Schmoozing Without Boozing: Tips for Navigating Holiday Parties Without Drinking

By David Carrigan

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Schmoozing Without Boozing


With the holidays come parties, Yankee swaps, fiestas, and soirees of all kinds.  There is a large drinking culture that is associated with the holiday season and navigating these occasions in early recovery can be a major challenge.   Sometimes it is a good idea to avoid these situations while still in early recovery; however, this is not always possible, especially in the holiday season.  When those occasions do arise, where you need to schmooze and you’re not partaking in the booze, here are some tips to help navigate.    
Arrive armed with answers  
For better or worse, some people may pepper you with questions if you choose not to drink in a social setting where it may be expected.  This also may be the case early in recovery when people may not be used to your new sober lifestyle.  It can be empowering to go into this situations with some answers to those inevitable questions already thought through before hand.  It is good to remember that these responses don’t need to be elaborate but simple reasons you can use to reply quickly.  For example, if someone at a party asks “Can I get you a drink” you can say “I’m just going to start with water.”  If someone asks “Why aren’t you drinking?” You can say something as simple as “I don’t feel like it tonight” or “I’m Driving.” These simple answers suffice the vast majority of the time, and it is important to note that there are tons of wonderful people out there who won’t notice/care that you aren’t drinking.  Pay attention if there is someone who gives you a hard time about not drinking and presses you on the issue.  Usually, that has more to do with that person then it does you and could indicate they may have their own problem around the subject.    

Utilize a Mocktail or Other Non-Alcoholic Beverage  
Even though the majority of people won’t notice and care about you not drinking it can get frustrating to continually have people asking to get you a drink or question why you’re not drinking.  One strategy to help with this can be ordering a non-alcoholic drink and keeping it in your hand.  The simple act of having a drink in your hand will stop most from asking those questions.  You could be as simple or elaborate as you like.  A plain soda or simple seltzer and lime are easy choices that will give people no indication that you aren’t drinking alcohol.  If you are feeling more festive, remember bartenders can whip up mocktail versions of most cocktails, which are usually just as delicious but without the hangover.    

Getting through the first few rounds  
Being out while not drinking is something that gets easier with time.  This is true both in the short term and long term.  The same way that going out and not drinking might be easier after a year of sobriety, compared to a month, the first part of a night out is usually the hardest.  Getting through those first couple rounds is important because, as the night goes on, it gets easier. By the end of the night, when others are slurring their words and doing other silly alcohol-fueled things, you can be happy that your clear and in control.  By recognizing that the first part of the night may be the hardest, you can help plan for it.  Utilizing a trusted friend to help you through the most difficult parts is a good strategy or reminding yourself why you are choosing not to drink.  If you can weather that initial discomfort things can get easier.    

Memorize the Morning After  
One of the best parts of living a sober life is not having to deal with the head pounding, body aching, stomach turning hangover that comes with the morning after.  Once you’ve navigated a night out and stayed sober, cherish that moment when you open your eyes feeling well rested and refreshed.  Getting through those difficult moments while out are all made worth it when you wake up feeling good both mentally and physically.  It is a great feeling when you can look back on a night and not only remember all the details but be proud of the decisions you made.  Remembering how good you feel the morning after going out and not drinking is great motivation for staying sober the next time you go out and don’t drink.     

About The David Carrigan

David Carrigan graduated from The University of New Hampshire in 2012 with a B.A in Psychology. He is currently working towards a Masters Degree in Social Work at Boston ...

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