One reason people with a substance abuse problem or alcohol addiction may put off recovery so long is because of the social consequences. Your current relationships may be founded on drinking—it’s how you met your friends; it’s what you do when you’re together. And a drink helps ease the awkwardness of new meetings.
So, if you have made the courageous decision to get and stay sober, navigating a social scene that encourages drinking is challenging. Duke City Recovery Toolbox offers some tips to make social engagements less threatening to your recovery efforts.
A Drinker’s Culture
The first step of recovery is to become aware of the problematic relationship you have with a substance. Part of that awareness is recognizing the social context—how our society views, talks about and rewards and punishes drinking.
In America, drinking is encouraged for a number of occasions, such as:
- Stress relief from, well, you name it—your job, your significant other, your kids, your financial situation, etc.
- Building camaraderie with coworkers
- Getting to know new people, especially new potential romantic partners
- Catching up with old acquaintances and friends
- Celebrating holidays, promotions, milestones, etc.
Drinking has become so closely associated with relaxing and enjoying one’s self and one’s company that it’s now being incorporated into other stress relieving and leisure activities like yoga and painting. Memes and merchandise lauding alcohol are everywhere you turn.
At the same time our society applauds drinking to have fun and cope with our mundane first-world problems, our society harshly judges those who overindulge. We push for harsher penalties for drunk driving, share memes poking fun at those who drink too much and turn our noses up at those disheveled heaps on the bus stop benches who reek of alcohol…
Yet, when someone refrains from drinking in social situations, they are not met with support but a host of “Why?”s and the visible drifting away of those who don’t know how to deal with someone acting outside the norm.
Staying Sober Isn’t Easy, But You Can Make It Easier
Everyone wants to fit in, but the drinker’s culture makes it difficult for anyone who has recognized they can’t have just one. Although it may get easier over time, early on in recovery, the social awkwardness of not drinking is hard. There are ways to ease your discomfort and that of those around you in social situations.
Of course, not participating in a social event where alcohol may be served is always an option. However, bowing out of social engagements completely may not always be your best option. After all, you want to have a life, keep your friends, make the most of opportunities that may present themselves outside your workplace.
To support your sobriety without handicapping your social life, try:
- Meeting over coffee
There are few occasions where meeting for coffee will not deliver the same results you’re trying to achieve by meeting up for drinks. Coffee provides the “thing” over which people can bond, and the establishments where coffee is served make for great get-to-know-you atmospheres…sometimes even better atmospheres because they tend to be cozier and quieter—great for catch-ups and first dates.
- Using pets as social lubricant
Grabbing a drink is often the go-to for occasions that people fear might be awkward. But pets can alleviate awkwardness, too. People love talking about their pets, and that makes it easy to get conversation flowing.
- Making food the focus
If you want to participate in happy hour with buddies or coworkers, give yourself something to enjoy other than the drinks—the food. There are plenty of establishments who have special happy hour menus and use the happy hour crowd to test new offerings.
- Bonding in/with the outdoors
Maintaining friendships that used to revolve around drinking are sometimes the hardest. You can’t make others change their behavior, but if they’re friends worth keeping, they won’t put you in a situation that increases the likelihood of relapse either. Finding a completely new venue and “thing” to bond around can help you “reboot” the relationship. The outdoors and countless activities you can do outdoors—hiking, biking, Frisbee/disk golf, etc.—provide a (literally) fresh environment. And as an added extra, time spent in nature triggers the release of brain chemicals that act as natural anti-depressants. Do you have other alternatives to grabbing a drink? Share them with us on our Facebook page.