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Teetotal Like a Boss: Tips for Enjoying a Party When You’re Not Drinking

With the 4th of July coming up, the thought of what to do at a party where people are drinking is an issue for a lot of people. I found one woman's story and her advice and think it could help you too.

From Irina Gonzalez

When I first got sober more than a year ago, I worried about joining the same gatherings that I had loved — only now as someone who doesn’t drink. I was afraid that friends would judge me or that I wouldn’t have any fun. But soon enough, I learned a few tips and tricks to continue to enjoy social gatherings even without the allure of alcohol.

If you’re in recovery, you don’t need to send your regrets for every invitation you get. (Of course, going back to old social habits and environments is not for every person.) Even if you’re not an addict and you’re just not drinking for any number of reasons, you can still go to a party — and enjoy yourself.


1. Let the host know your situation.

If you’re in recovery, pregnant, or simply abstaining from alcohol for other health reasons, and you’re close enough to the host that you feel comfortable sharing, let the host know about your non-drinking ahead of time … without making it awkward. Just give her a call in advance; or, at the party, take her aside and assure her that you have a problem with your own drinking, not anyone else’s. And of course, be gracious about the lovely invite.

This way, she’ll be able to look out for you too, and help tear you away if she’s noticing any awkwardness.

2. Have the option to “phone a friend.”

While it’s always nice to encourage a friend (or your spouse) to not drink in solidarity, that might not always be an option. Instead, know that you may need to step away and call a friend (or your sponsor) who also doesn’t drink in the middle of the party. Having this option to lean on if you’re feeling triggered by alcohol or uncomfortable is a surefire way to ensure safety while having fun. Also, always give yourself the option to leave the party with a backup plan.

3. Always bring a backup drink.

You can’t be certain that your host will have non-alcoholic options and it’s better to bring some than awkwardly ask her where they are only to find out your options are milk or tap water.

4. Be prepared to pay more.

If you find yourself at an event with beverage vouchers, bartenders might politely let you know that the coupons can only be redeemed for alcoholic beverages, which means you’ll have to dip into your pocket for a cranberry juice. And sometimes, you might find that a soda costs more than a beer. Simply take a deep breath, remind yourself that this isn’t the end of the world, and consider settling on water for the night.

5. Avoid annoying questions with the right garnishes.

A small trick for looking like you’re drinking when you’re actually not? Embrace limes! A typical vodka soda or rum and coke often will have a lime garnish, so don’t be afraid to garnish your own non-alcoholic drink with one too. To the people who don’t know you well enough to know you’re not drinking, this will help you blend in.

6. Don’t feel like you have to be anyone’s babysitter.

Just because you’re the sober one at the party does not mean you have to become responsible for everyone. You’re there to have fun too, so don’t allow yourself to be anyone’s babysitter. Remember: Your friends are adults making their own choices. And if their choices get to be a little too much for you, there’s nothing wrong with politely excusing yourself and heading towards another conversation.

7. Have fun — and prove you don’t need alcohol to do it.

A lot of people say they need booze in order to dance or have fun. You do not! Hit the dance floor or join in on a karaoke duet. Just don’t sit in a corner and watch. Prove that having a good time doesn’t have to include alcohol — even if you’re the only one learning the lesson.

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