Given my biz and my sober-ish life, I’m often asked for tips on cutting back on booze, or eliminating it altogether. I’ve also become friends with some really smart, badass women who are active in the sober-curious community. If you’re making healthier choices and in need of a few tools, check out these 9 tips!
1. Articulate your goals.
Set guidelines, or very clearly lay out your intentions. It may be a “simple,” binary goal—you’re choosing not to drink alcohol and you want to maintain that choice through the booze-soaked holiday season. Or perhaps you are focusing on moderation. If that is the case, be specific. Perhaps give yourself a one alcoholic drink maximum at social events (and then satisfy yourself with a delicious non-alcoholic drink, especially if you’re accustomed to socializing with a drink in your hand). If frequency rather than quantity is the factor you’re interrogating, perhaps consider a 1-2 nights a week rule. Whatever it is (you’ve heard this before) specific, actionable, measurable goals are key!
As Martha from Clear Power Coaching suggests—identifying and understanding the WHY is essential to your investigation of your relationship with alcohol. Understanding the ‘why’ will also help you do so without shame! Shame is very rarely helpful. Martha says, “Maybe you’re waking up at 3 am every night in a worry or shame spiral (that’s the alcohol!) ... Maybe you’ve googled ‘am I an alcoholic?’ What if I told you the term alcoholic is not even used anymore and that alcohol use disorder is now understood as a continuum. There are millions of us gray-area drinkers. And maybe the question is not about putting alcohol in the center and asking am I an alcoholic, but instead, putting YOUR most fabulous, fulfilled, thriving life in the center and using sobriety as a tool to get there!” Great advice on centering the goal (i.e. the best version of you), instead of the things NOT to do (i.e. consuming alcohol)— that’s not how our brains work best. Focus on the achievable desire, not a “don’t.”
3. Include others!
Aiming to drink less—or not at all—this holiday doesn’t have to be either a shamefully secretive or overly self-righteous project. Be transparent with the people with whom you celebrate the holidays.. Perhaps suggest a meal with a N/A cocktail pairing. Make it a fun project—collaborate and explore exciting and delicious N/A options together. Perhaps buy a few N/A brands and enjoy a tasting flight with the whole crew.
4. Be communicative.
Sometimes people interpret your choices and intentions as a judgment of their own behavior. Know this, and proactively counter this common insecurity. If you find a family member or friend getting defensive or censuring your choice not to drink, it could very well be that they have misinterpreted this as a judgment of THEM and are feeling shame. What to do? Clear it up quickly and calmly. Share as much of your “why” as you’re comfortable, and articulate it as a personal choice. If this isn’t working, or if their reaction is triggering—create some space. It’s your prerogative to disengage and protect your health (mental and physical).
5. Know your triggers.
What triggers you to drink more than is best for you? A stressful family relationship? Party vibes and the people you love getting wound up? Mindlessly matching the drinking habits of your family? Take the time to identify your triggers before you are surrounded by them!
6. Be prepared if the impulse strikes when you’re at home.
Stock your kitchen and home bar with beverage alternatives. Maybe it’s your favorite tea with quality creamer or sweetener. Or perhaps it is an N/A option like For Bitter For Worse! Having a delicious, satisfying alternative that cues you to relax (or to celebrate) may be all you need.
7. Be prepared for drinking cues at social events.
If you are attending a gathering (hopefully with your quarantine pod or outdoors—again, particle dispersion y'all)—plan to bring the N/A option. Consider bringing enough to share. As someone with allergies and health concerns, I’ve learned to advocate for my dietary needs. Early on (and still sometimes now, if I’m honest), I felt self-conscious and fussy, even though it's a legitimate wellness concern. It can be uncomfortable to veto a restaurant or bring/request certain items at a shared meal—but I’ve learned that genuinely supportive friends and family WANT to accommodate you. Supporting your goal to drink less (or to be fully sober) should be a priority for them too.
Lorelei Bandrovschi, founder of Listen Bar expands on engaging with the impulse to grab a drink. “I’ll let you in on a secret. One of my life mottos is, ‘If you’re not having a good enough time, dance harder.’ Don’t like the music? Dance harder. Don’t know anybody? Dance harder. Worried you’re dancing too hard? Dance harder. And yes—feel like you need a drink? Dance. Harder. Without fail, I realize that the ‘OMG I need a drink’ feeling is just my mind trying to escape the first moment of awkwardness. But the awkwardness fades, faster than you’d think. Especially with practice. And for me, pushing through it gives me an actual buzz. I realize, hey, I can be this playful version of myself, drink or no drink. It’s not automatic. But it’s there. And whatever your own ‘Dance Harder’ is — it can be a bigger confidence boost than the drink you just skipped.” What she said. Dance harder, friends!
9. Get outside.
If you have identified that anxiety or stressful relationships are your trigger or maybe the ‘dance harder’ approach isn’t working at this moment—find a way to avoid feeling trapped during the holidays. Slip out for a walk, or take the kids or dog to the park! It’s ok to take a step back. Remember your goals are valid and important and you have a right to protect your mental and physical health this season (and always).