Parties, bars and not drinking

Sometimes a couple of days or maybe a week will pass and I don’t really think about the fact that I no longer drink. It just is what it is. Being sober is part of my life now, part of my routine. I don’t need to walk the long way round the supermarket to avoid the wine aisle. I just walk right through it to get to my fancy cordials and expensive coffee. 

So that all feels fine. But there’s a lot of stuff outside my sober bubble that I’m not so comfortable about. Socialising, whilst sober, is still a biggie for me. Alcohol was a comfort blanket and mood alterer that turned so-so parties into great ones. Wine made me funnier, sexier and more confident. Or so I thought. Now, going out sober is like learning to be ‘me’ all over again.       

On Friday night I went to a work party and last night I met a few friends for drinks before going to a gig. I pick and choose my nights out quite carefully and I went to both because I thought I’d enjoy them – but they turned out to be quite hard work.

The work party was at someone’s house and on paper, it sounded great. It started mid afternoon. There was going to be a BBQ. It was out in the countryside so lots of people had driven there. The hosts had catered for all the sober drivers and there were tons of soft drinks to choose from. I was delighted by this as often the only choice for non drinkers is diet coke or water. 

The main problem on Friday night was, well, me. I felt like I was acting the whole time. I knew everyone there pretty well and in the office I’d have no problem talking to them. But for some reason I felt out of my comfort zone and I struggled to make small talk. The whole time I worried that I wasn’t interesting enough or funny enough. Despite all the sober drivers, there seemed to be quite a few tipsy people and I felt reserved and uptight in comparison. When people drink together they share a certain something; it pulls them together in a way that’s hard to describe. 

Despite feeling uncomfortable I didn’t want to drink; I knew that I would pay a huge price if I joined in. I just felt very self-conscious, as if I was carrying my sobriety around with me, like some precious ornament that needed handling carefully and protecting from the drunk people. Anyway, the real lesson of the night was this: always have an escape plan. I did not make one. I don’t have a car at the moment so I got a lift there with someone else. Not only did we arrive later than I would have liked to but my friend/driver insisted we stay till the bitter end.  

Last night was better, however I was the first to arrive in the bar where I’d agreed to meet my friends. So I had a bit of an awkward wait on my own. When I was drinking I was a) rarely on time and b) I’d have just killed that kind of feeling with a drink. In fact I’d have used it as an opportunity to knock a drink back quickly and get another. Last night I deliberately queued at the busiest side of the bar, thinking I could kill some time waiting to be served. Of course, sod’s law being what is, just at that moment a large group of people moved out of my way and I got served within 30 seconds.  

I ordered a tonic water and watched the bartender like a hawk as she got my slimline tonic, just in case she’d misheard me and was adding a gin as well. A couple of other sober bloggers have been served alcoholic drinks by mistake and this is something I really worry about. If anyone buys me a drink I take the first sip really carefully, just in case. It’s not that I don’t trust my friends – they’re hardly going slip something into my drink! – but you can’t be too careful. Aside from the drink paranoia the rest of last night was ok. I knew I could leave when I wanted to (it was within walking distance to my flat) so the minute my feet started to hurt I was outta there.

I’ve written about sober nights out before and (yawn) I probably will do again. It strikes me that whilst I’ve settled into a fairly comfortable sober routine in my day-to-day life I have not got the hang of going out sober yet. Like I said, I pick my nights out carefully and I always avoid going to things that revolve entirely around booze. I’d thought that Friday and Saturday night would offer lots of other things, like good music and the chance to catch up with people I know. But in the end both nights were pretty booze orientated. Or at least they were in my mind. Perhaps a ‘normal’ person wouldn’t agree?


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12 thoughts on “Parties, bars and not drinking

  1. jen August 19, 2013 at 2:35 am Reply

    I am just getting started on this sober journey so I envy you the ability to go days or weeks without thinking about drinking, even if it is still difficult to socialize without thinking about it. I enjoy reading your blog. 🙂

    • soberjournalist August 19, 2013 at 10:20 am Reply

      Thanks for your comment and congrats on making the decision to stop drinking ! Sure there are little ups and downs but your life is about to get so, so much better. Are you doing the 100 day challenge? It’s a good goal to have at the start. It all gets easier I promise.

      • trc July 9, 2015 at 3:35 pm

        Hi there! It’s been almost 2 years since you wrote this, but I came across it today…I am just starting my sober journey, and I really enjoyed your blog! Hope you are still going great!

  2. Lilly August 19, 2013 at 4:27 am Reply

    Ah, once again I totally relate to all of this. I’m still working it out too and I’ve also learned that picking and choosing events and having an escape plan are CRITICAL. But, like you, I’ve found that with all the best forethought you can’t always predict how an event is going to be or how you’ll feel in advance (hence why the escape hatch really matters). Sometimes things I feared are just FINE and even a lot of fun while other situations I thought would be fine are… not. You’re learning and every such situation just gives you more insight and experience to deal with future situations. Flex those sober muscles Kate!!

    I went to a bar thing on Saturday and had an escape plan. I still got teased about being a nana (even though I was also gettting sick) but whatever. I will say, though, it was one of those nights where people were already drunk when I got there and just acting like dicks and I actually felt really glad to be sober. Sometimes drunk is soooo not pretty. I refrain from saying anything like that in real life – so as not to be the judgy born-again teetotaler – but I’m so glad I can say it to all of you sometimes.

    Beause I still feel ‘boring’ and uptight and reserved and somehow just ‘not me’ for not drinking frequently but then when you watch people slurring, repeating themselves, saying inappropriate and just rude shit, being crass, etc etc, when they’re pissed – now, that’s truly boring.

    Next time will be easier. And the time after that too. 🙂

  3. Anonymous August 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm Reply

    My biggest fear is the social situations. I’ve been avoiding them but know I’m going to have to deal with them soon. I haven’t seen any of my friends for two weeks and I have a wedding next month. I feel great not drinking and hope I don’t cave just to fit in and not be called at “nana.” I am afraid I will be an outsider from now on. I appreciate the honesty in your post but I was hoping you would feel differently by now since you have been sober way longer than I have. It’s lonely being sober…

    • soberjournalist August 19, 2013 at 3:34 pm Reply

      You won’t cave I’m sure – if people put pressure on me to drink it tends to strengthen my resolve! Going out is tricky (certainly for me anyway) but I have a actually had some great sober nights out, and often when i least expect them. So don’t worry – it’s not all bad ! – and things really do keep on getting better.

  4. recoveringkristin August 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm Reply

    Great post. Going out anywhere is hard. I found any excuse to drink. I drank not only at bars and parties but little league games and school concerts. It is a challenge doing these things sober and without a “to go” cup of liquid courage in my hand. Now I tote around coffee or a soda but I always have something to drink. It’s my crutch! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

    • soberjournalist August 19, 2013 at 8:28 pm Reply

      Thanks for your comment. I agree that bringing something to drink helps – it certainly stops people trying to offer alcohol, plus you get to drink something nice!

  5. byebyebeer August 19, 2013 at 6:19 pm Reply

    I’ve heard the advice to have an escape plan a lot. It doesn’t always work out, as in your case, but something to think about for next time. What you’re describing sounds very much like what I remember going out that first year. I didn’t go out much, either. It feels much easier to go out now, though I still don’t go out much and definitely relate to what you say about being selective. I think we just start to assimilate more into our non-drinking social selves to the point where we notice it as little as those around us seem to. Interesting point with the last line.

    • soberjournalist August 19, 2013 at 8:25 pm Reply

      Thanks- I am glad to hear it gets easier. I feel like the more I do it the more natural it will get… But right now I don’t feel like going out that much!

  6. carrythemessage August 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm Reply

    I am just going to echo what a lot of people are saying here – it gets easier. The idea of wearing sobriety like an albatross doesn’t go in our favour either – I found that thinking of my sobriety as something to be grateful for and to be something “found” rather than something (booze) “lost” helped me too, in those situations. I am not a pariah nor a saint for sobriety. I am Paul. Just not drinking, thank you. And happy Paul. Found Paul. Not lost anymore. And that is how I manage to not only just get through nights like that, but to find my spirit again and mingle and get out there, regardless of what others and me have in our glasses.

    Great post


  7. soberparties October 31, 2013 at 5:24 pm Reply

    I appreciate your article… socializing in college was crazy difficult because of my decision to not drink. I definitely feel uncomfortable when waiting for my friends to get to the bars and clubs too. I think everyone is watching me and judging when they really aren’t. It always helps to remind myself that I’m going to attract positive people if I stay positive and the negative ones will stay away. Most of the time, people who we will get along with won’t even care that we don’t drink.

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