Shift your mindset BEFORE you go.
Tune in to yourself and take stock of what you need. Is it energy? A mood boost? Do you need to chill the F out? From there, pick something that gives you that missing element. If you don’t have a go-to tool that doesn’t involve alcohol, start exploring options. My “go-to”s include meditation, exercise, playing with kids or pets, reading the right book, listening to the right music, drinking tea, eating something grounding… and the list goes on.
Bring your own beverage. A thermos of coffee or tea, a case of la croix, kombucha, diet coke. Whatever.
Bonus: batch something big to share like tea or a non-alcoholic cocktail.
Have an exit strategy.
If you’re overwhelmed, you can leave. I’ll say it again: You. Can. Leave. (And you don’t have to say goodbye to everyone before doing so.) If your immediate reaction starts with a “but,” I get it. Remember: Your number one responsibility is to yourself, but the truth is everyone benefits too when you are the best version of yourself. If an Irish goodbye hurts someone’s feelings today but keeps you sober…. ask yourself if it’s worth it in the long run.
If you are the host? You can still step away for a few minutes. Let someone know you are excusing yourself and ground. Take a walk, meditate, or splash some cold water on your face. Or maybe leaving just means leaving a conversation that is stressing you out or making you uncomfortable. Excuse yourself and find a zen activity to do (does anyone else enjoy doing the dishes sometimes?) or chat with someone who you know will calm you.
Bonus: have something waiting for you at home that you are looking forward to doing
Expect to be offered a drink and have a response ready.
Practice saying it. Out loud.
Have a response ready for why you aren’t drinking.
Practice saying it. Out loud. It’s not really any of their business, but they might not know that. ;) What are you comfortable saying? Tune in and figure out something that is comfortable for you to say. You don’t owe them an explanation and can always leave the conversation with a simple, “excuse me,” and about face. It’s different for everyone but after a few of these conversations I ended up loving them a lot of the time.
Know what you want to talk about.
Make a list- seriously! Know who you are going to see and think of questions to ask them. People love to talk about themselves. This is also a great diversion if you find yourself stammering about why you aren’t drinking.
Have a few two minute tools you can whip out at any time.
The idea here is that if you are triggered you can step into the restroom or into the backyard and use these tactics to calm yourself. I think of it in lieu of a flask or airplane bottle of booze. My favorites: essential oils, long deep breathing, and the ego eradicator meditation.
What works for you?