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(Part I of this article is here.)
#7: Plan Ahead What You Want to Tell People
If drinking is part of your culture, your family or friends may question you when you turn down a drink. For this reason, it may be helpful to have some explanations ready. If you’re caught off guard by a question or comment, it can be easier to give in to the pressure of drinking.
If you have supportive friends or family, you may tell them that your drinking habits have become problematic and you’re trying to cut back. One 2007 study found that general social support provided by friends had the biggest impact on drinking habits.
If you’re not comfortable saying this, you can simply tell them that you’re drinking less tonight.
Another option is to offer to be the DD. Most people won’t look down on you for wanting to be the responsible one who drives your friends or family home. In fact, they’ll probably be happy because they’re saving money on a cab or Uber.
You can also prepare ahead of time what you want to say when you leave. If you know you won’t want to stay for the full party, have some reasons for leaving early. These could include needing to get up early, walk your dog or saying the babysitter has to leave early.
#8: Practice Saying “No” to Pressure
When drinking is part of your culture, your friends and family probably encourage you to have “just one more” alongside them. Knowing this, you can practice standing your ground and saying no. Remind yourself that their decision to drink is okay, but so is your decision to stop. If their persistence is hard to avoid, think of a few excuses you can use:
- “I’m on medication that doesn’t allow me to drink/drink too much.”
- “I’m driving.”
- “I need to get up early tomorrow for [something important].”
- “I’m doing an alcohol-free challenge.”
If some people get too pushy, you may want to think about limiting the time you spend with them.
#9: Create a New Culture
If you’re finding it difficult to reduce your drinking because your social group is made of big drinkers, consider switching it up. One study found that people were 50% more likely to drink heavily if one of their friends or relatives did. The good news is that the opposite is also true: if someone you know starts drinking less or entirely, you’re more likely to cut down too.
However, you can also meet new people by taking classes or going to events where people will likely be sober anyway. For example, you’re more likely to meet people who drink less at an exercise or craft class than you are at a bar.
As you begin to surround yourself with those who drink less, it may eventually feel more natural to be sober. If you meet or already know someone who drinks less, bring them to a gathering next time. It can be easier to refuse continuous drinks when you’re with someone who also knows where to draw the line.
#10: Accept that Gatherings will be Different
If you go from being one of the biggest drinkers to the soberest person at a gathering, of course, it will be different. It may take some time getting used to. And that’s okay.
If you feel weird or anxious partying sober at first, that’s normal. The more you do it, the more your confidence is likely to grow. You may want to start by attending small gatherings and build yourself up. Here are some other tips for overcoming fears of social situations. If you’re extremely nervous and think drinking is the only way you can socialize, our addiction physicians and counselors can help you overcome your social anxiety-related drinking.
If it’s too difficult to avoid drinking at gatherings, you may want to consider which parties you can cut out. While you don’t want to eliminate your social life, being pickier about your outings may make it easier to reduce your drinking.
#11: Let Us Help
While we’ve provided many tips here, we recognize that it can still be difficult to cut down your drinking. Ria Health provides personalized treatment through doctor’s check-ups and our tracking app. You don’t need to beat yourself up for failed attempts because we’ll work with you to discover the best treatment for you.
Riannon Westall is a health writer based in Toronto, Canada. Her work has been featured in the Toronto Star, on CBC.ca and on various blogs. She writes articles and website copy that further her clients’ goal of helping people create healthier and more fulfilling lives.