In the UK we are easing lockdown and as we head towards Easter and being able to mix in groups again, many of us have a sense of trepidation about socialising again sober. Perhaps you quit drinking in lockdown and are wondering how you are going to sober and social. Or perhaps we have all got a bit rusty and need to revisit our toolkits.
We have put a few tips here, an excerpt from our book Love Yourself Sober about how to socialise sober.
What’s your ‘social window’?
This is the maximum amount of time you can spend in a group before you start to feel drained. It was a revelation to us how many friends and clients of ours in the sober sphere are self-identified introverts (us included). This is not anti-social. We may love to connect, but it means that we get quickly drained in social situations and regularly need to recharge.
Kate says: Everybody has a ‘social window’. It’s a bit like an expiry date. Mine is two hours. So, after two hours at a social event, I have had enough and will generally need to leave. If it’s a longer event, I will make sure I have lots of bathroom breaks and walks outside to let my nervous system come out of overload.
Mandy says: It makes sense that we all have a sober social window. If we meet friends in a café, we don’t sit drinking coffee for five hours as we would drinking in a bar. We have a catch up for a couple of hours and then generally change activity, maybe go for a walk around the shops or go and DO something. It is wonderful yet tiring being in anyone’s company face-to-face for a long period of time.
It is easy to fall into the trap of overstaying our social window. It’s that moment, socially, when conversation starts to wane, when we should move on or DO something together, but we don’t. We stay and so often this is when people start to drink excessively. Knowing this really helps you to stop feeling like you ‘should’ be able to socialise more...
We can be social, have fun, catch up, and respect ourselves by leaving when the time is right for us. Or, if we’re at an all-day social event, we can do something, be it dance, play with the kids, tidy up, go for a walk, or otherwise duck out for a bit – anything to avoid the sensory overload and social overwhelm that formerly was such a trigger for reaching for a drink to numb the situation.
Sober power tool: Party SOS survival guide
Here are a few of our top tips for surviving your first sober parties:
Have something beautiful planned for the next day. This could be brunch, a yoga session, a facial, time with the papers, and a nice coffee. So, if your mind starts wandering to the thoughts of having a drink, you can focus on feeling great and fresh the next day instead.
Visualisation 1: Yaaaassss Queen
Before you head out for the party, visualise yourself looking and smelling amazing, and wafting around the room with ease, shining in a glow of wellbeing. That is you now. It might feel slightly awkward initially because it’s your first time, but nobody else will know that – you are free from the ramifications of alcohol and that is amazing.
Visualisation 2: Sliding doors
This is the opposite of the one above. Play your evening forward in your mind to 3 am, waking up with a pounding head, paranoia, hating yourself, and wondering what you said to the boss. You’re terrified all weekend till you do the walk of shame on Monday morning. Or else you are having to fill in the details of how yougot home. This is a great way to put you off having a drink!
Make sure you have a treat waiting for you when you get home. This could be a sneaky late-night pudding or fresh bed sheets. Again, during the evening, you can think of this... Imagine getting into bed with clean sheets slumbering peacefully and waking up refreshed.
Have an escape plan. Drive! It’s so empowering to be able to leave when you want to. After a couple of drinks no one will notice anyway. Also, offer rides to the party, but say you can’t drive people home, or let them know you might be leaving earlier because of x, y, or z. So, if you are a bit of a people-pleaser, you won’t get caught up in hanging around for people.
Be a detective. If you are worried about conversation flowing, ask questions and observe. Then report your findings back to your sober-sisters.
Create a checklist game for yourself. For example...
– try to find out three new things about each person
– try to make friends with someone who isn’t drinking
– count how many times people repeat things
– see how silently you can leave...
These little games can just put the brakes on our habitual patterns and keep us occupied.
Ignore Fakebook/Instasham posts of the event. All those laughing happy, drinking images can trigger FOMO. Remember, they don’t show the hangovers, the head down the toilet, the arguments, the lost phones, and lost dignity. It won’t be you this time!
Mindset. You are doing something different and it’s a learning process, so start small with your sober social engagements; perhaps not a weekend away with all your boozy friends from university! Begin with your training wheels on – you have nothing to prove to anyone.
Plan three favourite alcohol-free drinks in advance. So, if you ask for a ginger beer with fresh lime and they say, ‘Sorry, we don’t have that’, you can immediately say ‘cranberry and soda’ or ‘Virgin Mojito’. That way you won’t get tripped up. We would add, choose something that makes you feel assertive, so have a request about how it’s made! Say, ‘sparkling water – in a tall glass with lots of ice, please, and a dash of lime.’ It just makes you sound like you know what you want – assertive and confident.
Look and smell gorgeous.
Take time out. Remember, you can always escape to the toilet. There, you can do some breathing, read some inspirational quotes on your phone, and text or call a sober wingman/woman, or check in with your Sober-Sisterhood online. You are not alone and someone out there will get how you’re feeling.
Kate says: When I look back at pictures of myself in my twenties I was beautiful, I really was, but I didn’t know it. So often, I’d go out and get pissed with everyone else and smoke, so I must have stunk – and put myself at risk, of course. Two things here... First, when socialising sober you will not be a crying/slurring/overly loud/stinking mess. You will be elegant, composed, and in control. Hooray! Second, when I hit my forties, I realised I was always looking back comparing, and it suddenly occurred to me that aged 80 I would be looking back at now and I thinking, ‘I was beautiful in my forties.’ We are so critical, as women, of ourselves. See your beauty now. Your uniqueness. And live into it, claim it, enjoy it. Whatever age we are, there’s more wrinkles to come for all of us (if we are lucky)! And they come slower if we don’t abuse our bodies with alcohol.
High days and holidays
One barrier people have to getting sober/staying sober is upcoming holidays and special occasions – that wedding, that trip away – ‘I will start after Christmas ( or Easter) , Christmas is too hard.’ The reality is that there will always be high days and holidays. There will always be birthdays, parties, and funerals to navigate. Rather than seeing them as a barrier to getting started on your sober life, get yourself and your toolkit equipped and set your intention. You can manage these events and come out stronger, prouder, and more determined than ever to stay and love being sober.