5 steps to a night out with no drinking (alcohol).
In 2008 Chris Appleford (pictured below) decided to quit drinking. However, I have it on very good authority that despite his best efforts, he didn't do so well. How do I know this you may ask? Because Chris and I were set up on a blind date that very year and as we both tended to do back then, we plied our courage via a beer (or probably 5) for Chris and a wine (or probably 3 or 4) for me.
Needless to say, our blind date didn't culminate in any renditions of 'here comes the bride' and kidlets-a-plenty (though Chris has since managed to do that without me), however it has resulted in a friendship that rekindled by accident about 3 years ago.
Clearly much has changed in both of our lives since. I was soon after diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and spent a good 4 years or so years recovering (sans alcohol for much of this time). Chris on the other hand managed to give up the booze entirely over a 4 year period.
As many beer or wine swilling Australians can attest, committing entirely to no drinking can be a serious challenge, in so far as breaking hard wired habits and the peer pressure that often ensues.
Out of a desire to support and inspire others, Chris built a website www.goodbyedrinking.
Today I've asked Chris to share some valuable words with us, in an effort to help inspire those in this community who are trying to limit their intake or stop drinking alcohol entirely.
Socialising without alcohol can be a difficult challenge for many, so without further ado, please welcome my now entirely sober friend and experienced social non-drinker, Chris.
5 steps to a night out with no drinking, by Chris Appleford.
For most people it’s hard to imagine hitting the pubs and clubs with their friends without drinking. The two go hand in hand in Australia, and if you’re the odd one out nursing a mocktail for half the night, you’ll inevitably be on the end of suspicious looks and semi-interrogations. Many people with the best intentions of having a sober night out break within the first hour for a wide range of reasons – lack of willpower, peer pressure, the need to fit in, it’s impossible to talk to a drunk person without being drunk yourself – you get the drift.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Being the sober one in a group of drunk people can be hard to deal with initially, but with time and patience you get used to it, and it eventually manifests into a whole new kind of entertainment. Some people will find this transition rather easy, while it will be much more difficult for others. The fear of missing out on a great social occasion by not drinking with their friends grips us all, but there are tactics you can use to ensure you can be sober and have a great time.
1. Own It
Whether you’re quitting alcohol, taking a break or cutting back on the amount you drink, you need to own the decision you’ve made otherwise you’ll crack pretty quickly. If you’re happy being open and honest, tell people why you’re abstaining. Maybe you’ve just had enough like I did, or you’re doing it for a charitable cause, or you want to improve your health in some way. Whatever it is, when the inevitable questions come, just be strong and confident about it without sounding preachy.
2. Seek out a kindred spirit
Not everyone is going to be getting wasted, there will be a few people about wherever you are who are going to have just one or two drinks for the night, or even none at all. They’re probably the ones checking their phones or playing with their car keys! Seek them out, strike up a conversation and enjoy your night. As the night wears on, there will be some interesting and amusing alcohol-fuelled actions happening all around you that you can all share a laugh about.
3. Go with the flow
We all know what happens when we’ve had a few to drink. We do things we wouldn’t otherwise do, say things we wouldn’t otherwise say and act differently to how we otherwise would. Even strangers can accidentally bump into you, or spill some of their drink on you, or wrap their arm around you. Most of the time it’s quite harmless, and sometimes it can even be funny. However, for someone who is sober this can be hard to take because they’re not on the same wavelength as their drunk friends anymore. If you’re going to have a sober night out with friends, you need to be tolerant and understanding of those around you, and if the mood calls for it, have a laugh at their expense.
4. Throw people off the scent
I would never recommend that you lie about not drinking, because eventually that is going to catch up with you, but having a drink in your hand that looks like an alcoholic drink is a great way to deflect some of the attention. If you’ve got a soda water and lime in your hand, a lot of people (mainly strangers) will assume it’s vodka and refrain from asking you the usual questions drinkers like to ask sober people. Whatever you do, don’t get into shouts because it’s going to cost you a lot of money, and it won’t take long before everyone realises you’re on the soda waters.
5. There will come a time to disappear
Eventually, despite your best efforts, your tenuous grip on maintaining some level of common ground with the now drunk people around you will be gone, and that’s when it’s time to say goodnight. How you manage your exit is up to you. You can either tell everyone you’re leaving and endure the desperate pleas for you to stay, or you can do your best Houdini impression and just disappear into the night without saying a word.
You don’t have to stay until the barman calls last drinks for the night to be a success, and when you wake up in the morning with a clear head, no embarrassing text messages sent from your phone, and your bank balance still in tact, you’ll be glad you didn't drink and left when you did.
Giving up the booze doesn’t mean you have to give up your social life. You’re not going to be an outcast amongst your friends just because you’ve chosen not to get plastered anymore. But you will need to make some adjustments in order to fit in. You’ll have to leave some of your judgment behind and be open-minded about what people are going to say and do under the influence. Of course there are boundaries that should not be crossed regardless of how much someone has had to drink, but you know where they are and what is just harmless fun.
The key is to go out without any preconceived ideas, go with the flow and understand that while you may feel a little self-conscious because you’re one of the few who won’t be drinking, the reality is everyone else will just be getting on with having a fun night out…and you should too.
Chris Appleford is a freelance writer who is currently studying a Diploma of Fitness with ambitions to work with people who require rehabilitation. In a wide and varied career, he’s also been a primary school teacher, communications specialist in professional sport, and small business owner.
If you'd like to follow Chris's journey you can find him in the following places:
Perhaps there's someone in your life who might appreciate these tips, feel free to forward them on to inspire and motivate those dear to you.
I wonder, have you successfully managed to commit to no drinking? If so, what did you find was the most challenging aspect of that process?