Staying sober in social situations

Staying sober in social situations

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.

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