Navigating Social Spaces Sober (Guest Post)

This guest post comes from member @emjaycee. A writer friend of mine (and sober hero!) based in Christchurch.


Once you have made the decision to quit alcohol, the practicalities of navigating the social spaces of your life loom into view.

In late May, 2016, when I was considering total abstinence, my main worry was impending events; a family holiday to Noosa, my 40th in October, Christmas (of course), New Years, and a friends’ reunion (touring the vineyards around Queenstown no less).

Every time I had tried to knock the drinking on the head for a period, that worry had dominated my thought processes. I mean, is there ever a good time to quit? There’s seemingly always something pulling you back to the bar. When you make the decision to quit indefinitely, or forever, you have to make peace with all of this.

Like most, my first drinking was within the relative safety of family parties at home, followed closely by the usual teenage experimenting. A lot of my heavier drinking was done in the testosterone-filled environment of the various rugby teams I played for; the after-match drinks at our tatty sponsor pub, or the ‘fun’ and games of the changing-shed Court Sessions. Most of us played for the ‘reward’ of drinking after the games, most commonly well into the night.

Solid, life-long friends were made on those nights, but the binge-to-fill-your-boots philosophy carried into my general drinking and became my unhealthy pattern. In those days, the boozing seemed an essential part of being a man – a rite of passage. The classic rugby documentary The Ground We Won reminds me of that time in my life.

Mainly, I drank to relax into social settings, to feel a part of things (one of the boys), to feel less of a self-conscious outsider. Alcohol gave me confidence, or so I thought. Now, of course, I see the harm it did to my body and spirit. In recent years the messy aftermath of my worst binges became more and more unacceptable to me. Towards the end my drinking was causing me to feel shame and regret.

A year and a half ago, I flew to Wellington to interview Lotta Dann for an article about Living Sober. I told her I was rethinking my drinking. I had a catchup with my old Dad’s Group mates at a pub the next day and I confessed I was nervous about not drinking. Her advice helped me hugely in my early sober days. This is the gist of what she said:

“Is it about seeing your mates and have a good time with them?” she asked. “Or is it about what’s in your glass? Concentrate on your mates.”

Once I had made the decision to quit, stressing about being around drinkers was counterproductive. But everything takes practice. Every night out is an opportunity to practice feeling comfortable sober in a booze-soaked world. I choose to focus on the positives; being able to drive, waking up in the morning tired but not hungover, remembering everything, being connected. I told myself that if anyone was a dick about my non-drinking then it would be about them and not me.

If you’re solid in your decision, no one can move you.

At my 40th, I concentrated on savouring the time with my guests, and testing myself to make my speech sober. I remember the sense of accomplishment in how much I had enjoyed the party. I proved to myself that I could have a BETTER time sober – that I didn’t need alcohol to survive socially.

I occasionally pine to be part of the drinking when the boys gather and the first round of beers hits the table. But these feelings pass. With the passing of time alcohol has become less and less important to the point it no longer appeals at all.

I love being sober.

I have no regrets.


  1. Tom4500 6 years ago

    There’s some serious wisdom there.

  2. Anonymous 6 years ago

    20 months sober and dating…soooo hard! I am on 55! Ugggh. I realize being a nondrinker is NOT an asset. It seems going to happy hours and out for drinks…is stii a big part of most people’s lives. I stopped doing that years before i stopped drinking! I was “safer” at home. I knew I couldn’t regulate myself…a few wines getting ready, something on the way..i had already drank more than anyone else would the whole time! I could pull off the first drink or two but then, bam! I was drunk! My boyfriend stopped wanting to go out..avoided places with alcohol to eat…grrrrrI’d rather not go! Pathetic! Needless to say I’m single. Now i have so much anxiety for the OTHER person…like i am letting them down by ordering an iced tea! I prefer they have a drink…it’s MY isssue. …just venting..feel damned if I do and damned if i don’t!

  3. Sammy 6 years ago

    Is it just me or does anyone else find it gives you strength being around drunk people? I don’t judge them cause I was that person plenty of times. My strategy is when people are a few under I just smile and get them talking by asking them questions it’s often amusing all the time thinking how good I will feel the next day. As you say the first round is the awkward bit but deeper into the night people dont realise your not drinking.

  4. Notaonewinegirl 6 years ago

    Awesome read thank you. I struggle with the socialising sober too. Just went to a weekend Jazz festival sober after 3 previous wine clouded Jazz Festivals. It was hard at times but ok. Ok is fine now, I’m 3 months with no alcohol and feeling in control of my life much more. I find it really really helpful to read stories like yours thank you.

  5. Anonymous 6 years ago

    Thank you for sharing & huge congratulation on being committed to your recovery journey.I love what you said about it taking practice to handle social occasions . And how you sobriety has lead to such wonderful benefits .

  6. Cinderella 6 years ago

    Really awesome read and very encouraging. Thank you so much Emjaycee -)

  7. April 6 years ago

    Love this @emjaycee, love your writing about sobriety and about child raising – do you still do that lovely blog I used to read on stuff?

    • Emjaycee 6 years ago

      Hi @April , how are you, e hoa? No I finished that a while back . I’m still planning to make a book of the blogs to give to the girls . It’s on my list for this year … hope you are well ! Matt

      • April 6 years ago

        I’m doing okay… great idea of making those blogs into a book. I started reading them when all of our ivf was repeated and miserable failure. They gave me hope

  8. morgan 6 years ago

    Yes! I so agree, and have loved the way Lotta emphasises that it is all about the people, or the special place, not what is in the glass.
    Isn’t it great to get to the point where the longing is momentary, and we love to be sober? Thanks for the very positive reminder. Xxxx

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Licensed by NZ Drug Foundation under Creative Commons 4.0 2024. Built by Bamboo Creative and powered by Flywheel.

Log in with your credentials


Forgot your details?

Create Account