This post may not resonate with many of you, but I know it applies to at least some.
I haven’t had a drink in 7.5 years. It’s certainly not because I don’t want to, but because I’m someone who doesn’t know when to stop once I start. Holidays were always an excellent time to cover up a serious drinking problem because it was a socially acceptable thing to do. I felt relieved that people may not point out that I had had too much or focus on what I was doing because they would likely be drinking as well.
Alcohol is the great social lubricant of our society. That’s why it can be hard if you decide to stop drinking. I was terrified that no one would understand and there was no way I could go to parties, weddings, or any kind of get-together. Over time, what I discovered was that I was the only one making a big deal out of my decision to take control of my health. Those who pass judgement on your decisions typically have their own issues or insecurities and are often not the type of people you need in your life in the first place.
With two major holidays coming up here in the U.S. in the next two months, it’s important to start thinking about what that entails. Certainly not everyone who comes here has issues with alcohol, but if you’re someone who does, these tips are for you.
Choose events wisely
Just because you’ve been invited to an event doesn’t mean that you have to go. Some of the most stressful times during the holidays can actually be when surrounded by family, so if you think that those situations can be detrimental to your sobriety, make the decision not to go. Remember that decisions like this are part of self-care and you need to do what will result in the best outcome for YOU.
Identify your triggers
Think about a social setting where there may be alcohol. Now think about situations that could come up that could potentially trigger you to want to drink. This could be being around a certain type of alcohol, interacting with someone you don’t particularly get along with, the anxiety of being in a social situation, or any number of possibilities.
Triggers are different for everyone, so make sure to identify yours in order to avoid them.
Make a plan
Once you’ve told someone and know what could potentially trigger you to drink, figure out a plan for how to avoid those things. Know what you’re going to do if someone offers you a drink. Know what you’re going to do if someone asks you to hold their drink. What if you start to be triggered?
Social settings can be unpredictable, so it’s important to have all your bases covered before going into those situations.
Avoiding alcohol can seem daunting if it’s something you usually drink and especially if others know you do. Letting someone know allows you to have a support system in case you find yourself in a tough situation.
If they’re able to be with you at the gathering, you can either spend time with them or approach them if you start having a tough time. If you’ll be solo at an event, have someone you can call if you start to feel uncomfortable.
Carry your own glass
Having your own glass near you allows you to control what is inside it and also stops many people from trying to give you a drink.
Say “No Thanks”
When I first stopped drinking, I was mortified at the thought of being around alcohol in a social setting. “People won’t understand!” “I can’t say no!” “They’ll shun me!”
My mind went to these thoughts because they were all I knew. I surrounded myself with people who liked to drink and there was never anyone in those scenarios who refused alcohol. What I found as time went on was that no one really cares if you say no. There may be a couple people who ask follow up questions about why, but all you have to do is say “I’m not drinking tonight.” There may be another reason you’re more comfortable with, such as “I’m driving” if you are, and you certainly don’t have to go into details you’re not comfortable digressing.
Over time, I’ve even become comfortable telling people that I’m not drinking because I’m in recovery. If it’s someone you’ve just met, this may not be entirely appropriate, but asses the situation and do what feels right to you. I built the entire scenario up in my head to be a terrifying, shame-inducing event, but more often than not no one really cares at all.
Excuse yourself if necessary
Sometimes, as hard as you might try, it may become too uncomfortable at some point. Once in recovery, I attended a party where a majority of people were drinking wine. Right before getting sober, I drank predominantly wine and whiskey (not together — yikes), and pretty soon the smell really started to affect me. I left the party early because my sobriety was far more important than being surrounded by so many triggers.
Remember, listen to your body and your mind and don’t force yourself to be a martyr in those types of situations.
Making a dramatic lifestyle change can be scary, but just as with any change, knowing how to handle it is the most important part.