How do you handle parties, business lunches and other occasions where you previously drank too much and where just about everyone else still drinks too much? What I initially tried to do in early sobriety was to boycott any function that I felt I could not control my behaviour, after just one drink.
Trouble is, you eventually have to step out into the real world and face your demons. There are going to be times where you have no choice but to attend your daughter’s wedding or a special anniversary party.
Make a decision on whether you really want to attend some of the functions you know, are they just excuses for a booze up! Particularly Christmas functions, farewell dinners or a girls’ night out. Is it worth the risk? The still practicing alcoholic has a good reason why they should attend.
- People will wonder where I am.
- I love to dance.
- My friends will be insulted if I don’t attend.
- It’s important for me to be there as a mark of respect.
Evaluate your reasons to go. Are they honest or deep down, do you still think you can drink socially? Forget the rationalisation, justification and avoid walking where it’s slippery unless you have very relevant reasons that have nothing to do with drinking.
Do you get nervous when alcohol is around you? That’s fairly normal in early sobriety and you will feel more comfortable as time goes on. As Buddhists say: “nothing is permanent” and that applies to feeling nervous, feeling good or feeling bad – nothing is permanent. Then there will be times you think you’ve beaten your demons and say: “Hey, I can handle going to this function!” and that is the last thought you had, after you picked up a drink.
Alcohol dependency is cunning, baffling, powerful and very, very patient.
If friends and colleagues are not already aware that you don’t drink alcoholic beverages, let your host or hostess in advance know that you are not drinking alcohol. This is to ensure that there is something else for you to drink, like orange or lemon juice or your favourite soft drink. I prefer lemon sodas and have recently taken to drinking Lemon, Lime and Soda – great thirst quencher and I can guarantee I will come home sober and remember everything I said and did at the party. It’s unwise to attend any party or event at which there are no options other than alcohol or water. Some non-alcoholic beers and wines are not completely alcohol-free and are not a safe substitute for someone in recovery.
Don’t go to parties alone. Think of yourself as swimming in deep waters and take someone who knows you are not drinking – for health reasons. They know you don’t drink and will act as your minder. It’s a security back-up in case you have a momentary lapse of memory like………….. “I might be able to have just one drink!”
Don’t arrive late to a function. You’re safest to arrive before everyone else is getting into the spirit of the evening or the event and are cheerfully high or roaring drunk and you are sucked into accepting a drink. When you arrive, make sure you serve yourself to ensure you don’t accidently drink something that looks like soft drink. Keep your glass in your hand for the rest of the evening, topping up your glass with what you want and when you want it. Don’t take a chance on anyone accidently switching drinks or good-naturedly “topping up” your glass with alcohol. Nine out of ten people will serve you without blinking but there is always someone who makes a joke about “what………….. not drinking?” Move on with a simple “no thank you” when you hear them say, “oh come on – just one drink – it won’t hurt you.” If you need a drink in your hand to toast the bride, make sure it’s your own drink. You don’t have to toast someone with alcohol. As long as you have something in your glass, no one will worry about it.
Once you have your drink, put some distance between you and the bar. Dance, network, sit and chat with someone but keep a safe distance from the source. Give your new sobriety some elbow room.
Curb your resentment at other people who are able to drink alcohol. We sometimes get a bit “dirty” on people who seem to be carefree and drink socially without repercussions. You’re bound to run into someone who will say something like: “you don’t mind if I have a drink, do you?” Your automatic answer will be “Oh no, I don’t mind.” The truth is you probably do resent it, especially if it is your partner and you know that he’s going to be smelling of alcohol for the rest of the evening. If you feel a resentment building up, say how you feel about their drinking and you would prefer it if they didn’t drink alcohol, just for this occasion. You may feel differently the next time you are out socialising with your partner and let him have a couple of drinks if that’s what he wants to do. My husband was very good in the early days of my sobriety and did not drink alcohol. After a period of time, I was able to handle the fact that he had an alcoholic drink and it wasn’t the end of the world.
Be ready to leave the function if you feel threatened at any time. Keep your car keys or cab fare in your handbag or pocket if you suddenly feel overwhelmed by temptation you can leave immediately. Don’t test the waters. Don’t linger too long at an event when people start to leave. Let your hostess know that you intend to leave early and that you can’t stay longer than half an hour after the first group starts to move. Ideally, that would be the time for you to leave as well. The more tired you become, the more vulnerable you are.
Don’t forget: Don’t get too hungry, too angry, too lonely or too tired – this is the HALT reminder.
If you always drink wine with your meals, change that behaviour and start drinking soda or mineral water. Don’t keep alcohol in the house and ask your partner not to bring any home. If you are tempted to drink and it’s 9.00 pm at night, you will have to get in your car and drive to a bottle shop or hotel and that will put the brakes on your “quick fix”.
If your drinking time is after work, set yourself different tasks to do each day to distract you from thinking about alcohol. Take up a hobby, learn a new task, water the garden, do something that requires action because if you sit down and try to read, your brain will go crazy.
If your friends are heavy drinkers, change your friends. It will be impossible to give up drinking alcohol if you have friends who will goad you into having just one little drink or get a bit bitchy when you refuse to join in because they are afraid you will be able to conquer your demons and they still have theirs.
THINK AHEAD AND PLAN
Most habits are associated with special settings. You wouldn’t use your toothbrush in a train but walking into your bathroom at bedtime, you automatically reach for the brush.
You might not think of a drink throughout the day because you are too busy with work but as soon as you get home, you automatically head for the refrigerator – like I did. I would head straight for the kitchen before I even said “hello” to the rest of the family. That’s not what I call a “social drinking” pattern. That’s a very bad habit. It takes constant vigilance to sabotage the triggers of things you see, hear, smell, taste or feel, that could set you up for a craving or a “bust” on alcohol.
As mentioned earlier, changing friends, restaurants, playgrounds, and groups is absolutely necessary if you are to avoid setting yourself up for a bust. You will be most susceptible to temptations of any kind when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired (as above) or bored, sad, worried, nervous, depressed or physically unwell. You can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought!
There are many resources available to the alcoholic to help him or her achieve a successful sobriety. I have seen many ladies over the years that are still sober today. How do I know? They keep in touch with me on a regular basis.
They have adhered to the program they were first introduced to when they commenced counselling.
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The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.