How to stay alcohol-free at events

Emily Syphas | October 2019 | 7 minutes

In this blog, Emily from Sober and Social discusses her top tips for attending an event when you've decided not to drink.

There are certain situations in society where we feel like we HAVE to drink, and that the enjoyment of happy and celebratory events such as weddings, hen dos, birthdays and festivals are affected by a lack of alcohol. In other words, we feel like if there’s no alcohol involved, the event won’t be fun. This might be because of feelings of isolation - everyone else will be drinking and celebrating together; fear of being bored without alcohol, or lack of self-confidence without a drink as a prop to sustain us for the duration of the event – whether that’s a few hours or a few days. Any kind of celebratory event might also have an open bar which can be all kinds of daunting. I speak from experience as I had a hen do in Ibiza within my first 2 months of sobriety, and I’m not going to lie, I was nervous.

So, whether you’re not drinking for a short time or trying a longer period, here are my top tips for surviving and thriving in these situations – because it is possible!

Prepare yourself

Before I go into a potentially triggering or difficult social situation, I make sure I get myself into a positive mindset. This usually involves a 10-minute meditation, 30-minute run or yoga session and then a relaxing bath. This really allows me to gather my thoughts and prepare my mindset for the day ahead. Personally, I have found this little routine invaluable, but everyone’s routine is different. Try a few things and see what works for you!

Make your intention not to drink known

This obviously depends on the situation, but before I went to Ibiza I made it clear to the people I was going with that I wasn’t going to be drinking. This really helped when we got there as no one was pressurising me to have a drink and when I ordered a ginger ale no one was looking at me in horror as I had already managed people’s expectations before we arrived. I think this applies to all situations — it’s not a case of telling the whole wedding party that you aren’t drinking, but mentioning it to the people it will be most relevant to, usually the organiser of the event, makes it easier. This also helps as it then allows them to sort out some non-alcoholic options so you won’t be caught out with nothing to drink. Non–alcoholic beers have been my life saver at hen dos, weddings and birthdays!

"It’s not a case of telling the whole wedding party that you aren’t drinking, but mentioning it to the people it will be most relevant to makes it easier."

Be proud of your choice

The decision to stop drinking is amazing, brave and fierce, no matter how long you intend to keep it up for. So go into these situations feeling empowered by your positive lifestyle choice! When you feel strong in yourself others will follow, and you will be less likely to get the “go on, just have one!” from those around you.

Embrace the situation

Being able to be truly present in these celebratory and happy situations really is a gift. Before, when I was drinking, I honestly only cared about how much champagne there would be and where my next glass was coming from. I would also only usually stay with the group of friends I knew, whereas now I make a real effort in talking to the people I don’t know and finding out about their lives. It’s really interesting to hear people’s stories and how they are connected to your friends, and to learn new things about the person you are celebrating.

Phone a friend

I always make sure I have a sober pal I can call should I need some moral support. Events can be tricky, but having someone on the other end of the phone who understands can be really helpful.

Don’t be afraid to go home

Honestly, just leave! Don’t be afraid to do this if you feel like you might drink, aren’t enjoying the situation or feel uncomfortable. I can’t tell you how many times I have just left an event, and people totally understand. More to the point, they are usually so drunk they don’t even notice! The way I see it, not every occasion was amazing because I was drinking and not every night will be amazing now I don’t drink anymore. However, when I was drinking, I would hang on to the night and drink more in the hope it would get better. With my sober head on I know when I should leave: when it stops being fun.

Social situations can be very daunting when you’re not drinking but I truly feel preparation is key! These tips have really helped me feel confident socialising without alcohol, and, even if it’s just a one-off, I hope they do the same for you too.

To come to one of our events, follow us on Instagram @sober_and_social or go to our website.