Have you ever felt like drinking less wine might benefit your life?
Have you ever quietly intended to drink less alcohol, but found that a glass of your favorite cider was suddenly in front of you?
Are you concerned that every social gathering after 5 pm seems to involve an expectation to clink a bottle of beer?
Early last year, this was my life. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I had been drinking alcohol on a regular basis for over 20 years. In fairness, I barely drank during the five years that I spent being pregnant and/or breastfeeding, but it was still daunting to realize wine and cider had become an expected part of my existence. Almost every social gathering featured alcohol; even if I volunteered to be the designated driver, it was considered that I was somehow making a sacrifice.
One evening I asked myself: is this the image you want your kids to have as they enter their teenage years – that getting together with friends meant sharing alcohol with friends?
So, I stopped drinking. Sometimes it felt awkward, sometimes it felt like a relief. Sometimes I was surprised just how much I desired a glass of wine with my lentil soup or a cold cider with my corn chips and hummus. Sometimes I felt like the odd one out – but, hey, as a vegan, that is something I have been used to for years. Some 15 months later, I am happy with my decision and eager to share some tips for anyone thinking about taking a break from beer o’clock.
1. Appoint yourself as the designated driver (DD).
This is the probably the most popular way you can socialize without any expectation of having a drink. Whether you’re meeting up at someone’s house, a pub, or a licensed restaurant, whoever you offer to drive will undoubtedly be grateful.
2. Don’t talk about it, just do it.
Whenever we make a change in our lives, we often feel a desire to let everyone know. However, big announcements usually lead to lots of questions, particularly: “Why?”
Explaining yourself can be exhausting, especially when you are trying an approach that is in contrast to the choices of your family or friends. Save all that nascent energy – these days I am comfortable with questions (and challenges), but initially I found it much easier to offer a small excuse, such as: “I’m doing a cleanse,” “maybe later,” “I’ve already got a drink,” “I’ve got an early start in the morning”…
3. Drink something that you can savor like alcohol.
At first this may seem counter-intuitive, but this little ploy can save you a barrage of questions in a party environment and allow you to feel as though you are not missing out. It’s part about having something to hold (so that people don’t continually offer to get you a drink), and for you to have a beverage to enjoy slowly. When you became vegan was there suddenly a gap on your plate where meat and cheese used to be? Or did you discover lots of alternatives to fill that gap?
Pour your bitters, lime, and soda into a wine glass; choose a mocktail (alcohol-free cocktail, such as a Virgin Mary); add some apple cider vinegar to mineral water; sip a bitter kombucha. There are so many options for non-drinkers beyond sugar-laden soda or plain water.
4. Organize a social event around an activity.
Instead of catching up with friends where food and alcohol are the focus, suggest an active experience to share. It could be something as low impact as a big beach walk or a hike in your local area. If you often socialize in a large group, maybe suggest everyone chip-in for a private group lesson in dancing, yoga, martial arts, circus skills, fencing, badminton, surfing…
This idea may seem forced at first, but it’s a habit which has taken me on some lovely adventures with friends. These days, one of my favorite catch-up points is hula hooping one evening a week with a group of women ranging in age from 20s to 50s.
5. Be prepared to be challenged.
Just as meat-eaters sometimes feel threatened by even the quietest of vegans, a friend enjoying a drink may feel confronted by your choice to not drink. Politely explain that you have no objection to people drinking alcohol, it’s just something you are choosing not to do at this moment.
After all, “this moment” is this only moment we need to think about.
Have you tried socializing sans alcohol? What are your tips for enjoying the evening?
More delicious mocktail recipes: Strawberry Ginger Kombucha Mocktail
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