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.