As of May 8, I became a non-drinker. And as of May 8, despite being sure I was making the right decision, I had questions. Big questions. Questions like, "What will I drink on holidays?" or "What will I drink on Tuesday nights?" or "Will I have friends because now I can't drink?" The answers: other things, other things, and obiously yes. Sobriety may not seem like "fun" (quotation marks optional), but if you're somebody who, for whatever reason, isn't drinking, there are still ways of navigating society without feeling like you should've just stayed home watching Netflix. (Though, for the record, on a lot of nights, I really would rather do that.) So here are my tips — so far. I'm still a way off the one year mark, but in the now-75 days I've been a sober person, I've learned a few things.
1. You don't have to explain why you're not drinking
Remember the last episode of Mad Men when Don Draper starts oversharing in the middle of a Hershey's pitch? Of course we do — it was amazing and horrifying. To be honest, it's really tempting when you first stop drinking to tell everybody why: you think you'll feel better, you think they deserve an explanation, and you're be genuinely exicted about this new leaf. So, telling family? Absolutely. Friends? For sure. But telling your server or some random person who asks why you're not having any complimentary whatever? Nope. Why? Because they don't care. A simple, "Oh, I'm not drinking" is usually enough to shut that conversation down since you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't know you ask "Well why not?" The reasons behind someone's sobriety are vast, and since they're also usually very personal, it's not a topic some random person is about to make you explore. But if they are…
2. Anyone who pressures you to drink is basically a monster
So far, I haven't met a single human being who's said — like in the commercials — "Aw, come on!" when I only ordered a ginger ale. Not a single one. Do you know what they say? Nothing, usually, because they're figuring out what to order for themselves. And if they do say something, it's usually only, "Not drinking?" and then I say "Yeah, not anymore, actually," and they say "Cool!" and then it's over. Like I said, not drinking can be about everything from alcoholism to a medical condition to being on a certain type of medication — and you would have to be the worst person on earth to say, "Aw, come on!" when someone is going out of their way not to have anything alcoholic. Life is not an after school special, and now that we're adults, you can tell someone who is pressuring you to back off, please, because they are the worst.
3. Remember you are still a fun(ctional) person
Drinking seems like the fastest way to having fun, or being funny, or not worrying about everything like, say, social cues. Remove alcohol, and remove any purpose for going out, right? Well, no. You are still a person. You are still someone who has friends and a job and reasons to go out at night. Drinking is a thing that happens, but it's not the reason to do anything or some integral social lubricant — and you know that, because you've stopped drinking, and you've probably already gone out and had fun, water or ginger ale or Shirley Temple in hand. But I get the fear. There are still days where I'm sure a few glasses of something would make me write better, or make me funnier, or make me better in certain social settings — but it won't. Alcohol is just a thing that's there. Giving it any more credit than that does a huge disservice to you, and a huge disservice to your friends, and the rest of your life. You're not defined by sobriety, just like someone who does and can drink isn't defined by having a few beers on a Saturday night.
4. If you're struggling, talk to someone
This is where counselling or meetings or even sober friends come into play. If you like going out, or you have good friends who drink, and you don't want to make them stop (which is completley fair — you're doing you, they're doing them), you'll have an easier time if there's someone you can really talk to. Whether it's a counsellor, somebody at meetings, or even a friend who's already been there, you'll immediately take the pressure off everybody else and get your head back in the game before you find yourself really frustrated or back off the wagon. It's also a learning process, and it's important to understand that. Don't be a victim (ever, in life, actually), but remember that mantras like "one day at a time" exist for a reason. You'd be surprised at the family, friends, and even just people who've been there who are willing to lend an ear when you need to vent or talk or complain that a certain bartender doesn't know how to make a decent Shirley Temple. It's a learning curve (we're all still learning!), and admitting that makes it less of a burden, and more of a choice you've made. And remember this: not drinking is no easy feat. If you can decide to do it, and then carry it out, you're capable of a lot more than you think you are.