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How to stay sober in a drinking culture

Updated: 6 days ago

Kiwis grow up with alcohol - it's part of the culture and is woven into every part of our lives. Watching sport? Gotta have some beer. Having dinner? Where's the wine? Celebrating? Need a drink! Rewarding yourself after a stressful day? Definitely cracking a few cold ones for that!

For better or worse, using alcohol to mark every occasion and deal with every feeling - bad through to good - is completely normal in our society.

When you first start living sober, being immersed in this culture without strict boundaries is really hard. At the beginning, you might need to protect yourself by staying away from people, places and things that trigger you.

But, there will come a time when you need to be part of the "normal" world again. Why should you miss out on fun and being with people you love, just because you choose not to drink?

Staying sober in a drinking culture

And how do you protect your sobriety without having to drink along with family, friends and colleagues?

Women sitting on end of pier
It's tough to protect your sobriety without alienating yourself socially

Here are some tips to get you used to new ways of viewing your sober social life and stay sober in a drinking culture:

1. Put a time limit on it: If you must attend a social occasion with people drinking lots of alcohol, make it clear you’ve only got a certain amount of time before you have to move on to another appointment. This means you won’t have to stay before people get tipsy and boring and you can leave without having to make excuses.

2. Take your own transport: This way you can make a quick exit if you get uncomfortable around drinking. There’s nothing worse than being stuck with drinkers getting drink-y and you can’t go home.

3. Take your own drinks: Don’t rely on other people to supply nice non-alcoholic drinks. Assume there’ll only be cheap OJ or water and you won’t be disappointed. Go prepared with sparkling water or a six-pack of your adult-flavoured favourite spritzers.

4. Make it about food – not booze: If you’re invited out for drinks, ask if you can meet for dinner and focus on the meal, not the drinks.

5. Change locations: If you were used to meeting at a certain bar or café to drink alcohol drink, change locations. A new environment will make it easier to start a new habit.

4. Move from night time to day time: Suggest a day time meeting instead of at night. It’s much more 'normal' to drink a non-alcoholic beverage like coffee, juice or soda when the sun is out.

6. Get moving: Invite your friends to go walking, swimming, cycling or taking a gym or yoga class.

8. Be the sober driver: This is a great way to avoid drinking but can be challenging, as you’ll have to endure hours of watching people drink and then drive them all home!

9. Take kids and other non-drinkers: Normalise non-drinking by taking others who don’t drink with you. Staying sober will be easier and it might discourage the drinkers from over-indulging.

10. Get artsy: Movies and live theatre are great to go to with friends. You may even want to look at something you’ve never done before, like going to the opera, attending a poetry reading or attending a film festival.

If you're worried about your drinking or that of someone you love, give Elaine a call on 027 573 7744 for a confidential chat.

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