Can you have fun without alcohol?
Before I quit drinking, I thought being sober meant signing up for a lifetime of feeling bored and awkward at parties whilst everyone else enjoyed themselves.
Perhaps you’ve been thinking this too. At this time of year, I often hear from people who want to quit, but they’re worried about the holiday season, which is just around the corner.
How can you join in with all the parties and celebrations – and have a good time – if you’re sober?
If you fear you won’t be able to have fun without alcohol, here’s what I want you to do:
1. Watch your thinking
“It must’ve been a good night if I can’t remember it!” We live in a boozy world and most of us have been conditioned to think that alcohol = fun. Therefore, not drinking must mean not having fun, surely?
Yet when we stop and think about this, we can see it’s not that straightforward. I bet there have been plenty of times when you’ve drunk a lot and yet haven’t been happy. If alcohol was the vital ingredient to having fun, shouldn’t it work all the time?
2. Get clear on what ‘fun’ means to you
Most of us don’t ever think about what really makes something fun. So, stop and do it now. What is it that makes a party, place, person, activity or hobby actually fun? It’s quite a difficult question to answer, because we’re all different, right?
The things that bring me joy may sound like hell to you, because we have different tastes and personalities. We’re all unique. So that makes it even more bizarre that culturally, we’ve settled on this belief that you can’t have fun without alcohol.
3. What makes you more likely to have fun?
I know that I’m more likely to have fun when I’m feeling positive and at ease; when my focus is outside of myself. When I’m wrapped up in my own thoughts, or feeling bad and comparing myself to others, I’m less likely to have a good time in a social situation.
Most of us are in the habit of using alcohol as a quick way to switch focus and get into a frame of mind that’s more conducive to having fun. So rather than us actively changing our state of mind, we try and outsource that job to alcohol.
4. Pay attention to your thoughts
Our thoughts influence our feelings, and our feelings influence our ability to have fun. If you’re sober and caught up in thoughts like, “I’m no fun anymore” and “these people are better than me” then that is going to affect your enjoyment and perception of an event.
And then guess what happens? When you stop feeling good, your brain stores this information as ‘evidence’ that your suspicions were true – you can’t have fun without alcohol. So the whole cycle keeps continuing, and what you believe to be true keeps coming true, such is the power of your thoughts.
Breaking out of this pattern is where the real work of sobriety is. When you start choosing more helpful thoughts (such as, “people want to connect with me. I have interesting things to say, no matter what’s in my glass”) it changes your perception of the event.
5. Take responsibility for having fun
As kids, we spend most of our time creating fun. We play games. We’re not just sitting around, waiting for fun to happen to us. As adults we tend to lean more towards consuming fun, which means looking for something outside of ourselves to entertain us, e.g. booze.
Consuming fun is a very passive activity. When we say things like, “this won’t be fun without alcohol” what we’re doing is waiting for fun to come and present itself to us, without us having to actually do anything. If having fun is important to you, it’s worth considering your role in creating it.
6. If sobriety really was boring, no one would do it!
This is an important note to end on. If sobriety truly was the miserable, non-fun existence it’s stereotyped to be, then I would not be smiling in any of the pictures on this website. I would’ve given up long ago, and gone back to drinking instead.
Remember: our brains like to do easy things, but easy things aren’t always the best things for us. It’s normal to find this stuff tough to start with, so give yourself the time and space to properly experiment with socialising sober. You need to do it – and keep doing it – before reaching any conclusions.
If you’d like some help to stop drinking and create an alcohol-free life you love, click here for details of my online course.
I’m a graduate of your April class and recently celebrated 6 months AF! Going out with my friends is something I’d really worried about, but it’s been fine. I’ve slowly realised when you’re with the right people, it doesn’t matter if you’re drinking or not – it’s still fun!
Congratulations on your 6 months Linda, that is brilliant! And you’re absolutely right – true friends will be fun to spend time with, no matter what’s in your glass ❤️
Again, a supersmart post Kate! I totally bought into the myth, and decades on, find it a really limiting and sad belief. Yes, laughter sometimes more easily with alcohol, but the real, authentic laughs are so much better and memorable. I’ve been at parties where I wanted it to be fun, and drank so much, I blacked out. And that’s zero fun. Here’s to real conversation and laughter when something’s legit funny. Thanks for your insights!
Real conversation and proper laughs are always the best 🙂
I’m nearly 6 months AF and feel I am way more fun AF. I attend the events I want to go to and have energy for. I’m present, don’t take over conversations and blab nonsense. And I remember everything. Which makes me a far better friend to the people I was talking to at parties. Thanks Kate and the community. These posts have definitely helped keeping me strong when I felt like giving up!!
Such good points! Congratulations on your 6 months Karen!
Any advice on how to get through a champagne Thanksgiving Brunch? My husband and I go out for a wonderful Thanksgiving brunch that includes free flowing champagne. I always would partake previously but I am on a quest to not drink anything through the holidays. Any advice would be appreciated.
I wrote a post about dealing with the festive season – that contains a lot of tips that will be relevant to your thanksgiving brunch. Here it is: https://thesoberschool.com/how-to-survive-the-boozy-festive-season/
Good luck Dianne!
I am 7 months AF and enjoy being sober and present now rather than numbed out. I am not seeking fun at parties. Any social events I do have a AF beer and / or tonic or if I feel the need I have AF wine – the special drink is for me and to just say to me, “even if you don’t drink you can have a drink treat.” Then there are no thoughts that I am missing out on any fun. I am very happy to be 7 months AF (day 1 3/25/19). Kate I took your April class this year – thanks so much! It was so good.
It’s good to hear from you Kay – I’m so pleased to hear about your 7 months! Congratulations! ❤️
75 days AF,I’m finding these posts so helpful especially as ‘the season to be jolly’ is nearly here,I’m going into it in a truly positive state of mind,so thank you and happy Christmas !!
Sounds like you’re approaching this with the right state of mind Sue. Congratulations on your 75 days!
For me going out isn’t the issue. I have used wine as a source to relieve my stress. I have 2 very challenging teenage children one who is mentally poorly and a very unsupportive husband! I have learnt though that actually whilst the first glass (or 2) chills me out it doesn’t stop there and then actually it causes me stress. The evenings i don’t cave into wine life is actually so much better the next day. I have had a number of wine free days this last week and i feel so much better. I don’t even enjoy the wine it is a habit and has become a way of coping though I am now understanding it compounds the stress in my life. I am so grateful for sites like this that encourage and don’t judge. I am starting to find new ways to cope…baking, a walk, a lovely hot shower (rather than a shower the next morning to try and rid my hangover and shame that i don’t really remember falling into bed!! Life sober is definately more rewarding. When i look at the times that bring me fun and laughter not one of them includes wine only a good old cuppa with a friend. Thank you x
It sounds as if you’ve had an important breakthrough around the stress / alcohol connection. Drinking definitely makes life harder to deal with. Keep going Amanda!
I’d be overjoyed if I manage the 100 days AF. I’ll keep this post as reference whenever the temptation knocks. I really loved the testimonials and feel that it’s quite possible to go AF. Thanks Kate and everyone who contributed.
Have to share my horror iv been 10 months AF big thank u Kate ,, a friend of mine died sudden last night we all got together for some reason I asked for Amarettothe shot glass full I knocked it down the hatch it was beautiful the barmaid I know filled it again my friends had a discussion ones alright don’t buy a bottle at that very moment I snapped out of what was very close to been drunk I had not eaten,, upset,, I got home relived not even annoyed I drank I was proud I seen the addiction if this makes sense it really woke me