Tips for enjoying a social life without alcohol

Joe | January 2023 | 8 minutes

For people who are used to drinking at most social occasions, the thought of socialising without alcohol can seem scary.

I know it did for me. I was terrified. What if people think I’m weird? What excuse should I say as a reason for not drinking? What if they only sell alcohol? What will I do with my hands if I’m not drinking? Surely I can’t dance sober?!

But taking some time away from alcohol is almost always a good thing. Even if only temporary, giving your body a break from drinking will have a positive impact on your physical health and mental health, but most importantly, you’ll have the time to re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol.

For me, drinking alcohol used to be mindless. I would order a pint out of habit, routine and familiarity. It was pretty much a subconscious decision. I would never ask myself “do I want this extra alcoholic drink at this time, and if so, why?” but instead an automatic habit.

I gave up the booze in March 2022 and, for me, I found it easier to say no altogether than to try and moderate (after many years of trying). Here are some of the tips for social socialising I’ve found useful in the last nine months, and I hope you do too!

Start small

I wouldn’t recommend your first sober excursion to be your best friends birthday, your brother’s wedding or your long-awaited trip to Vegas. Start to build up a few sober social experiences doing things where alcohol is typically less prevalent. You could start with brunch if entering a pub feels too scary.

Build up slowly

Once you’ve had one or two small events sober, start to increase the number of people you socialise with, and/or go out later in the day, at times when more other customers are likely to be drinking. I wouldn’t go straight to a nightclub but going to a bar after work on a Wednesday or Thursday can be a good start.

Be honest

Eventually, even after building up slowly, you’re likely to find yourself in a situation with people who you used to drink with, in situations where you would have been drinking. I’ve found there’s no point lying about being on antibiotics, having to get up at 6am for something important, or any other excuse. Tell people that you’re taking a bit of time of alcohol because it wasn’t making you feel good. It’s also absolutely fine to simply say “I’m not drinking tonight”. You don’t owe people any explanation other than the fact you don’t want to drink.

Plan an exit

At some point in the night, you’re going to want to leave. It could be that you become overwhelmed with an urge to drink or are just not having fun. Or more likely, you’ll have had a great time for a few hours and a ready to get home to bed. Make sure you have a plan to get home, ideally one that doesn’t rely on others who are drinking. Don’t be afraid to duck out when the time is right for you, even if that is a lot earlier than drunk-you.

Enjoy it

When going sober I found so many benefits: I had no hangovers, more money, my anxiety had pretty much disappeared overnight, clearer skin, better sleep, less stress, and so much more time to live life. I realised that I’d spent at least one day every weekend (often two days) with a shocking hangover and feeling rubbish all day. When working full-time, our time off is so precious and I’d been wasting at least half of my non-working days feeling utterly rotten.

Treat yourself

Order a mocktail in a nice glass, a nice alcohol-free beer, or a nice mixer and no spirit. The benefit of not drinking is that you’re likely to save money, each individual drink is cheaper and you’re also likely to have fewer drinks. I used to rack up 10+ beers with ease, but I don’t think I’ve ever had more than six alcohol-free beers in one sitting; not because they’re not nice (they are!) but because there’s no chemical reaction in my brain pushing me for another.

I hope these few small tips help you get started and you are able to create your own path of living alcohol-free. I’ve never heard anybody say they regret taking a bit of time away from alcohol. I doubt you will be the first. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy sober socialising and some tasty A-F alternatives!