pack to watch the football with me, it is the total opposite of a big deal now.

If people do end up asking me "but WHY" (and these are usually people I don't know very well) I will usually just say "because it's something I'm not doing now" and not really engage any further. It's really not a big deal to drink water or seltzer at a bar/party when everyone else has alcohol in their hand, and people who fuss and push over it absolutely do not need to be given any of your time and energy defending your decision if you don't feel like dealing with it.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:02 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hanging around people at bars when you're not drinking can be really boring, and from my experience that can make a non-drinker feel anxious and out of place.

This is very true, but being sober around drunk people is also hugely annoying. I sort of hate being around drunk people, so I avoid it if I can and instead plan to socialize around non-drinking things (like shopping, lunch, physical activities, etc)
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:03 AM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

I guess it really depends on the friends and level of drunkenness? I don't really know anyone who gets super hammered anymore, and pretty much all of my friends are just as entertaining and hilarious and great after 3-4 beers as they are without any at all. But yes, being around totally fucking wasted staggering gin-breathed slurring gurners would be a nightmare.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:06 AM on June 22, 2015

When I take breaks from drinking, I find that "Ugh, water (or caffeine or whatever) first. Beer later." works great. There's no opening for the why-aren't-you-drinking conversation and nobody will pay attention to the fact that you never actually get that beer. You don't have to tell them that "Later" means November.
posted by workerant at 10:13 AM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: When I take breaks from drinking, the only drawback I find is that when you're the only one who's not drinking, you're the drunk one. I am way less forgiving of other people's drunken tomfoolery when I am dead sober.

I usually just say that I'm on a cleanse, or that I'm trying to lose weight, but in my normal circle of friends I can also say that I've just decided not to drink for a while and they're fine with it, or I can say that my auto-immune disorder is acting up and I don't want to create any internal havoc.

I have only once been prodded to drink after I said it was just a decision I'd made not to drink for a while, and that was from a drunk woman with a drinking problem and she embarrassed herself in front of the whole crowd, and didn't embarrass me at all.
posted by janey47 at 10:25 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've done it a bunch of times throughout life and handled it a variety of ways:

--At bars, camouflage myself with a tonic and lime. It looks like a couple different cocktails and nobody asks about it.

--Made sure there was no alcohol in the house.

--Stopped hanging out with the big drinkers in my life.

--"Nah, not tonight. Just need some water."

--Go full religious convert "don't you wanna talk about this with me?" and chat only about it until people leave me alone. On the plus side, I made friends with a bunch of true AA-ers at parties who turned out to be happy to goof around with this, as we would google pictures of pickled livers and the faces of ugly drunks and show them to the drinkers and do Church Lady-style judgemental poses. Good times.

--"Got to get up early."

--"What I really want is a cherry Coke. That shit is hard to find."

--"I am totally looking down my nose at you, you drunk fuck. No, I don't want a drink."
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:26 AM on June 22, 2015

I'm effectively a non-drinker (I probably consume a total of ~3 drinks per year), just by simple un-complicated choice. I'm not against it, I just don't like it much and I have no desire to get drunk. I can't really tell you what you'll gain by stopping drinking, since I've never been a drinker, but there are still a few things that seem like a plus to me.

-I spend way, way less at meals than peers who drink.
-I never have to worry about timing drinks so I can drive later, delaying plans to leave because of having had a drink too recently, or finding a designated driver.
-I guess it goes without saying, but I'm not sorry to have missed out on the "hangover experience".
-I've built my social group around doing things that don't involve, or at least certainly don't require, drinking, so I have no trouble coming up with ideas for what to do without alcohol.
-I don't know about you, but I find it mildly stressful to monitor my long-term health. It's part of being an adult, but who really enjoys thinking things like "pleasure isn't wrong, and it's not like I should never eat dessert again, but having another slice of cheesecake right now even though I want one is probably a bad idea"? I'm happier the fewer vices I have to moderate, you know? Not drinking takes away a mental task to "drink smart" that I think would get me down. I definitely don't feel like I'm missing anything.

People used to hassle me all the time about not drinking . My standard response was some variant of "Oh, I know, I'm just no fun at all, what a bore!" That usually shut people right up. Then I got pregnant and now I have a toddler and nobody has given me any trouble in a while, haha.
posted by Cygnet at 10:28 AM on June 22, 2015

Best answer: Or better yet, ask the bartender for a fancy non-alcoholic drink of some sort.

Every year, I don't drink during February. It's become an annual tradition for many of the same reasons you mention, and this was I think year five (or six?). I love hanging out with people in bars, and soda/lemon gets boring, so I now judge bartenders on how well they can make an interesting non-alcoholic beverage. Sometimes bartenders have no idea what to do--a few might even judge you for it--but great bartenders don't even bat an eye at the request. My nice neighborhood cocktail joint makes me a fizzy mint soda that I have come to adore.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:28 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Quit most recently two years ago. Whenever I go to a friend's place for dinner, I find that non-alcoholic beer satisfies the nervous desire to be holding/drinking something and everyone assumes it's regular beer, so no conversation about it. There are fancier brands out today that taste pretty good. Finding one you like might be something fun?
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:31 AM on June 22, 2015

Pregnant here. Last booze was before Halloween. It was surprisingly easy to stop drinking while socializing for me. When I was waiting until I could tell people I was pregnant I told my friends I was doing an elimination diet or the Whole 30. Not everyone believed me, but the only people who even cared what I was drinking were people who have drinking problems themselves. I also happen to have a lot of friends who don't drink due to medication for depression and anxiety so I'm not the only one in my circle who doesn't drink.

Around Christmas I was meeting up with a friend who texted me "Happy hour is ending so I'm ordering you your favorite cocktail." And I just texted her back to skip it since I'd already been drinking at a work party and needed to pace myself. I just mysteriously never got around to ordering a drink that night.

It's so much less expensive to go out and drink club soda with lime and not have to pay for a taxi home. And people love a non-resentful DD. And the next day I am so much better rested, not having to process the booze!
posted by Pearl928 at 10:35 AM on June 22, 2015

Best answer: A family member of mine quit drinking and the hardest thing for him was the realization of how much of his social life revolved around drinking. Even if he wasn't drinking, most of the invitations tended to be of the "hey, come hang out at this bar or come over for drinks" type and he realized quickly that being the sober person in the land of drunk people is often not so much fun. If you expect this would be hard for you, then maybe at first, you want to actively plan some stuff that does not revolve around drinking, or if you're comfortable, throw it out as an open call to friends - "Hey, I would like to expand my horizons beyond my usual bar scene, tell me what else is fun and exciting in the city and let's go explore it together!"
posted by Stacey at 10:35 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah, and meeting people for breakfast, brunch or lunch is great because there's less pressure to drink. Sure, for some people, drinking on Sunday morning is the top reason for going to brunch, but all you have to say is, "Sweet Jesus, I need coffee. Coffee, coffee, coffee."
posted by Pearl928 at 10:46 AM on June 22, 2015

Best answer: The two lines you need to remember and repeat endlessly are, "I don't want any (beer, booze, etc.)" and "Thank you, but no". (Might need upgrading to "thank you, but I said no, I do not want any", for really persistent types.

I'm a lifelong nondrinker; I realized very young that A) I have an addictive personality, B) there's a family tendency towards drunks, and C) I just don't LIKE either the taste or the effects of alcohol. No judgement meant on other people: it's just not for me. I've found that as long as I have SOMETHING in my hand (I favor iced tea or sodas) then the pressure is considerably lowered.

I know you said you don't think your friends will try to pressure you, but be prepared for it anyway --- nondrinkers are often viewed as antisocial, no fun or self-righteous prudes who are looking down their snooty noses at the drinkers, no matter WHY we have chosen not to drink. Just hold firm to some version of NO, and remember that you don't actually owe anyone an explanation for your personal choice.
posted by easily confused at 11:03 AM on June 22, 2015

Can you do the sobriety thing with a friend? It's one of the best ways to guarantee success.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 11:09 AM on June 22, 2015

Response by poster: To answer that question: my husband and I will be doing this together.

I am really enjoying the answers you all have given me so far. I tend to be a bar/brewpub person (my husband is most definitely not, but tolerates it because I like it) so learning new non-bar tricks is key for my success.
posted by Kitteh at 11:14 AM on June 22, 2015

Best answer: I used to drink regularly and now I just don't. My friends have never ever ever made a big deal out of it and I go out for drinks-type functions pretty regularly. In your case, I would just straight-up say "nope, I decided to stop drinking until my 39th birthday!" because, as Jessamyn says, otherwise people assume you are pregnant/in recovery or start discussing your diet/weight.

For times when people are drinking: I personally drink a lot of soda water with extra lime and the occasional Sprite/ginger ale. I haven't gotten into the fancy mocktail thing, but there is one bar in my neighborhood that has amazing fresh squeezed grapefruit juice for some of their cocktails and they're perfectly happy to sell me a glass of it for $3.

I definitely keep booze in my house (like, maybe three kinds of beer and 8-10 types of hard liquor) and have people over for drink events (at which I do not drink). I can imagine that kind of thing might not work for everyone but I'm very casual and very direct and I think that helps.
posted by kate blank at 11:51 AM on June 22, 2015

Best answer: Kitteh: " I tend to be a bar/brewpub person (my husband is most definitely not, but tolerates it because I like it) so learning new non-bar tricks is key for my success."

A good alternative for this is an independent coffeeshop and/or bakery. They have the "local low-key hangout" feel you are looking for without the booze (though you may regret the carbs). The only difficulty might be finding one open nights, but if you are in a decently large town (especially a college town) there should be at least one.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:18 PM on June 22, 2015

Best answer: Hey! I've been a non-drinker for a bit over two years.
Some tips:
I know are an anxious person it's hard to believe, but people rarely notice that I don't drink. If they ask if I want a beer, I say no thank you. If the conversation goes beyond that, I say, "I don't drink." 99% of the time you either get a a slightly patronizing "good for you!," an awe-struck "I could never do that!", or at best, a "Oh, okay, can I get you a water?" People who push further than that tend to have their own complicated relationship with alcohol.

I bring my own soda to parties - people sometimes have it, sometimes not. Having it in my bag makes me avoid the awkward can I get you a drink question waaay more - people don't ask you if you need a drink if you already have them.

Give rides if you feel like it, but if it makes you feel resentful you can always call someone a cab. Being sober doesn't turn you into a taxi company.

Enjoy the next few months of no hangovers and feeling solid the next morning/being able to be productive after an evening out! If you need anything, feel free to memail me.

Also, head's up: if you've been drinking at all to self-medicate, you might be feeling a little more anxious than usual and you might cry a bit more. That's very normal.
posted by superlibby at 1:47 PM on June 22, 2015

Best answer: I haven't been a drinker since I was 22, and no one has given me a second look about it since I was 24. Seriously, nobody cares. Once you age out of ZOMG BOOOOZE, "I'm taking a break" should work. "Why are you taking a break?" "Eh, just to see what it's like, I guess." The only time I ever give people a head's up is if they don't know I don't drink and want to "grab drinks" some time. I'll let them know I'm fine with a bar but I don't drink, because I sure wouldn't want to show up to a thing to find out I'm drinking alone.

I don't mind bars, at all. It's like anywhere else I go where I don't order 99% of what's on the menu. My girlfriend is very into craft beers and we go to a lot of brewpubs and bars and most brewpubs and bars that we go to have excellent food. The only social gatherings where my friends might get a little obnoxious are weddings or some kind of holiday party. I do have a lower tolerance for drunk bro-dudes who start to get aggressive (shouty dudes at baseball games or concerts), but that's in part because of a bad run-in I had with some drunk bro-dudes years ago.

Basically, if your friends are yelly and obnoxious when they drink, you will not like being around them if you are not presently yelly and obnoxious. If your friends are normal and a little more giggly when they drink then you'll likely find 3-4 things less funny but enjoy their company anyway.

- If you go to a bar, tip like you were drinking. If I get 4 refills of a $2.50 Diet Coke I'm tipping $5-10ish.
- Be careful about going bonkers with the sugary alcohol-free cocktails. I've had the worst headaches of my life the morning after a night of sugary drinks.
- There is a wonderful world of craft sodas out there. I have been on a quest to find the perfect ginger beer/ale and it is a worthy endeavor.

As for mental health, I was not diagnosed with anything until after I stopped drinking; due to how much I was drinking it was causing and masking everything at the same time. All of that to say that it will definitely allow the smoke to clear for you, and absolutely yes you will likely be a little bit more sensitive/irritable for a while.
posted by good lorneing at 5:16 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

During the periods I've not-drank, it was very hard in social situations and I realized it had less to do with my friends' comments, but much more with myself. I never thought of myself as someone with any level of social anxiety, but sitting with those "why do I feel wrong here without a beer?" feelings for me opened my eyes to the idea that I likely do have it somewhat.

If you return to drinking after a hiatus, you may greatly misjudge how much will make you feel like crap. My hiatus seems to have lowered my alcohol tolerance quite a bit.
On the plus side, I think the best part of my experimental not-drinking hiatus is how it increased my love of all beverages. I make fancy bubbly waters with fruit at home for fun. When it comes to beer, I drink a lot less now. And it's a special treat, and much more exciting.
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:49 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

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