Social connection is one of the most important parts of recovering from addiction. People who feel like they have friends and family they can trust, rely on, and confide in tend to feel less stress and generally happier. So it’s important to be socially active and nurture those connections. However, we also live a culture where drinking is common and often expected. People drink at dinner, at sporting events, and at special occasions. If you’re in recovery, you may feel like this limits your options for socializing, but with a little forethought it’s not that difficult to socialize without alcohol. Here are some suggestions.
Adopt your own signature non-alcoholic drink.
Having a go-to non-alcoholic drink solves several problems at once. First, you don’t have to make a decision every time someone asks you what you want to drink. You just ask for your regular non-alcoholic drink. The more habitual it is, the less you need to rely on willpower. Second, if you already have a drink, people won’t offer you alcohol. This is especially useful at parties when you don’t want to have to keep explaining to people why you don’t have a drink. Every time you have to refuse, you have to use a little willpower. Third, a signature drink deflects from the fact you’re not drinking alcohol. People just think of it as what you always drink. For the same of convenience, it’s typically best to go with water, soft drinks, or iced tea.
Have an excuse ready.
It’s almost inevitable that you will be in some situation where people offer you alcohol. Always have an excuse ready just in case. You can try different excuses in different situations and see what seems to work best. However, there are a few excuses most people seem to accept without arguing. These include “I can’t; I’m driving,” “I have a early day tomorrow,” or simply, “I don’t drink.” Most people are polite enough not to push the issue, but if you do get resistance, you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Be the designated driver.
One way to hold yourself accountable when attending parties or sporting events is to be the designated driver. This way, you have a ready excuse not to drink, as noted above, and your friends have an extra incentive to make sure you don’t drink. While it’s not ideal to be in situations where your friends are drinking, if you have some time in recovery and your friends don’t drink that much, it’s probably fine on rare occasions.
Go for coffee or lunch.
Getting drinks is a common way to meet up with someone casually, whether you’re touching base with an old friend or want a low-key first date. However, this is clearly not a good idea for people in recovery, since grabbing drinks typically means going to a bar, then dealing with the expectation that you’ll order alcohol. Of you’re looking to catch up with a friend or have a low-pressure first date, consider coffee or lunch instead. There’s usually no expectation of ordering alcohol at lunch and restaurants are typically quieter than bars, which makes it easier to talk.
Try more engaging activities.
Let’s face it, drinking is pretty much the laziest way to spend time with friends. You don’t want to put much effort into thinking of ways to have fun, so you just drink and watch sports or TV or just sitting on the porch. Push your boundaries a bit by trying new things. The more active you are, the more fun you will have and the less you will miss alcohol. Try bowling, or rock climbing, or going to a gallery opening. It doesn’t matter if it’s not your usual thing. The stranger the activity, the more you’ll have to talk about.
Focus on what you have rather than what you’re missing.
When you’re not drinking, it’s easy to focus on what you can’t do rather than what you can do. It might feel like you’re missing out if the other people at your table are having wine with dinner and you’re drinking iced tea. However, alcohol is really only a very small part of the experience. After a while, it will just seem normal that you’re not drinking. In the meantime, focus on being grateful for the other parts of your experience. You’re spending time with friends, having a nice meal, and so on. If you’re at a sporting event, you can enjoy the nice weather, the camaraderie, and the excitement of the game. Not only does this put abstinence in perspective, but it will probably make you happier as well.
Go to meetings.
Don’t underestimate 12-step meetings as a social experience. Many people enjoy meetings. It’s a place where everyone sort of understands each other because everyone has had similar experiences. Often, people who have been in recovery for a while have a good sense of humor about it, which can be infectious. Meetings are also a good place to make sober friends. So in addition to socializing at meetings, you can also do things with fellow members with the general understanding that none of you will be drinking.
Volunteering might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of having fun and socializing, but many people do enjoy volunteering and the vast majority of volunteers say it improves their mood. It also connects you to other people with similar interests and values. You tend to see the same people regularly, which makes it easy to get to know new people and feel connected to your community.
Offering a full range of recovery and mental health services, Valiant Living offers “Expanded Recovery” to enrich our clients’ lives in mind, body, and spirit. Through evidence-based therapy options and the endless adventure of Colorado, Valiant fosters connection, encouraging clients to get connected to themselves, their peers, their families, and their higher power. With the power of recovery, clients are restored to full health and experience life-changing healing. Call us today for more information: 303-536-5463