Perhaps one of the toughest challenges for an alcoholic is staying sober in social situations. In the past, there have always been situations where I would drink alcohol and usually to excess. These situations have included:
- Dinner with family – especially with my in-laws, I’ve always consumed alcohol when I have been with them
- Catch-ups with friends – I’ve always been the drinker in my friendship group
- Functions – Whether they be work or social, I’ve never been the designated driver
As an alcoholic, I’ve always used these excuses to drink to excess and when I reflect back, usually I am the one egging on everyone else to continue drinking. Over the past 6 weeks, we have continued living our normal life, with the exception of alcohol.
Unfortunately drinking is so embedded in our social culture and as a recovering alcoholic, it is extremely challenging to abstain from a drink whilst in a social situation.
Anxiety of being Sober in Social Situations
I’m not going to lie, these situations over the past 6 weeks have been fraught with anxiety. The first occasion happened when my brother-in-law came round for dinner and brought a bottle of red. It took me insane willpower not to have a glass. My quick thinking husband told my brother-in-law that we weren’t drinking because we are both on a health kick. But as I sat at the table, across from the bottle of red wine my heart was racing. I even contemplated finishing the dregs of left in their glasses.
The second situation that has arisen is when my in-laws come round for dinner. Usually I split a bottle of wine with my father-in-law. My quick thinking husband has mitigated this and said we aren’t drinking because we are on a health kick. This was tough for me, as I have used alcohol to cover social anxiety in the past.
Strategies to deal with alcohol in social situations
At this stage in my sobriety I am lucky in that I have a script for valium (benzodiazepines), however I won’t have this forever. To help me deal with these situations, I have been taking a valium just before our guests arise, but I cannot have this as a coping strategy for long.
Some of the strategies I’ve been using to cope with sobriety in social situations have included:
- Avoiding large social events, thankfully we haven’t had any invitations for parties because it is winter and people tend to stay in. But we have made a commitment that I won’t be going to any large scale gatherings until 2 months of sobriety has been obtained.
- When people come to our house for dinner, I’ve been changing my routine. Instead of cooking with a glass of wine whilst our guests are here, I’ve prepared meals ahead of time to break my habit.
- I have a large water bottle next to me at all times, when I feel like a drink, I take a swig of water. I know I wasn’t drinking enough water whilst I was an alcoholic and since being sober, I’ve started drinking copious amounts of water.
- Having a cigarette when guests leave. Whilst I’m not proud of this, as a short term coping mechanism when I am. experiencing massive anxiety, I will have a cigarette. I have given myself an end date to when I will stop smoking (this is the 14th July).
Whilst my strategies aren’t for everyone, I have heard other suggested strategies include:
- drinking a lot of milk or dairy before a social situation
- having snacks on hand to keep your hand and mouth occupied
- Avoiding social situations altogether.
So far I haven’t busted which I am really proud of, I won’t lie social situations have been incredibly tough. I am determined to achieve and maintain my sobriety because I want my future to be bright and long.