Adjusting to life as a non drinker

To what extent should you change other parts of your life when you stop drinking? I was thinking about this in a club late last night, as I pretended to be having a great time, dancing away with the rest of the hen party I was with. The evening had been pretty hard work. There’d been drinks in a bar, a meal and then dancing. I only knew about half the group so there was a lot of small talk to start with. Quickly, everyone else bonded over wine and rounds of shots. Booze is great at making strangers the best of friends. Without alcohol, I did not feel that fake intimacy. There was nothing to numb the pain from my high heels. I wasn’t interested in any of the sweaty men in the club. I wasn’t really in the mood to dance. I felt very, very tired. Oh god, I thought. Have I become boring?

I think some people would say I shouldn’t have gone last night. It was always going to be an evening that revolved around alcohol. But I knew I’d be able to handle it and I did. If I’d been having a bad day, or was unsure of my ability to turn down a drink I wouldn’t have gone. Early on I decided to tell a few people about the 100 day challenge and they said very little about it. The only person who really didn’t get it was the bride-to-be, who got so drunk she kept forgetting what I’d told her. We had the “come on, just have one…” conversation about three times.

I’d been determined to go last night. To be honest, I think I was on some mission to try and prove that being sober doesn’t have to stop me living a normal life and joining in with my friends. I am still a fun person who can party with the best of them. I am. Aren’t I?

The problem is, the new me just doesn’t seem to like clubbing anymore. I loathe any event that’s just an excuse to drink. Which is a bit of a problem seen as drinking is our national pastime. Some of my oldest, closest friends are big drinkers. It’s their hobby, just as it was mine.

Over the past few weeks I’ve found it very hard to predict how a night out is going to go. Sometimes, I can meet friends in the pub or go to a house party and have a brilliant time. Slightly drunk friends can be funny and great company and often they don’t notice that I’m not drinking. But other times they really, really aren’t nice to be around. They can boring and repetitive and I sit there feeling excluded and resentful. 

What is the solution to this? I’m not sure. Do I get a bunch of new, sober friends and ditch all the old ones? Unlikely. Maybe I just need to get better at working out what makes a good night and what makes a bad one.

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21 thoughts on “Adjusting to life as a non drinker

  1. Drunky Drunk Girl May 12, 2013 at 6:35 pm Reply

    Wow, spot on. It’s like, I could have written this post. I am STILL trying to figure this one out, and a part of my problem is that, no, it’s not fun to go out a lot of the time and not get drunk. You don’t have that fake intimacy, you don’t feel that sense of bonding. I also just find it boring, since I’ve come to see that most people, when they’re drunk, aren’t really experiencing YOU. They’re in their own worlds, talking shit and in general, not really thinking about you, they’re thinking about their next drink.

    I am definitely NOT of the mindset to only hang out with “sober” people. That doesn’t work, and it’s not reality. I guess it’s just trying out and seeing what works, and not feeling bad about yourself if you don’t have that much fun (at least you tried!) or you just don’t feel like going (not a bad thing to just skip the mess, half the peeps won’t remember it anyway!).

    • soberjournalist May 12, 2013 at 9:55 pm Reply

      Glad it’s not just me then. I agree it would be weird to only hang out with sober people. In fact avoiding my friends would probably drive me to drink! There must be a middle path … just got to figure out what it is.

  2. carrieonsober May 12, 2013 at 8:34 pm Reply

    I have had similar experiences so many times on my sober stints. Some nights just don’t work and sober hen nights are always going to be a tall order. I think that there are elements of fun to be had in every night out, especially if you are in the company of people you like and know well. It just that some evenings more than others have a tendency to lean toward the unbearable if they are really just about boozing and an excuse to get drunk. I find that I am ok to go along for the ride but if the evening starts heading too much in the wrong direction for me then I make my excuses because the fun ends there for me. That’s not boring and by then most people are too drunk and as DDG said “inwardly obsessed” to even notice or remember!
    I find a mixture of being a bit more selective and generally expecting less and hopefully being pleasantly surprised, works for me. But not always, I guess that’s just life.
    You did so well to get through it without wanting to drink. Some night we just get through it and that’s all we can hope for.
    Well done x

    • soberjournalist May 12, 2013 at 10:02 pm Reply

      Thanks Carrie. Maybe I am expecting a bit much at this stage. I made my excuses last night and was one of the first to leave, I did feel a bit bad about going but like you say, you know when it’s time to leave. Most people were very drunk and I’m sure today they can’t remember what time I left!

  3. carrythemessage May 13, 2013 at 1:06 pm Reply

    Very honest post there. I not young(ish) like you, so I don’t have the issues of going out to clubs or places where things revolve around drinking. But I can identify about being boring or not fun. That fake intimacy is just that – fake. We learn to start building true intimacy with others and getting in touch with what’s really going on within us. It’s frightening at times, it’s uncomfortable at times. But we do it, and realize we don’t the alcohol to build ourselves up to some false place any more. The notion that we can’t have fun any more when we first sober up is very common. And yeah, sometimes we end up dropping friends, who upon reflection, we see are no more than drinking buddies. I had dropped my drinking buddies a long time ago (drinking alone was better) so again, I can’t relate right now, but I know that it can be difficult to do so. In the end, though, you have a circle of friends that know and support and care for you, regardless of what you do and don’t do.

    We do change when we put down the drink. And it take adjustment to the places and people we hang at/with. Be patient with the process. Feel around, like you’ve been doing. Sometimes the nights are “meh” and sometimes brilliant, as you said.

    Keep trudging 🙂


    • soberjournalist May 13, 2013 at 11:18 pm Reply

      I think I am slowly getting my head round the fact that you CAN have a good time sober. Unfortunately the rest of the world still thinks fun=booze!

  4. byebyebeer May 13, 2013 at 8:09 pm Reply

    This reminded me of a post Mrs. D wrote recently on this topic:

    It definitely got/gets easier, though I’ll always have nights where I feel off or boring. Early sobriety was like relearning how to do everything, and some of it took awhile and others things I decided to give up.

    You got through a tough night out and stayed sober. That’s a tough first and now it’s out of the way.

    • soberjournalist May 13, 2013 at 11:14 pm Reply

      That is a great post. I know what you mean about relearning things. What i learnt on saturday was that next time I go out I need to work on my exit plan! Because I’d agreed to share a taxi back with someone I felt I couldn’t leave when I wanted to. Next time I’m going to leave much sooner if I feel like it.

  5. Lilly May 16, 2013 at 9:15 am Reply

    Oh my. I could have written this post verbatim too and I too am still working all this out. I would like more sober friends but ditching all my friends and only hanging out with sober people is never going to be the answer for me either. Like you I live in a country that places booze at the centre of everything. Like you a lot of my friends are heavy drinkers. Like you I have also found that some nights out sober when other people are drinking can be TERRIFIC. Really. Great, fun, fine and maybe you go home a bit earlier than you would have otherwise but that’s about it – plus when you go home you feel awesome and smug and happy to tuck up in bed sober with a good book and a cup of tea. Other nights are best avoided altogether. And other events are a complete chore and drunk people can be boring/irritating in the extreme when you are sober.

    So, where does that leave us? I’m not sure but it’d be great to keep swapping experiences on this topic. I guess it’s a process of trial and error. Trying to work out what nights/events you can handle or not (clubbing strikes me as something unlikely to be awesome sober unless you’re someone who just genuinely really loves to dance in which case it could be a sober high).

    I also think we have to know when to cut and run and know it’s ok. Even if that means making up a suddenly upset stomach or friend in need or help or whatever the hell to just get the hell out of there when it’s all too tedious. I also think seeking out and relishing those sober social experiences which are great, whatever they are, will probably help us feel better about the times when it’s not.

    Well done on doing the hen’s sober. I know how hard nights like that can be! You did great. Fuck it that you left early. That’s what you needed to do.

    • soberjournalist May 16, 2013 at 9:26 pm Reply

      I was thinking how similar how experiences are when I read your wedding post. I just don’t know what the answer is. I’ve been making some plans for my 30th birthday, which is in October, and a couple of friends have said things about celebrating with champagne etc. I haven’t said anything yet. I keep hoping that with time I’ll become stronger and better at telling people ‘no’ more firmly. It’s a tricky one.

  6. Lilly May 17, 2013 at 1:00 am Reply

    Oh Lord. The 30th would be especially hard as that’s one of those big milestone birthdays that people expect you to get blotto on. It’s funny, the more I go sober the more aware I am of how deeply ingrained the idea that celebrating *anything* requires alcohol. Truly, the alcohol industry has done an amazing marketing job there.

    You have a bit of time, so hopefully you will feel more solidly sober and strong by then and maybe have ‘come out of the closet’ a bit more about quitting drinking.

    I have done a couple birthdays sober and my solution was to throw a big picnic where it was easier to have something that looked like drink in my hand without people insisting on buying me drinks. Your other option could be asking people to do some cool fitness adventure thing with you that you’ve always wanted to do, like skydiving or similar. You are likely going to have to tell people at that stage that you’re not drinking or it will inevitably come up. But maybe by then you’ll be ready to?

    I’m almost a decade older than you and, let me just tell you again, I wish I’d had the wisdom and insight to change this at your age. I’ve wasted a lot of my 30s drunk/hungover/depressed/anxious because of booze and mired in bad decisions coloured by my drinking. The good news is it can be really different for you! Imagine celebrating going into your 30th decade proudly sober. That is really something to celebrate. And it doesn’t require poisoning yourself, whatever society might say otherwise.


    • soberjournalist May 17, 2013 at 8:52 am Reply

      Thanks Lilly. I am hoping that by October I’ll have told more people and that I’ll be feeling a bit more confident. I am going to plan something that wouldn’t normally revolve around alcohol, just not sure what yet! I totally agree with you about alcohol and the link to celebrations. So far I’ve found that even lightweight, take-it-or-leave-it-type drinkers are aghast at the thought of doing some things without booze!

      • Sober GF May 22, 2014 at 4:20 am

        soberjournalist: I am very interested in hearing how you have been doing with this struggle??? I have recently given up drinking to support my boyfriend through his sobriety. Learning to be a sober couple, with friends who love to drink at every event, BBQ, dinner, etc. has been like learning a new language in a foreign country. I feel lost and confused often. It is especially hard since I am a very casual and social drinker, and I am only doing it in support. In the past, he has always told me that he was okay with me still drinking and I would just drink when I went out for girl’s nights out or an occasional glass of wine, but he has continuously fallen off the wagon. This time, he will die of he does not stay sober, so I have made the choice to do it with him… But we have no idea what to do on the weekends or when friends and family visit… We live in a fairly small town and the weather has been so unpredictable that we end up just staying home and that has gotten BORING!!! Please share your successes and ideas.

  7. […] wrote a post recently about adjusting to life as a non drinker and I wanted to continue the conversation here because I struggle with many of the same issues she […]

  8. Sober November 17, 2013 at 9:42 pm Reply

    I probably dont belong here but still your comments are the problem I face everytime…
    I drank only once in my life and thats when I decided that its not worth…

    Why do I need to drink to enjoy or have fun, I can do all that without it.. I can act like crazy, dance like crazy and not worry about the future or the past just by having a few glasses of fruit juice.

    I stopped going out or even staying in the same room with my friends when they drink coz they almost always start acting senseless, abuse, vomit and all those stuff..
    and moreover they expect me to take care of them coz I’m the only one not drunk…

    This isn’t fun anymore and our freindship is detoriated becoz I cant socialize with them,tey are still good people when not drunk and I miss hanging out with them but I am still glad to have many sober friends coz in India still a lot of people dont drink.

    The problem is however, not many fun places are made for non-drinkers because they cant get a lot of money out of us… SO we end up going out just a few times in a year to places like beaches, mountains and lakes and enjoy our soberness…

    When I am here in USA, I am searching for places to have fun which almost always mean drinks here and so here I am locked inside my apt, probably will go out to places when this winter ends…

    • erikayanina October 4, 2014 at 10:57 pm Reply

      I understand you. I guess my best friend became a social drinker because that’s the only way she can socialize with her new friends. If she stopped being a social drinker it will be hard to socialize with them, and it would be painful for her losing her friends. But at the same time since I’m not a drinker I guess sometime she will stop socializing with me so she won’t have to deal with the boring me.

  9. soberparties May 8, 2014 at 7:41 pm Reply

    I’ve found that we will have lots more fun when we’re in small groups. That way we all get to know each other and participate in whatever is going on that night. The whole club scene loses it’s attractiveness pretty fast, especially when sober. But if you’re with that tight niche group you call your close friends, they should make it fun for you and support your decision… if that’s not the case then I’d seriously consider hanging out with new friends more. Your decision is amazing, positive and inspiring. It takes a lot of courage and we all need positive, fun and encouraging friends to keep up this lifestyle that goes against what’s popular.

    And I’m not about “breaking up” with friends or anything, lol. I just rely on different friends for different things 🙂

  10. Kim Macconnell June 3, 2014 at 4:46 pm Reply

    Amen to you. I have choose to become a non drinker on may 6th 2014. It has been and is hard at times. As you have put it, living sober in a world of temptation is hard. My boyfriend drinks. And sorry to say, in front of me. I have sat and watched him become a completely different person in a 2 hour period. As I watch this, I think to myself. ????? That was me a month ago. I am learning to love the sober me. I see every day that I am a new and better person. I am very encouraged by reading your and others stories. it helps me through a bad day and lets me know it is not just me. So Thank you. I wish you all the best and keep on smiling. 🙂

  11. shaz November 16, 2014 at 10:03 pm Reply

    Just drink very little, and very slowly, remain in control. Problem solved.

  12. Boycot March 3, 2015 at 8:23 am Reply

    Problem is not solved at all, it just beginning and one sip of alcohol is indeed intoxication to our biological system. Control is lost from the moment alcohol enters the digestive track and moderation is not the answer, it is however the gate opener to other greater risk and other challenges associated with alcohol.

    It takes courage and will power and strenght to not indulge but most predominately it takes guts to say no and mean no. Being happy during a state of mild or advance indulgence doesn’t last long but the after effects can last a lifetime. Zero tolerance driving laws are in force and blowing into the meter with any trace of alcohol is past any measure of alcohol.

    Followers are a dime a dozen, social or case harden drinkers are anything but to be admired or akin to you,.We are what we are and unfortunately most of society are low brow sheep, inebriated sheep of a drunken flock who are unable to function without some form of substance in their metabolic framework.

    Weekend warriors or part time party or bar posers who hide behind a shield of plastic style self medicated enhancers sooner or latter pay the price with life’s consequences from alcohol consumption.

    Say no and mean no and firmly pat that so called moderate drinker on the back as he or she sooner or latter gets caught within the web of social indulgence challenges.

  13. Sam May 24, 2015 at 8:20 pm Reply

    Well written! its like the world has left you behind or is it you have left the drunken world behind. It can be a lonely place until you read things like this then you realise you are not alone 🙂

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