There’s no better time to take a break or go alcohol-free than when you feel ready! Sometimes that time ends up happening right at the start of the summer when social events pick up, which leads to even more fear and thoughts about “how the heck am I going to get through the summer without drinking?”
The thoughts and fear may immediately make your mind go to “Maybe I will just wait until the summer is over.”
While going through the summer during the early stages being alcohol-free can be challenging, there is no need to wait. When you have the proper mindset and tools in place, not drinking over the summer can end up being not a big deal. You may even be surprised how much more you enjoy it!
Each time you get through a social event alcohol-free, you’re building patterns in your brain that are telling you that you can do it. The more time under your belt and the more social events you get through, the easier it gets over time. As time goes on, alcohol will lose its allure, and you won’t be bothered to be at a social event without a drink in your hand. I know this probably sounds unimaginable to you at the moment, but I can share that it is true due to my firsthand experience.
There are a few things that you can do to set yourself up for success when planning not to drink over the summer. When you get yourself off of autopilot in life and become more aware of your situation and surroundings, you will start to see things in a completely different perspective.
1. Make a mindset shift – Don’t have any expectations on how a situation or event will play out. Having expectations is what creates anxiety and can drive it through the roof. Let the experience be what it is, and even if it goes not as you thought it would, try to make peace with any experience you have. Having this mindset will help you move forward with a bit more confidence and curiosity going into the next event.
When I first went alcohol-free, I had a lot of anxiety going to social events without drinking. I worried about what others would think if I was not drinking alcohol, especially because I was the one who ALWAYS had a drink in my hand from start to finish at a social event. I used to have it in my head that the event was going to suck because I was not going to drink, and it usually did because that was my intention going into it! When you set a more positive intention and allow yourself to be free from expectations and go with the flow, your experience will usually be much better than you anticipated.
2. Make a plan – When we have a well-thought out plan in any area of our lives, it helps prepare us for success. Have a plan for how you want to experience the event. Have a response ready that feels good to you if and when someone asks you why you are not drinking. Having a prepared response will give you certainty and you won’t be fumbling or uncomfortable trying to think of what to say when someone asks. Know what you’re going to do as soon as you walk in that door. Having a plan will give you more confidence ahead of time so you feel much more at ease when you get to that social event.
Having a plan on what you are going to say to others if they ask why you are not drinking is so important. It’s interesting that I find many people struggle with what they are going to say. I have had clients who really stumble over this. Why do we stumble? Are we worried we will be judged or won’t fit in with the crowd? Sure, you can make up an excuse that isn’t true if that works for you such as “I am on medication” (I used this one a few times in college), “I am doing a cleanse”, or whatever you want to say. I try to encourage my clients to have a reason prepared that feels true to themselves. When people would ask me in the early days, my response was “I decided to take a break from alcohol because I didn’t like the way it was making me feel, and I am feeling much better not drinking it!” That was my honest truth, and it felt good to be honest and brave about it, and those who I said it to were actually impressed. They probably felt disgusted with their relationship with alcohol.
3. Before going to the event, visualize yourself at the event and how you’ll respond to the environment, the people who are there and being surrounded with alcohol. Right before leaving for the social event, sit down and close your eyes. Picture yourself driving to the event, arriving, talking to people, etc. Play it out in your mind how you would like it to look and how you would like to feel during the event.
This exercise can be helpful because the brain doesn’t know the difference between a real and imagined event. Going through it can help tone down any anxiety you are feeling and help you move forward with going to the event alcohol-free. When I was able to imagine how I hoped the social event would play out before I left the house, it helped me move through the event in a much more positive mental space, and I would also be aware once I was there how much of a good time I was having without drinking alcohol!
4. Keep a drink in your hand – As soon as you get to the event, grab a non-alcoholic drink to hold. You might be surprised how many people won’t even notice it’s not alcohol, and it will give you some comfort. Just having the feeling of the glass in your hand will send a message to your brain that you are safe and OK in those social situations.
I have been to tons of social events since I stopped drinking, and I have either brought my own favorite alcohol-free options to drink or was able to find something at the event. Guess what has rarely happened to me since the time I have gone alcohol-free? Someone asked me what I was drinking. And for the few times it did happen, I gave an honest response, and the person happily acknowledged it without judgment. As long as the people at the social event have their alcoholic drink in their hand, they could care less about what you are drinking!
5. Have someone “on call” – Sometimes being at a social event may make you feel uncomfortable, and you might worry you will cave and grab an alcoholic beverage. Have a friend or family member who is in your corner and knows you have committed to being alcohol-free at the event available to call or talk to at the event. It’s amazing what support you can get from someone who understands. Even taking a few minutes to verbally tell them where you are at and how you are feeling can help ease any angst you are feeling and can help refresh you to continue on with the event being alcohol-free.
Most of the events I would attend early on were with my husband, so he was always there for me if I was having any uneasy feelings about being there in the first place. It felt good to have his support and to know I had someone there rooting for my success, since he knew it was something I really wanted. Not only did I have my husband, but a few close friends who even though they were drinking, still supported my decision to be alcohol-free. When you have a tribe of people around you who understand and support you, it can make a world of difference.
6. Have and exit plan prepared – And if things get too tense for you while being a social event, you have the ability and every right to leave. You, just like anyone else, can leave whenever you want, and it doesn’t mean anything if choose to do so. Have a plan ahead of time of how you will make your exit and where you will go, whether it’s home or another location, so you are ready to initiate without thinking about it if the time comes. It will make it much easier and seamless for you if the decision to leave early happens to come up.
There have been many times, even now when I go to social events, where I head out early. Now it’s usually because I am tired and hanging out with people who are very drunk gets old very fast! I do not feel bad even for a second that I do this, and nobody cares or even notices that I leave half the time. It’s all about setting boundaries that feel good to you and to realize you are not doing this to please others, you are doing it for yourself. We are all adults and make our own choices and shouldn’t worry what other people think. You may worry the first couple of times that you leave early from a social event that you will be judged, and that is absolutely normal. As time goes on, you will realize the importance of self-care and making yourself a priority, and it starts to feel really good!
How can you move ahead to a summer being more fully present in creating memories with your kids and doing something for yourself that feels good? There’s no better time to go alcohol-free and you may surprise yourself with how much more adventure and true relaxation you find!