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Socializing Without Alcohol

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Category: Advice, Family, Health, Recovery

Going to a holiday dinner or other social event without liquid courage can seem daunting if you have become accustomed to drinking your way through these events. However, whether this is your first year sober during the holidays or you just need a little extra help this year, there are a few simple tips, tricks, and practices that can help you socialize effectively and enjoyably.

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Socializing without alcohol leads to clear conversations and no hangover anxiety.

Making Conversation Easy And Fun

Thanksgiving is looming; for many, so is the thought of socializing without alcohol.

Even if you’re reading this at another time of the year, there’s an event, maybe a wedding, a dinner party, a birthday, or a work function that’s got you worried about how you’ll cope with making new friends, striking up a conversation, and managing social anxiety with no booze.

Just that you’re doing your research on how to handle the occasion is a sure sign that you’re already on the track to success. Read on to find simple ways to enter whatever event you’re stressing over with your head held high — even and especially if your glass is full of water.

Quick Tips To Prepare For Socializing Without Alcohol

Set yourself up for success; decide which of the steps below might work for you to relax in the time before your event.

1. Get Good Sleep.

Aim for 8 hours in a pitch-black room, avoid Caffeine (especially late in the day), and try a slightly earlier bedtime. Quality sleep can do to your brain what soap and water do to a car windshield and help remove the clutter and gunk that’s distracting you or stopping you from seeing what’s ahead.

2. Get Sunlight.

Stabilize your circadian rhythm by getting 20 minutes of direct sunlight the day of your event. You may feel both more calm and more alert as a result, making socializing without alcohol all the easier.

3. Get Some Food And Drink.

Don’t go to a party, even a dinner party, hungry. You never know when the food’s going to arrive — if you have a light snack and a (non-alcoholic) drink beforehand, you can avoid suffering through a pounding headache or a growling stomach.

4. Get A “Warm-Up.”

Chat a little with the cashier in the checkout line, the driver of your Uber, or the neighbor you see outside. Scroll down to the next section to see what to talk about, but try to keep things warm and light; you’re just getting the juices flowing here so that later on it will be easier to slip back into a social mindset.

5. Get A Prop.

Find a fidget spinner to spin, a stress ball to squeeze, a non-alcoholic beverage to sip, a piece of jewelry to fuss with, or something else that will give you a small but meaningful prop that can be touched and interacted with and used to express nervous energy or self-soothe. It may sound silly, but it can do a lot to set you at ease; what’s more, it may become an enjoyable topic of conversation for you at your event.

6. Get A “Hard Out.”

Set yourself a “hard out,” or a time when you absolutely MUST leave the event due to a circumstance outside of your control (like having to walk your dog, do your laundry, whitewash a picket fence, sing the national anthem at Dodger Stadium, or whatever excuse strikes your fancy.) This way, you won’t need to find the host later to say goodbye if you don’t want to — they know you had a “hard out” — and everyone will understand why you’re leaving. If you find yourself having a great time and wanting to stay, you can always just say things changed!

These 6 tips might help you in the lead-up to your event. But once you’re there, what should you talk about? There are a few tried-and-true topics that’ll work for just about anyone.

Good And Bad Topics Of Conversation

It seems like conversations often go awry. Politics, personal drama, and just plain boring diatribes can predominate. However, when socializing without alcohol, you can help keep your conversations pleasant and comfortable by following the “5 Ws.”

1. Weather

It’s always doing something, isn’t it? Talk about the weather, no matter how obvious or simple it seems. It could grow into a larger conversation (like maybe one about a trip someone is planning to another climate, or what one’s favorite activities on a rainy day are.) There’s a reason talking about the weather is a cliche: it works — and it’s possibly something you’ve been hoping to vent about (or celebrate!) anyway.

2. Work

We spend a lot of time at work. That means although it can drive us crazy, it also gives us a share of good stories and interesting characters. Asking someone about what they do for a living, and then paying attention to their response and following up on the parts that you find interesting, can lead to a wide-ranging and fulfilling conversation.

3. Watching

What are you watching on TV or on streaming platforms, and what are the folks you’re with watching? Why do they like the shows they like? Were there any great TV moments you’ll have to retell, even if there might be spoilers? (As long as you issue a warning in advance, you’re clear.) Like working, people spend a lot of time watching — we might as well talk about it!

4. Wacky

Odd, humorous, just-can’t-believe-they’re-true stories can be the best kind. Has something funny happened to you recently — even if it didn’t seem that way at the time? Life is strange. Pick something unusual you’ve seen or heard lately and if it’s not tied in with political or personal subjects, you might invite the group to laugh or scratch their heads along with you. Alternatively, ask someone you’re with about an odd or unusual thing that happened to them!

5. Wondering

If you “run out” of things to talk about, you can always ask a question. Make it an open-ended question (one that starts with “what,” “why,” “how,” etc., and can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”). Ask people “What makes you say that?” or “Why is it like that?” or “How did your experience with XYZ go?” Let them do the talking; you do the active listening. People love talking about themselves, so by wondering about others in an open-ended way you’re allowing them to bring up their favorite subject!

While you’re talking about the weather, the wacky events of your life, the greatest (or worst) TV show ever made, and so much more, do try to avoid politics and other sensitive topics. If they do come up (sometimes it seems like they sneak in!) then you might try to hear the other person out as rationally and non-judgmentally as possible.

Then, if you want, you can say simply: “I don’t follow politics too closely.” If that seems like too much of a cop-out, or if you’re totally at a loss for how to respond to some (potentially abrasive) thing that someone else has just said to you, you might simply reply with: “You know, I’ve never thought of it that way before.”

Decompressing After Socializing Without Alcohol

Take time after your outing to go for a walk, take a hot shower or bath, drink calming tea, play with a pet, journal, or call a close friend or confidant. It’s important to decompress, especially after a potentially demanding activity like prolonged socializing. Above all else, make sure to remember how proud you are of yourself for socializing without alcohol.

If you’d like more information about drinking and whether it’s risen to a problematic level, or about social anxiety and the best proven treatment modalities, don’t wait. Contact a treatment provider now who can help answer your questions.

You can learn to live a complete and satisfying life without using a substance as a crutch. In the meantime, have fun at your event.

  • Author: William Henken | Last Updated: December 16, 2021

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    William Henken

    Will Henken earned a B.A. in Advertising and Public Relations from the University of Central Florida. He has had his work published in the Orlando Sentinel, and has previous experience crafting copy for political action committees and advocacy groups dedicated to social justice. Addiction and mental health are personal subjects for him, and his greatest hope is that he can give a helping hand to those seeking healthy and lasting recovery.

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