It’s the Australian way right, if you’re going out you have to drink? Is it even possible to have fun without drinking alcohol? For people trying to go without booze for a while, but who still want to enjoy the camaraderie that comes from socialising after hours with friends and work colleagues, it can be a delicate balancing act trying to combine the two. But it can be done. On one end of the spectrum, some people find it easy to have a great time sober while surrounded by people who are slowly but surely feeling the effects of their drinks, while at the other end of the spectrum some people find it terrifying. No matter where you sit on that spectrum, if you don’t want to miss out on the important bonding session but don’t want to drink either, there are ways to have the best of both worlds.
Some people are happy to open up about why they’re not drinking alcohol, while others aren’t. If it’s for Febfast you’ve got a great excuse, after all you’re giving a month off alcohol a crack while raising money for a great cause. You could even turn it around by asking for donations right there on the spot if anyone asks why you’re not drinking! However, if it’s at another time of the year it can get a bit tricky. On the one hand you don’t want to preach the virtues of sobriety and sound holier than thou when the inevitable “why aren’t you drinking?” question comes, but at the same time you shouldn’t have to shy away from it either. From my experience, and as my mum used to say, honesty is the best policy. There’s no chance of being found out if you lie about why you’re not drinking alcohol, and it means you’re taking ownership of the fact you simply don’t want to drink.
Don’t be confrontational about drinking alcohol
While it’s ok to own it, the last thing you want to do is broadcast unsolicited that you’re not drinking. People who are drinking don’t enjoy being made to feel like they’re doing the wrong thing. It’s not the time to start lecturing people, because before you can take your next sip of sparking mineral water, you’ll find a group of people in your face who have taken offence. The more people drink the more irrational they get, and the easier they get offended. So if someone asks then by all means explain why you’re not drinking alcohol, but there’s no need to push your lifestyle choices on others. Trust me, you’ll have a much better time this way.
Find like-minded people
Believe it or not, you’re not going to be the only non-drinker in the bar. Around 20% of the Australian population doesn’t drink, and while that percentage probably drops drastically at a bar, there will still be one or two people who either aren’t drinking at all, or very little. Find them, strike up a conversation and enjoy your night.
Join in the fun
When you’re sober it can be really tough to be on the same wavelength as someone who’s had more than a few drinks. But that doesn’t mean you can’t join in! Let your inhibitions go and dance with your friends like no one’s watching, take part in the impromptu group karaoke session, and laugh at everyone’s dumb jokes. Just remember everyone around you has had a few, so the only person that’s really going to be caring about what you look like is you. Let it go…
Learn to be tolerant and understanding
Guess what? You’re in a bar so there are going to be people who have had too much to drink. Don’t get upset and angry because someone bumps into you, gets a little too close, wraps their arm around you and says they love you, accidentally spills a little of their drink on your shirt…you get what I’m saying. People lose their inhibitions when they drink, so if you’re going to be in this environment, you need to lose any judgement you may have. However, just because they’ve had a few drinks doesn’t excuse them if they do something that is way out of order. Just be sure to differentiate harmless fun or a sincere accident, with rude and inappropriate behaviour.
Have a drink in your hand
Always have a drink in your hand that looks like an alcoholic drink. It’s not lying, but it may stop people from asking why you’re not drinking alcohol if they think you are. It may also stop people from offering you a drink that you then have to turn down again and again. Soda water and ice with a slice of lemon or lime in the appropriate glass makes the perfect alternative to a vodka, lime and soda. And don’t get into shouts or your cover will be blown!
As I said earlier, everyone around you is somewhere between tipsy and fall over drunk, so just accept it and move. Don’t be on your phone constantly, have your hands in your pockets or cross your arms the whole night, it’s an obvious sign that you’re uncomfortable and bored. Take a look around, there will be hilarious things happening all over the place. Play games with the sober friends you’ve made, like observing a couple or group of people talking and guess what they might be talking about. Make it up, get imaginative and have some fun. That’s the whole point after all!
Know when it’s time to go home
There will come a time when people are starting to get messy and the wavelength you’ve been clinging to is gone. You’ve done a great job joining in the fun, but there will come a time when you’re ready to say your goodbyes and head home. And that’s ok, you don’t have to stay out until last drinks are called and the lights are turned on. Just say goodbye to everyone, smile, accept the drunken hugs knowing they come from a friendly place, and walk out the door knowing you’ve probably spent no more than $15 and you’ll wake up in the morning without the dreaded hangover your work colleagues are bound to have.
The reality is the person most likely to ruin your night if you allow it is you. It’s more than possible to go out and have fun without drinking alcohol. Don’t turn up with preconceived ideas about how the night is going to pan out. Be open minded about what people drinking around you are going to say and do. Go with the flow and join in the fun because the truth is no one is really watching you, and if you make a fool of yourself thanks to your dancing or singing…who cares?!?! Don’t confine yourself to a life of social abandonment just because you don’t drink. Instead embrace it, make it work for you and you’ll find you can have just as much fun not drinking alcohol than if you were getting smash…and often even more.