While there are endless benefits that come when you decide to drink more mindfully, there is one drawback—particularly if most of your friends still board the blackout express every weekend: going out with your crew is just not the same as it used to be. But! That doesn’t have to mean it’s worse.
When I changed my drinking habits, I immediately felt happier and more in control of my life. I went from having a drink more or less every night (plus five or more drinks in one sitting on weekend nights), to having one or two drinks a month (if at all). It was a slow process. I initially started with a “dry” December, then started having about three drinks max in one sitting in the following months. I eventually stopped wanting to drink at all, and now (about two years later), I am mostly sober, save for the occasional champagne toast.
I lost weight, my hair finally started growing again, and I felt myself becoming more comfortable in social situations without an alcoholic crutch. To be fair, some of my friends weren’t quite so keen on my new drinking habits (or lack thereof).
Aside from the annoying comments from “concerned” friends who said things like, “You used to be so fun,” or asked if I was discarding my party-girl persona because I was in a relationship, there was also the fact that I genuinely didn’t enjoy going out with my friends the way I used to.
So, how do you maintain your friendships when your ideas of fun are at different speeds or even in different directions? Better yet, is there a way to go out with your party friends and enjoy yourself without taking copious amounts of tequila shots? Here are my best tips, garnered from lots of experience.
1. Arm yourself
Even if you're comfortable with your choice to drink less, nothing kills the vibe like someone drawing attention to the fact that you don't have a drink in your hand (and trust me—someone will).
Grab a soda water, a Coke, or even a regular ol’ water so that when your friends want to "cheers," you don't feel like the odd man out.
If you’re at a nicer and/or trendier spot, always ask for a drink menu. More and more places are listing fun mocktails on their menus that can help you blend right in. In the meantime, definitely give our friends at The Mocktail Project at thumbs up.
2. You pick the spot
There are certain nighttime venues that are more amenable to moderate drinkers, whereas some spots are characterized by drunk college girls giving champagne showers to non-consenting bystanders. Try to take some charge in your friend group when it comes to making the plan, so that you don’t get dragged somewhere that isn’t ideal for someone who just wants to sip on a casual beer.
If you’re not quite sure what kind of venue is conducive to someone who only plans on having one or two drinks, but still fun for your friends—focus on the music.
As someone who’s gone out sober many, many nights, I promise you that nothing can make or break the vibe like some music. When I’ve had too much to drink, I can dance to anything (albeit sometimes offbeat), so I prefer to go someplace to dance where I know I’ll at least know some of the words if I’m expected to be on the dance floor sober.
3. Go straight to brunch
Half the time, you don’t really know your party friends super well because all you do together is get drunk and hang out at places that are too loud to have a conversation in.
If your party friends are important to you, make an effort to schedule a one-on-one hangout with individuals from the group separately to do non-alcohol centered activities. Think brunch, shopping, visiting an exhibition, or exploring a side of town you haven’t given much attention.
Friend dates are underrated, and a rarity in a time where the most common bonding activity is, “come over to my apartment early to pregame.” Chances are, whoever you invite will appreciate your effort (and the novelty), and you’ll become way closer than you would’ve if you just hit the club together again.
4. Sharpen your confidence
There’s a reason we sign up for the ridiculous—because of alcohol’s liquid courage. It takes confidence to say no to a third martini, just like it takes confidence to dance at the club when you’re sober enough to realize everyone is staring at you.
Build your confidence up more to feel reliance on alcohol less.
As someone who’s naturally shy and unconfident in social situations, I’m not 100% there yet (even after two years of being sober more than drunk), but practice makes perfect.
I used to pretend I was drinking to fit in, whereas now I prefer to own the fact that I’m not drinking. Finding more friends with healthy drinking habits definitely helped me to see how it’s done, but so did becoming more confident in my decision.
Sometimes I still find myself feeling awkward while standing among a group of drunk people out at the club, and while it’s not the greatest feeling in the world, I no longer wish I had a drink to make things easier, and that’s definitely progress.
P.S. If you’re looking to make a low-pressure transition out of the heavy party scene, or just need to pause for some time, I recommend checking out your local meetup page. They have tons of alcohol-free meetups.
5. Edit your social circle
When I quit drinking heavily, certain college friends of mine didn’t take it so well. It baffled me that my so called “friends” would put their idea of fun over my mental and physical health. I didn’t make a scene and we didn’t necessarily have a big falling out, but I stopped making an effort to see those friends.
Sometimes friendships, like relationships, run their course and you grow in different directions, and that’s okay too.
Similarly, sometimes your habits—like your weekly ritual of hitting the bars on Friday night—run their course too, and you find that you’d be much happier spending your Friday night baking something delicious, watching that movie that’s been in your queue forever, or chipping away at that passion project you keep putting off. There’s no reason to fight what you want to do with what you think you’re supposed to do. And besides, nobody regrets that smell of freshly-baked, warm cookies.
About the Author
Ashley Uzer is an artist, writer, and digital consultant. She is currently based in Washington DC, but is frequently traveling. Her happy place is somewhere warm, eating chocolate chip cookies for breakfast, and listening to pop-punk music from 2006. You can follow along with her adventures on Instagram @ashleyuzer or on her website where she blogs about food and fashion, loxandleather.com.