I’m writing this from Orlando airport as I wait to catch my flight back to the UK.
It’s been a busy few days for me – I’ve attended two different conferences, one in London and one here in Florida. My head is spinning after a week of learning new things and meeting new people.
And to be honest, networking REALLY pushes me out of my comfort zone.
Small talk, chatting to strangers and meeting lots of new people is basically my idea of hell 😬
(The old me would definitely have drunk my way through things like this.)
If you’re struggling to get your head around the idea of socialising sober, this blog is for you. Here are a few things I’ve realised this week:
Socialising sober is something we all do – ALL the time!
We tend to associate networking and being social with bars and booze, so it’s no wonder it seems intimidating to do this stuff sober.
However, most of us do an incredible amount of sober socialising every single day, without even realising.
We chat with strangers in business meetings, catch up with friends over coffee, banter with our workmates or talk to people in our yoga class.
So why is it that when the clock strikes 5pm, we fall into the trap of thinking the only way to socialise is with the aid of a drug like alcohol?! It doesn’t make sense.
People can seem more obsessed with drinking than they really are
I paid close attention to what people were saying during my trip. My conferences weren’t sobriety related, so I heard a lot of “We must go for drinks!” and ‘“Let’s catch up in the bar later” etc etc. In early sobriety, I would’ve felt alienated by all the alcohol references.
Nowadays, I realise booze is just part of the way we communicate with one another. Most of the time, people aren’t really saying ‘let’s get wasted’ or ‘you must drink alcohol with me later.’
What they actually mean is, ‘I’d like to spend some time with you.’ But it feels a bit awkward to say that, so instead we opt for something safe like “Let’s go for drinks!”
No one noticed what was in my glass
When I first quit, I often felt as if there was a neon sign above my head that said ‘Oi, over here, this person isn’t drinking!’ I worried that I wouldn’t fit in or people wouldn’t trust me if I didn’t drink.
Nowadays, I don’t feel so anxious – mainly because I’ve realised most people don’t notice, or don’t care, what’s in your glass.
During this trip, not a single person commented on what I was drinking. Not one. No one made me feel weird or different, it simply wasn’t an issue.
Most people don’t drink that much
I’ve written before about the way our culture’s changing, with teetotalism becoming more mainstream. At both events there was a big focus on going for drinks in the evening, but (in my opinion) no one seemed to be drinking all that much.
Perhaps people just didn’t want to be hungover the next day. Whatever the reason, I think the old, boozy version me would’ve been very frustrated by how restrained the other drinkers were!
Networking is really tiring
It’s great to be heading home knowing that I genuinely had a good time – my emotions weren’t fake or chemically altered in any way. My head is clear and my memory is sharp, but I am SO tired!
In my drinking days, I’d totally ignore feelings like this – I’d just keep going, pushing on to the next thing and the next thing, relying on booze to help me switch off when it all became too much.
As a natural introvert I’ve realised it’s important for my self care to decompress after trips like this. I’m really looking forward to hermiting at home for a bit – and I won’t feel guilty about doing so 🙂
Let me know…
What are your experiences of networking and sober socialising? Do you have a great tip that would help me or anyone else in future? I’d love to hear how you manage events that push you out of your comfort zone!
Point 4 is particularly true! I’ve been paying a lot of attention to this lately in both work and social settings.
Just goes to show, we see what we want to see! When I was drinking it always seemed as if everyone else was drinking a lot too… but I think that’s just what I wanted to believe!
Hi Kate, I’ve never commented but follow your blogs for inspiration. I stopped drinking in May & would just have a couple on weekends socially. Unfortunately this scenario led me back into drinking again. I got offered a job way above my stations & had to travel. I was so stressed & unwinding in a pub with colleagues seemed normal especially away from home. I then started drinking at home again, but have now returned to my old job & from today I’m determined to be af & back to fitness classes (just got back from 1) better wife & parent when I was af
It sounds as if you’ve learned a lot from your experience with moderation. It rarely works out in the long run (it’s really hard to ‘control’ a mind altering drug that makes you lose control). Wishing you all the best with your sober journey. If you want some help to make AF living stick for good this time, my online course could be a great next step for you. Here are some details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
i love Kate’s blogs too. I left my old job and nearly attempted a travel job. The stress and anxiety were so great, that I cancelled. I realize I drank to suppress my anxiety and living AF isn’t easy. I won’t go back to my old job, but am considering something else to boost my confidence and work stress free. I will not let a job be the catalyst to drink again. I am healthy and relaxed now and have to find a balance. All the healthy habits that I pursue daily, aren’t enough to counteract a poor work environment.
Yes this is true. The anxiety is really hard on me…heading to the Doctor now to get some help with it.
I will keep you posted…safe travels Kate.
Wishing you all the best Nancy 🙂
Kate Kate Kate, so enjoy hearing from you. As an alumni, please know how you rocked my world. Your approach and style reached me. On those chilly bla evenings, if my mind wanders towards alcohol, it’s natural for me to brush that idea aside and do something else…”Playing the scene forward” is now a snap for me. Alcohol free 16 months. Adore my mornings now. BTW, at my recent high school reunion, my 2 best buddies, who live far away, ALSO go AF!!
16 months!!! Congratulations – it’s great to hear from you Maggie. Hangover-free mornings are the best 🙂
Oh my God, thanks for this post. I’ve been alcohol free for over a year, and this is my greatest stressor! As an introvert, I pretty much start counting the minutes until I can appropriately leave a networking/social event the minute I get there. I have noticed that asking others LOTS of questions about themselves tends to divert their and my attention from the beverage in hand
I know so many people who feel this way about big social / networking events. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like this – some people thrive in this environment and others don’t. But asking other people questions is a great way to break the ice!
Thank you so much for sharing your story and it helped me a lot especially right now. I stopped drinking a few years ago and recently got separated last month. I started going out for a “few drinks” which quickly turned to drinking everyday. I decided today it had to stop it was only making my anxiety levels go through the roof! So thank you for the blog…it was perfecting timing! Your a great inspiration.
Alcohol really does make anxiety so much worse! It’s good to see you getting back on track – I’m sure you’ll notice a difference asap 🙂
I actually much prefer sober socialising now as I know I’m not going to make an absolute fool for myself for drinking too much! As you say in point 4 – most people don’t drink that much, I could never see the point in just having a couple of drinks, I mostly drank to get drunk and even when I didn’t mean too, in situations when I felt under social pressure I drank even more to releave the stress, which never ended well! AF socialising takes some practice but is definitely the way forward.
Knowing that you are 100% in control of your actions is very reassuring, that’s for sure! I agree – it takes practice at first, but it’s so worth it 🙂
Dear Kate, thank you so much for sharing this. Wait a minute, did I write this? Not the sober socializing part of networking, because I don’t have that under my belt yet, but the small talk, NOISE level, and what I finally came to accept and appreciate about myself as an empath and introvert; it’s not a bad thing, but rather something I didn’t embrace most of my life, thinking there was something ‘wrong’ w/me until one of my clients sent a battery of support on introverts.
About two years ago now, I stopped going to women’s networking, which I noticed after awhile could be very clickish. It’s not productive if everyone huddles in their tight little group. Worse is my over drinking/MY problem, to find a comfort zone as alcohol has been a coping mechinism since age 15, maybe younger. I’m 60+ now. At these particular networking groups, WINE is mandatory,or ritas/champagne/alcohol. Noshes are resposibly supplied as well as water but the draw after a long day and anxiety about going is the ‘come and get it Vino!’
On several occasions I followed women home to make sure they got home okay while my car was on auto pilot! I finally began to wonder if anyone thought about following me home but nothing was ever said. I am a caretaker so I see/feel things others may not. No, that does not make me special.
I am looking forward to more inspiration to begin living a more (gotta start somewhere) sober life after drinking most of my life.
It is a blessing I found you, a down to earth, non judgemental source of support I am more ready for than not.
Thanks again and many blessings. 🙂
You make a great point about embracing being an introvert – there’s definitely nothing wrong with feeling that way! Accepting who you truly are is very freeing. If you need any more help and support to make sobriety stick, my online coaching programme could be a great fit for you. (More details here: https://thesoberschool.com/course/ )
Keep going 🙂
Thanks for this. I am only on a day 2 AF and this is something I worry about. I have a quarterly staff meeting tomorrow afternoon and am usually the one leading the group to the happy hour when the meeting wraps. I know I will be able to handle this eventually, but tomorrow I thinking I will have “something” I need to get home for. I will tuck this away for another time.
You’ll definitely be able to handle that kind of thing in future – but for now, listen to your gut and give it a miss if that feels right. Keep going Cat!
I think this will really help me! This blog has been so inspirational and helpful to me. I have been AF for almost 6 weeks and feel great! I am married with teenagers and don’t get out much, so I haven’t really had this challenge yet. I was drinking at home, sometimes with my husband, but often just by myself. Sometimes it was to relieve anxiety but other times it was just because it felt good and had become a habit. As soon as I felt any stress or anxiety I would want a drink.
Last year I quit around this time and was AF for one month. I went to a christmas party with my husband and his boss brought over 2 glasses of wine for us. It would have been awkward not to accept it, so I held it for a while and before I knew it I had finished it. This set me off to go back to drinking. I was very moderate at first but pretty soon was back to drinking at least a drink or two every day.
This time I am determined not to start back. I have come this far and feel and look so much better than I did. When we go to this same party again this year, I will get myself a tonic and lime to carry around so no one will feel the need to bring me wine!
Congratulations on your six weeks Kristin! 🙂
I an 9 days AF this time around. Had family function last weekend where everyone drinks. I was so stressed about what to tell everyone. Why was i not drinking? What was wrong? Was i sick? To my amazement, not one person asked wehy i was drinking apple juice. Agree that we worry more about the perception of not drinking then tghose around us.
Congratulations on your 9 days Abbey! Wishing you all the best on your alcohol free journey 🙂
Hi Kate, So happy to find your website, it feels like our paths crossed exactly at the right time. I’m AF day 6, and I have been avoiding socializing events (I.e., bars) for now until I get some stability and strength under my belt living AF. I’ve turned a couple friends down who have asked to meet for drinks and others I’ve tried to re-direct to coffee dates. I’m not sure how it will go in social settings but your blog really helped, and chances are it’ll be fine. Waking up feeling good everyday is worth this hard work staying sober. I also appreciate you, your tips especially snack and drink a lot of water to cut back on cravings. I noticed my detours to the bar alone after work we’re habitual and now being mindful has kicked in! Thanks again, and best to all the other AF readers.
Thanks Christine and congratulations on your 6 days AF. Here’s to many more! 🙂
Great blog. Yes the socialising without alcohol is a tricky one to begin with. However, my recent holiday on my own, all without alcohol proves it can be done and it’s so good to be sober. I was just brave and chatted to people anyway. It was a great experience and something I didn’t think I could do at all, never mind sober!! Thanks for your unstuck course, I couldn’t have done it without you.
Well done Louise, it takes courage to do that! So glad to hear your AF holiday was a success! 🙂
I like point 4 many people don’t drink much if at all.I used this as an excuse for drinking many times. Also, socializing sober is not as scary as it seems until you try it