Now is probably as good a time as ever to talk about the social pressure you may experience to drink alcohol.

You may feel significant pressure to have a drink for a variety of reasons. Maybe you see it as a great opportunity to bond with your friends or team members outside of the day-to-day pressures at the office.  Maybe your organization relies heavily on the social setting to win over their clientele.  Maybe it is a great networking opportunity if you are in search of career advancement.

If this is the case for you, there are a few tricks you may want to try to avoid answering uncomfortable questions around your sobriety and yet still engage in the event.

Keep your hands busy by holding onto a drink. This can be a soda or a mocktail. Order your drink discretely, either by going to the bar by yourself or calling the waiter over so you can have a quiet conversation. If you can’t get out of a loud ordering situation, fake a quick phone call or bathroom run and quietly place your order when the conversation has moved on.

Make sure you have support lined up in case the pressure to drink becomes overwhelming. Let your sponsor or support person know about your event in advance and plan on regular check-ins, either via text or phone, throughout the night. Be honest with yourself and if it becomes too much to handle, you may want to have an excuse ready why you must leave early.     

Practice what you want to say if someone offers you a drink or simply includes you in a round of drinks without asking. It may sound silly but practicing how you would respond, will help your response role off your tongue much easier. Practicing will allow you to hear out loud what your response sounds like, so you can adapt your answer if you don’t like the way it comes across. Either practice with a friend/sponsor or in front of a mirror.

Practice sharing as much or as little as you are comfortable with. You don’t owe anyone the intimate details around your choice to not drink. It can be as simple as, “Thank you, I really appreciate the offer, I’m just not drinking tonight.” You can follow this with a subtle shift in conversation to take the attention away from your decline.  

Check your own assumptions. Is it really the people around you or you that need to be convinced that you can be fun, interesting, and have a good time without drinking? Take some time to ponder on this question. If you’ve relied on alcohol in the past to feel confident in a social setting, you may want to invest some time with a behavioral health therapist that can help you work on increasing your confidence in social settings. If you are newly sober, you may really want to consider whether you are strong enough in your recovery to be surrounded by drinking, and quite possibly experience pressure to have a drink. If you are just not sure, you may really need to pass on this invitation to social hour.

It won’t be the last opportunity ever to socialize and your health and sobriety is worth more than the potential gain from one night of social drinks.

- Dr. Siquilla Liebetrau, clinical director, Bowen Center