I've been to many parties as a sober person and generally I don't have a problem with them (unless I'm just totally not in the mood or it's really not my scene). I've gotten pretty good at working inside my brain to lift my mood so that I can have a good time - sometimes even a great time!
Here are my top ten tips for doing a party sober.
1) DON'T LISTEN TO YOUR UNHELPFUL THOUGHTS BEFOREHAND
If, before the event, your brain forms unhelpful thoughts such as "everyone is going to think I'm boring for not drinking" or "I'm going to have no fun without wine" or "being sober at a party is hell on earth" do not let those thoughts rest and take root. Banish them from your mind quick smart. These thoughts are not facts, they are unhelpful little energy puffs your mind is creating out of paranoia and fear. Push them out. Literally do this. Push the thoughts from your mind and do not let them fester and grow. Think about politics instead. Or grass growing. Or bananas. Anything but paranoid, miserable thoughts about you being a boring sober loser at a party.
2) MAKE A MENTAL LIST OF WHAT THIS PARTY IS ABOUT
Us sober people tend to build a party up in our minds as being all about the booze. This is stupid. A party is about many things outside of what sort of liquid is in our glasses. I find it incredibly helpful to concentrate hard on what those other things are. I make a mental list in my mind, literally bullet points of 3-4 things specific to this event. E.g. "this party is about old friends getting together" or "this party is about my husband's colleagues celebrating a hard year of work" or "this party is about neighbours getting to know each other" or "this party is about all the yummy food/the fact we're not at work/my sister's birthday/John's promotion/summer arriving/a new fence". Parties are always about humans coming together for a reason and if you look for the reason(s) you can shift the focus away from what liquid is in your glass. If you can't find 3-4 good reasons then you need to go shopping to create one or two!! (Nothing like "this party is about my new outfit/shoes/haircut" to lift your pre-party mood!).
3) PICTURE THE DRUNK VERSION OF THIS PARTY
If I'm really struggling to find the positives in an upcoming party or event (because I'm not in the mood or it's not a lovely, warm crowd for me) I imagine myself at this event boozing up a storm, getting loose lipped and slurry, being drunk, disconnected, and sloppy. I don't kid myself that boozy me is a better quality of party girl. She's not. Even if I'm not in the mood and don't dig the company at least I can count on myself to hold myself together and be respectable and appropriate. A boring party is going to be a boring party whether I'm drinking or not.
4) TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIQUIDS
Be prepared with what you want to drink. Take alcohol-free wine or beer if that is your thing to help you through (it's not mine but it works for some). Take a couple of bottles of fancy fizzy water. Take pre-cut limes or lemons. Take a mocktail mix. Hell, take your own teabags if you feel like it!! (I did that recently and my midnight mug of 'Hot Cinnamon Sunset Black Tea with Cinnamon, Orange and Sweet Cloves' was coveted by other party goers!)
5) VISUALISE WHEN IT'S OVER
I love getting my bed ready to fall into after a party. I pull the covers back and have my jammies laid out ready to put on. Sometimes I'll just look at my pillow before we head out the door and visualise myself laying my head on it in a few hours time. I love knowing how good I'm going to feel when the night is done and I'm snuggled up warm and clear-headed. There is nothing like the sweet bliss of falling into bed sober at the end of a party ... and there is NOTHING like the sweet, sweet feeling of waking up with no hangover the next day. No sick guts or headache or guilt - that never gets old.
6) THINK ABOUT ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE IN THE ROOM
Everyone else at the party has arrived full of their own insecurities, hang-ups, hopes, and fears. I always like to look around and imagine what's going on for the other people there. Who would rather not be there? Who had a fight with their partner just before arriving? Who is socially awkward and nervous? Who is over-excited and jittery? Who is hoping they don't drink too much and blackout again? Who is feeling really happy to be out with their friends? Who is loving being away from their kids for the night? Shifting the focus away from me always helps calm me down.
7) ACT IN PARTY MODE!
Slap on a smile and get chatty! I know this is easier said than done sometimes .. but if you can act like a party person you might find you are a party person! At least try it at the very start of the night when you first walk in and get settled with a drink etc. After a while you might find you can drop the act and relax into a more chilled out chatty mode with someone interested in a real conversation. Or you can just go quiet and float around the edges watching other people get drunk (always a fun pastime).
8) PLAN YOUR EXIT STRATEGY
Give yourself permission to leave whenever you feel like it and know that even if it's after just 1 hour that's ok. Make sure you're able to get away as soon as you feel like it. Warn the host that you might not stay long - they should appreciate the fact that you've made the effort to show up at all. Be ok paying for an uber or taxi. If you are taking your own car warn any passengers that came with you that you might be leaving early. Don't let anyone hassle you into staying longer than you want. Prepare your exit line; "I've got to work tomorrow" or "I need to get back to my cat" works a treat ("You're smelly and repeating yourself" might not go down so well!)
9) CHECK IN WITH YOUR TRIBE
Tell the community here at Living Sober about the party and how you're feeling beforehand. Tell us your plans, and report back afterwards. We're your cheering squad and will be (virtually) with you all the way.
And finally (and most importantly)...remember....
10) THERE'S NO SHAME IN STAYING HOME
If you simply can't banish the fearful thoughts from your mind beforehand , if you're struggling to form a mental list of what this party is about (that doesn't involve alcohol), if the imaginary drunk version of the party doesn't make you feel better, if you don't want to think about what's going on for everyone else, if you can't be bothered planning your alcohol-free beverages or exit strategy, if you can't bear the thought of acting in a party mood, and even if the thought of falling into bed sober doesn't help get you there.. then don't go. Don't go! Make your apologies and stay home. There is no shame in that. I've done it before and I'll do it again - and other people do it all the time as well. Stay home, protect your sober self, snuggle up on the sofa with your energy conserved, your self-care bubble intact, and your contentment levels high. Do not feel bad, feel normal. Everyone pikes out of parties sometimes. That doesn't make you a boring sober loser - far from it. It makes you smart for knowing yourself and brave for putting your needs first at a time that was necessary.