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Navigating Social Pressure When You Are Alcohol Free

Alcohol is the only drug in the world you have to justify not taking. So when you do make the decision to put the drink down, your loved ones and friends may encourage you because they knew it was negatively impacting your life, but when you meet other people and say you don’t drink/no longer drink, you are often met with questions, resistance and confusion. No one questions you when you say you don’t smoke, or you don’t do cocaine, but heaven forbid you don’t drink alcohol (which is responsible for 95,000 deaths a year alone in the United States *CDC provided data*). The stigma and alienation make it incredibly difficult and uncomfortable for people to navigate sobriety. People quit for MANY reasons: it is negatively impacting their lives, they’ve realized they’ve become dependent, their parents had AUD and they are seeing a familiar pattern within their own habits, they don’t actually drink a lot but know it is unhealthy and they want to change their lifestyle, they want to lose weight, whatever the reason may be: it is not a choice that needs to be questioned, defended or justified.

If you know someone who is considering giving up drinking, don’t question it. It does not impact you and may be impacting them more than you know. If you are considering giving up drinking but you fear the social stigma and pressure, there are many ways to help you feel a little bit more comfortable navigating this journey. 1) Visualize yourself at a social event and play out the potential scenarios which will occur. Will someone offer you a drink? Will someone place a drink in your hand because they know what you would typically drink? How are you going to respond to this? Play it all out beforehand and that way when/if you are put in this position, you’ve already thought about how you’ll respond. “No thanks, I’m driving” or “I’m actually taking the month off of drinking,” whether or not you want to disclose every detail is completely up to you, but if you have your answers ready and you are confident, it helps to keep the conversation moving along. 2) Have a drink in hand - whether it is juice, soda, water, mocktail, whatever it is you prefer - it will help eliminate people from asking “do you want a drink?” and more often than not, people aren’t really paying that much attention anyways. If people around you are pressuring you to drink, it is about them and not you, be confident in your decision and it ultimately helps to keep the conversation moving. 3) Remember it is your choice. Bottom line, you are making the choice for you and other peoples opinions or judgment do not make a difference in your well being. 4) The list of mocktails and non-alcoholic offerings is trending and growing. Get curious about trying those instead and know you’ll never wake up the next morning regretting your decision. 5) Play the tape ahead. You know you don’t actually want to drink, so if you do veer off of your path, is that going to set you up for success or discouragement/self doubt? How will you feel at 3am or the next morning when you’ve given in and drank, even though you set a goal not to? On the flip side, how amazing will you feel waking up knowing you were able to go out socially, say no, and still enjoy yourself? How refreshing will it be to wake up clear minded with no regrets? 6) Remember you are still the same person. Sure, at first you might feel a little bit awkward or feel more quiet than usual but it becomes more comfortable the more you do it and eventually you don’t even think about it. If someone is choosing not to drink, ultimately we may never know the reason why, and that is perfectly okay, because it is a personal decision. Just keep in mind when you pressure someone to drink or say “you can just have one” that you may be jeopardizing something that the individual is working very hard to maintain. Also some people can’t “just have one” and you don’t need to understand it, but accepting it and moving on would be a great response. Just because alcohol isn’t an issue for you, doesn’t mean it isn’t an issue for the next person. Our brains respond differently to alcohol and it would be really beneficial for everyone if we all just stayed in our lane.

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