Socialising Sober

Heading into social situations without drinking can be very uncomfortable when we first quit alcohol. This Sober Toolbox is a space for sharing tips on how to navigate social events, including what to say to people who question why we’re not drinking. If you're looking for more discussion, interactions and feedback, head inside our Members Feed. That's where the real-time conversations take place.

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440 Comments
  1. Kaliisa 2 months ago

    I have managed this so well that I feel proud now I used to wakeup from a previous crazy drinking session and I will be like “that’s it!! I quit! then on the next occasion I’m tempted to drink a little by little sometimes shift my choice to wines thinking I’m making it better.
    This went on for quite sometime which was quiting then sipping a little then binge, at some moment after many stupid nights I’m not gonna tell how many stuffs I did yet I was the humble normal, I just knew I’m rotting inside.

    Solution 1
    I admitted that I’m doing something which is gonna cost my life, so I suggested to cut my portions and make curfew alarms so slowly I shifted from drinking whiskey and gin to drinking beers, from drinking 13 beers a night to drinking 7 from drinking 7 beers to drinking 1 bottle of wine a week from that to 3 beers a week from that to 4beers in a month and slowly by slowly I starved my urge till when I could say ” I Dont need any alcohol in my blood streams and so here iam its now coming to 1full month without alcohol.
    Trust me its not easy but I’m making it smoothly.
    #icameout

    • charlotteritter 2 months ago

      Hi Kalissa – I found your post interesting. I just joined yesterday and have been trying the same approach (slowly reducing bit by bit). I’m now down to 10-15 drinks per week, but finding it harder to reduce any more. Any tips? Especially for the zero drink days.

      • Hellsbells 1 month ago

        Try eating more- I find I drink more when im hungry and being hungry sets off cravings for alcohol. I justify putting off eating because I dont want to gain weight and then drink a whole bottle of wine and then eat… Even without the weight issue its really unhealthy behaviour. Just a thought..Im only on day 3 but have found this to work in other sober times

  2. HTT1993 6 months ago

    Right, here goes. 90% of the time, I go out and can control the amount I drink. 10% of the time, I cannot, and find once I’ve had one, I go into a binge and get carried away. This has got me into various situations that have never been positive, whether this is getting into arguments or getting so incapacitated its dangerous for my welfare. I have told myself again and again to limit my drinks, or dont drink at all, but it always slips back into my life one way or another.

    So, what do I do? Do I completely cut drinking out of my life, or do I try and limit how much I drink? I have tried limiting it in the past and this usually goes well for the first 2 months, and then there will be some kind of occassion and I go overboard again, the binging always creeps back in.

    I feel as though I cant risk my relationship or my job by trying to limit it and failing again, as this time round when I have binge drank at the weekend, it has caused me significant relationship problems, I’ve been told to have the week off work as its significantly affected my mental health, I am very depressed and need to get myself back together. I am not confident that my relationship will even survive this time.

    I am of an age where I should be settling down but also motivated for life, not going out and getting obliterated when it’s not necessary. There wasnt even a reason for it, my life is good. I just lost my limits, again.

    My other concern is that I have a skiing holiday booked over the next few weeks, as well as 2 x festivals I am meant to be going to this year, and potentially 2 family holidays. I associate going on holiday with having a drink. I’m worried I’m going to make myself more depressed by winding up not enjoying any of these events.

    Anyone have any advice around any of the above issues? I just want to be a better girlfriend, better family member and a better person. I spent the first 18 years if my life managing without drinking alcohol, so what changed? I was always very sensible as a child, but since I turned 18, I think I got more silly! Now 8 years down the line, I’m starting to realise the massive effect binge drinking has had on me, my decisions and my life.

    Help!

    • johatnn 4 months ago

      Hi HTT, I think you’ve answered your own question. Alcohol adds nothing to your life. You’ll most likely find it easier to be alcohol free than try to moderate. Give it a go. One day at a time.

    • Lammy 4 months ago

      Hi HTT my a few years older but pretty much in the same boat. I try to control it and think that I have and then bang I wake up thinking uh oh where has the last 6 hours gone. Have you been able to come to any conclusions or changes since the post?

      I’m only a couple of days into sobriety and feel like I’m starting down the same path

  3. RitaMae 8 months ago

    I often just say that as I’ve gotten a little older, alcohol messes too much with my sleep. For whatever reason that seems to be a common enough issue that people don’t even question it.

  4. funtimes 10 months ago

    One of the suggestions I really love in here is saying it gives me migraines. People can’t argue with that.

  5. angiew 10 months ago

    When I go out I have af beer or tonic . Sometimes tea if they sell it . If it cones up I’m not drinking I proudly say I’ve given up . It’s amazing how many people are intrigued and go into a in-depth conversation about how I’ve done it how I feel and I always get a well done I wish I had the willpower ! Trust me it wasn’t easy when the green slime gremlin was telling me one was ok or it’s a special occasion . He’s pretty much gone now but occasionally he try’s a softer approach to entice me back into his crutches but I learnt from last time how this works .

  6. ginoiseau 11 months ago

    Fizzy water in a tall glass with ice & a slice of lime looks like a gin & tonic (or vodka & tonic). I’m amazed that no-one has actually called me out on my not drinking. Dry-July was a great excuse, then I’ve been a sober driver. Apparently No-Sip-September is also a thing.

  7. Anonymous 1 year ago

    How can I go to a social event and not drink alcohol? How can I ensure I enjoy it? At the moment I feel that I would rather not go out than go out and not drink.
    I might be able to stop drinking at home, but I want to see my friends and go out with them. Some of them don’t drink, it won’t ever be a problem for them if I dont drink. I just feel like it will be too hard for me.

    • BillieK17 8 months ago

      Me too

  8. Lorna79 1 year ago

    At the moment it is fairly easy – DRY JULY 🙂 come August and going forward, at my age my excuse is valid and will be ‘we are trying for a baby’ which is true.

    My other go to line is ‘I have heart problems so I’m not allowed to drink anymore’ – again this is true.

    For others though, the ol ‘I’m the sober driver’ is a respectful and usually truthful way to deal with those ‘why aren’t you drinking’ queries, especially if others are used to you being the drunken life of the party!

  9. connilynn 1 year ago

    I’m on day 17 with a goal of 6 months for now. I just found out my sister and brother in law are going to be visiting for my birthday and they are very big drinkers. I think I’m just going to say, if pressed, that alcohol hasn’t been agreeing with me lately- it gives me migraines and saps my energy and I just feel better without it. All of this is true. Another option is to say nothing. I’ve noticed most people don’t even notice I’m not drinking if I have a lime in my water. I may start out that way, and move to the other if she notices and asks. Any thoughts ?

    • Teazy 1 year ago

      hey, this is the same as me, it zaps my energy and gives me migraine, i tell people im taking a break to see if it improves, my sister has always said, ok well just have one, or just have beer, and i reply..that just makes me tired! saying nothing will not work if they are big drinkers, good luck.

  10. kellyl8613 1 year ago

    Just wondering has alcohal free wine/beer been introduced in new zealand yet…

    • TheNephalist 11 months ago

      Mirage wines do really nice alcohol free (AF) wines and there is Seedlip or Ecology which are AF gin. There are a lots of AF beers for sale in the supermarket, it would be great if they didn’t put them right next to the alcohol though.

    • red78 11 months ago

      yep it’s at new world but the alcohol free wine led me back into drinking as I was creating the same habit as when drinking but having a glass of it when i got home from work and eventually I started drinking again.

    • DavidFS 1 year ago

      Yes @kellyl8613 alcohol free beer and wine are available although you usually have to look for it.

  11. Tawdrey 1 year ago

    I haven’t had a drink in 16 years, so I’ve used many reasons. To friends who knew the way I used to drink I’d say, “you know me, I’ve drunk more than my share.” To others I usually wouldn’t need a reason, and now I just say ” I don’t drink”. People don’t usually push. However, recently my new boss at a work event asked me why I didn’t have a drink… I replied that I’d get one later (it was going to be a juice, but I didn’t elaborate)… And he said that was good, because he didn’t trust people who didn’t drink. Oops! People who say that usually have a problem with alcohol themselves.

  12. TwoMagpies 1 year ago

    One leads to too many and then to a hangover. I loathe hangovers.

  13. Feijoa 1 year ago

    I say quite simply “Drinking makes me a t**t”, smile and move the conversation along ? Works a treat every time.

  14. joesdad 1 year ago

    When a bemused and (let’s face it) crestfallen friend asked me at a dinner party recently why I’d stopped drinking, I said “I’ve had enough.” When he continued to look baffled I said “Yeah I know, it’s a huge adjustment, it feels scary and it’s not going to be easy, BUT YOU’LL GET OVER IT!”

    • Dontblamethemusic 1 year ago

      Ha Ha, great response, I like it

  15. Livinglife 1 year ago

    I found that most people won’t worry too much if you choose not to drink. As long as THEY are drinking they are okay with it!!

  16. cdh1 2 years ago

    I love all these! Today is day 8! Woohoo I’ve made it a week. This is not my first time at day 8. I made it 30 days last summer. I want to make it. So, I’m trying different things this time. And that includes preparing myself for social situations that are usually boozy. Later this week…I have my company annual holiday party and it’s just about the booziest most gluttonous event you can imagine. I mean, we sell alcohol for a living. So it’s a company full of overindulgers. I mean, I’ve told my close work friends I’m not drinking this month, that I’m doing a cleanse. And they were surprisingly cool with that. None of them even tried to talk me out of not drinking at the party. And I found out another co-worker is not drinking “this month”. I asked her if she’d like to join me in a “100 day challenge” and she said, “yes!” so I do have someone at work I can check in with, someone else who won’t be drinking this Friday. Someone I can hang out with if things feel weird. I feel strong otherwise. I’ve been doing a lot of self-care over the past week and being kind to myself. But this party coming up is the one thing that has me feeling uneasy and I want to be prepared.

    • robzombie1964 2 years ago

      Being around alcohol that much can make anyone tempted, lol!! The only thing I can throw out for you is to have a plan laid out in case you get a strong urge to drink at the party!! It can be as easy is making sure your car is parked for easy access!! Also dont plan on staying that long!! The later the party goes the more you will likely be tempted to “just have one” Coming early and leaving early will pay dividends not having to worry about waking up hungover wondering where you went wrong!! Maybe even working something out with your cooworker to come and go together!! There is defintely strength in numbers!! Take care and good luck!!

  17. psykez 2 years ago

    “Alcohol messes with my immune system so I decided to stop, last time I almost lost my eye” it’s not entirely untrue, it’s just not the whole truth either.

  18. Seabass 2 years ago

    I like to take the brutally honest approach. You know? Shut’em down immediately. Leave no room for questions ; )

    “I’m not drinking tonight because I have consumed enough alcohol over the last 15 years for 10 lifetimes….yours and mine. Literally, enough to float the titanic on.”

    • Ryantaiji 1 year ago

      Well said

    • Tylee 2 years ago

      Love this response 🙂

    • Schubaby 2 years ago

      I absolutely love that response! I think I just might have to take this one.

      • Sister#6 2 years ago

        I’ve used that exact reply. “I’ve drank my lifetime limit already, I can’t have anymore”. They smile and move on.

  19. sober4real 2 years ago

    I’ve used everything from I’m on a diet, to I’m on antibiotics, to I don’t feel like it, I have to get up early in the morning or the truth…..I don’t drink (when I’m sober). I like what everyone is saying about not caring what other people think. If anyone gives you a bad time they do not have what is best for you on their mind so they probably aren’t someone to hang out with anyway.

  20. Brandon Metallic 2 years ago

    If anyone asks why I’m not drinking I tell them that I’m sober now, that I’m living a positive lifestyle, explain what being sober has brought me and my difficulties of when I wasn’t sober. As for social events I’m really avoiding most occasions right now because I’m fresh in sobriety, but soon I will be watching an MMA event where there’s alcohol served. I explained to my friend that I wont be able to party and that I was going to sleep after the fights and he respects my choice.

  21. Anonymous 2 years ago

    I drank almost every day for 20 years, often just a glass of wine with dinner. Did a 30 day alcohol fast with a few friends. Found the first week very boring, but gradually got into it….Now I drink no more than 4 units a week and often none. I hate the label “alcoholic” – and there is no scientific basis for it. People have various degrees ( or none) of alcohol dependency. For me, the exclusivity and superiority of Group Meetings I attended was terrible. I prefer to be with tolerant people , a good mixture, who simply accept me as I am whether I am drinking or not. I think there is nothing wrong, and a lot right with moderate/occasional drinking. The best reasons I have found to explain either having only 1-2 drinks is “it gives me migraine”! And finally, I have found an alternative AF drink I like – Ginger Ale in a brandy glass with loads of ice. It tastes like my old choice, brandy and ginger ale. Also, if in a place where tea/coffee is available, one trick that works every time for me ( took a while to cop this) is – when ordering my second drink, I order a cup of tea/coffee to follow in a short while. This breaks the alcohol flow and serves me well. But the thing that works best for me is I never drink at home, unless I have a dinner party. Its a cup of tea for everyone now…After a dinner party, I pour any leftover alcohol down the sink. I would have thought that wasteful before and drank it, but it is better to clean my drains than upset my liver!

  22. Chii 2 years ago

    If someone asks me why I’m not drinking, I tell them the truth. “I can’t stop at one, so i’d rather not drink”
    I find it stops people pushing drinks on me.

    • TwoMagpies 1 year ago

      I like this. The truth is a lovely thing.

  23. Bunny 2 years ago

    I’m giving my liver a break before Christmas

  24. Anonymous 2 years ago

    Inherited a bundle of genes that rebel at the very thought of being a real person.

    • BS 2 months ago

      This is great!

  25. Rikitootoe 2 years ago

    Donn make me derunck, you wo’nt like me when i’m drungk.

  26. TAL 2 years ago

    Just used the days sober / calculate how much I’ve not spent on drinking. and it comes to UK £21,445!!

    holy shit, on so many levels 🙂

    • thecandidme 2 years ago

      This is what I’m thinking too! How much money I can save to do other things!

  27. TAL 2 years ago

    Navigating this situation was one of what felt like many huge, but very real to me, situations to navigate.
    Everyone I know drinks, a lot. Every family occasion is soaked in booze. I have always ‘loved a glass of wine’ (couple of bottles) and every expected to see me with a drink in my hand. I thought, ‘If they see me not drinking they will know that I had a problem, that I’ve ‘had to stop’, that I was…. an ALCOHOLIC!!’ – and I thought, I can’t let that be known. The shame (my parents were also alcoholics. which I know means that there was an increased likelihood of me arriving in the same sorry place, but I also thought, people would think…. “You’d think she should have known better. should’ve seen that coming. la la la”.
    I couldn’t handle the idea of all these things happening. I didn’t want to have to handle it. So I kept drinking.
    WIth hindsight (nearly 2 1/2 years sober) I wish I hadn’t been so concerned with wtf everybody else thinks. I used to care so much. I didn’t think I did, but I did. As I became more sure of myself (this comes naturally with recovery) I began to gain a new perspective on everything. I put things into proper perspective. And with that – I shouldn’t have cared what everyone else might think. This is my life. Theirs is theirs. And we all only get one go at this.
    Today, I feel proud of myself. I love going to family weddings, funerals and every other piss up and being about the only person not getting smashed. I love peoples’ reaction (mostly amazement) that I can spend so much time in a drinking environment, sober, and I shit you not…. Enjoy myself!! It’s true. I do.
    Didn’t think for a minute that would be possible either.
    Getting sober showed me a new me…. well, allowed the one who had been buried to re-surface.

    N.B. You’ll be surprised to find that half the time most people don’t actually notice what you’re drinking or not drinking. They don’t care. Most people are too busy worrying about themselves.

    • petaswan 2 years ago

      Your post has just helped me immensely!

  28. Anonymous 2 years ago

    If anyone ask me… I will say… because its ruining my life in everyway… i hate waking up hungover… with all the drunk trimmings… looking forward to refinding myself

  29. Anonymous 2 years ago

    Hello, i also fall into this category. My main social life are my work colleges who have become friends but its still the usual cocktails after work or someones birthday… and going out for dinner and drinks. I alway attend the meals and can not drink quite easily through it but after the meal is when I struggle. I want to socialise and be around people but not drinking when they are is difficult, humans seek out human interaction its natural but difficult in a society where our social life is based around alcohol. We’ll done the 63 days, that a great achievement. – AG

  30. Lous18 2 years ago

    I have not been out but have been toying with the idea of saying I am on sabitical and moving on lol – actually I should probably just move along instead of getting in a conversation – too new for me.

  31. nurtureandgrow 2 years ago

    I’ve never been asked why i’m not drinking ,I just get that look and you can see the cogs turning and you just sit there with all the thoughts running through your head as to why they think you are not drinking, then someone asks you a question about your aunties dog and you stare at them blankly like you are stoned cause you still trying to interpret Mildred and Mavis’s LOOK…….and who the hang is Aunt Fanny and is something wrong with her dog??????????

  32. nurtureandgrow 2 years ago

    wouldnt it be rude to ask someone why they are not drinking?

    • Anonymous 2 years ago

      Nurtureandgrow, it might be rude but I have several family members I “used to” party with who have no problem calling you out! Especially when they are drinking. Unfortunately most of them will not be my support system. Thankfully I have found this site.

  33. Paula 2 years ago

    That doesn’t mean you are back to square one, so don’t beat yourself up. This happens with most people. It might be helpful to go to some meetings in your area to connect with others who understand this issue. I found it very isolating and lonely when I first quit. Even if you don’t work the steps or speak up in the meetings, the people at them tend to be friendly and supportive.

  34. Anonymous 2 years ago

    When it comes to socializing sober, I used to make excuses, which didn’t make me feel good about myself. I decided to just say rather grandly ‘I never touch a drop of alcohol anymore.’ and let people draw their own conclusions. Some people will keep at it, and I don’t mind having an honest conversation about it. It depends on the person – some people want to have a real interaction, and some people would rather just have a more basic conversation that consists of small talk. I find now that I don’t drink I don’t have an interest in small talk anymore, though of course I will do it at a party to be polite.

    I find it interesting to see people’s reactions to what is in my glass. In my profession I am trained to read body language so no one needs to straight up tell me ‘I am unsettled and uncomfortable by the fact that you are not drinking’ – I can see it. Some people are disturbed by it, but most don’t care. I admit I used to be that person who didn’t want some teetotaler around, so this doesn’t offend me, I understand completely.

    It has been a real shift for me to just say I don’t drink as opposed to ‘I have to get up early’ or ‘I am on antibiotics’ (seriously, I have actually said this several times). It marked the beginning of feeling better about my choice not to drink. It seems almost rebellious to be sober now. If there are a few people who just write me off as ‘someone who can’t drink’ I really don’t mind anymore. Those tend to be those boring small-talk people anyway.

  35. MrsH89 2 years ago

    Drinking is a huge part of my social circle. Every event revolves around cocktails. While I have no desire to drink, 63 days and counting, I am feeling left out at social events….it’s getting a little better each time, but can’t wait for the day that I don’t even think about fitting in.

  36. Ladyhawke 2 years ago

    I just say “I’ve had enough drinking for my lifetime” and leave it at that.

  37. Michelle 2 years ago

    Sober October

    • sarah47 2 years ago

      Dry January, dry July, and now sober October! I like that one!

      • petaswan 2 years ago

        We have ‘September to remember, no goon June, say Nay in May, haha and the list goes on..

  38. Anonymous 2 years ago

    I am having a terrible time at staying sober. I go for 2 weeks and then I am back at it again. I HATE it! I really need a friend to help me stay on track. Please help

    • sarah47 2 years ago

      I think 2 weeks is amazing! I’m on day 4 and feel proud!

    • Alexandra 2 years ago

      You can do this. Be proud of those 2 weeks. It doesn’t make you a failure, it’s a blip, jump back though. Been there done it and now on day 3. We can do this .

  39. sober@sixty 2 years ago

    Not sure why it was ‘obviously’ non-alcoholic, but I too struggle with those comments about ‘being good’. I’ve spent a good deal of my life trying to be the ‘good girl’. Most of the social events I go to are BYOB so I always have my AF cocktails. When anyone asks “what are you drinking” I can respond, honestly, oh…Moscow Mule, or Mojito or ‘Gin” and tonic….they don’t need to know it’s AF! In fact I mixed a friend an AF ‘gin’ and tonic this summer and he had NO CLUE it wasn’t alcohol!!!

    It DOES get easier! And your response should most definitely be “YES I AM!”.

  40. sober@sixty 2 years ago

    Not sure how long you have been on the sober road, but you should find that not ‘everyone’ you know drinks. I found it very interesting to be at social gatherings and seeing how many didn’t drink. If you go out after work for ‘drinks’ you just need to find the best AF substitute for you. For me it’s ginger beer, and if they don’t have that, I ask for a virgin Mojito or just club soda with lime and cranberry juice – everyone assumes its vodka and cranberry anyway! I found in a work situation, if I got to the bar ahead of everyone else and clued the bartender into my AF path, and tipped them well, he/she would just refill my drink without me having to explain that it’s AF. Not ready to come ‘clean’ with the work folk just yet. Most were just really impressed that the bartender knew my order without having to be reminded! 🙂

  41. sober@sixty 2 years ago

    I usually just order a ginger beer. I don’t find it as fizzy as colas. I’m not a cola fan either. Most places stock them now with the popularity of the Mule drinks. I’ll also do club soda with lime and cranberry juice. Sometimes if it’s a place I know, I’ll take my green smoothie powder and ask the bartender to make it into something that looks incredibly good but AF. If only bars would stock AF spirits!

  42. mistchance 2 years ago

    Looking for ideas on alternative drinks when at pubs. I don’t like coca cola, most other splits nor orange juice. I find that I feel totally bloated after 2 drinks of fizzy like ginger ale or soda and lime, and water and lime just gets boring.
    I’m totally ok with not drinking at home, at friends and family – as can take my own flavours or just drink tea/coffee but find the pubs a different story. I play pool in the winter so find it really hard to remain sober with nothing very good as an alternative.

    • Anonymous 2 years ago

      I love club soda with lime or soda water (called different things in different countries) with lemon/lime.

  43. Eola 2 years ago

    Just a quick update on my AF life. 72 days and counting, and today have at last recovered my old running form. On average, I’ve run about three times a week, totalling about 24 miles. I’ve done this for years, booze being the only thing that prevented any progression. I’ve even stopped running altogether for long periods of up to a whole year, due to my booze and ganja intake. On February 2018 I decided to put a stop to that and started running again, that is until the good weather was back! I spent about 5 weeks drinking as if there was no tomorrow, during the summer. It was the last time I drank, by the way, and coming back to training has been slow and painful. I even doubted at some point that I could have the energy or the faith in myself to train the way I used to, but now I know I’m back. The session of today (a five miler), has been wonderful, and I felt the power return to my legs and lungs. Being sober is the best thing ever! Big hugs to all of you and kudos to @kitten. Congrats for your 72th day of freedom, buddy! 🙂 xxx

  44. Laurie 2 years ago

    Sorry to hear you are so unhappy with your sobriety. I also have 4 years. Can I ask the obvious question?.
    Are you going to meetings ??

  45. Anonymous 2 years ago

    what do i do if everyone i know drinks.. being alone all the time sounds awful 🙁

    • Travelbug 2 years ago

      Find new playmates….

  46. TJ 2 years ago

    Day 2. Done 35 days before but always alone. This is the first time I have looked online for blogs and support. Only now do I realise I have a problem that needs tackling. Something needs to change. Will probably avoid social events for a bit. Haven’t figured out what I will say when the time comes. One hour at a time right now.

  47. sobergirl 2 years ago

    I started with dry july…then abstain August….sober September….none for November…dry December. …juicy January…..fasting February. …masterful March. ..amazing April….magnificent May…jubilant June…etc

    • Soberkiwi 2 years ago

      Mmmmm…..what can we say for ‘October’….how about: Off Limit October, Omission October, One-Way October, Overhaul October……

      • sarah47 2 years ago

        Sober October!!

  48. Matt 2 years ago

    I tried all sorts of things when asked by people at events why I’m not drinking but realised that in the end the best response for me actually was as a simple truthful answer “because it makes me feel better” this also helped me feel good and sub consciously reinforce my decision to give up drinking. It’s funny, most people drink because they think it makes them feel better but I found for me it’s actually the other way around. I stopped drinking over a year ago now and the would never go back to it.

    • JBanne21 2 years ago

      Honesty, makes a body feel good

  49. SalliAnne Maliguine 2 years ago

    I’m off the sauce.

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