Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbains are the founders of OneYearNoBeer, a website that helps connect people who no longer want to deal with the adverse effects of drinking alcohol. They’ve put together the 28 Day Alcohol Free Challenge, a daily guide full of practical help and advice to change your drinking habits for good. If you’re giving Dry January a go, here are Andy and Ruari's top tips to navigate social occasions without alcohol.
Know exactly what you’re going to drink and have a backup
This might sound over the top, but it’s key to know exactly what you’re going to drink. You are about to fight years of social and psychological conditioning and you need to be prepared or old habits will take over. Phone the venue in advance to find out if they stock alcohol-free alternatives.
People will leave you alone when they see something that looks alcoholic. This saves you spending the whole night explaining yourself and having your rubber arm twisted.
If no lookalikes are available, create your own such as a soda water with lime. Get creative but always make sure you have a few options just in case one runs out or is not stocked.
Love your alcohol-free social life
Even if you aren’t really feeling in the party spirit, ‘fake it ‘til you make it’. Throw yourself into the Christmas action. Be the social butterfly and go out of your way to get to know more about the people you are with. Try listening deeply to what others have to say, you might be amazed as what you discover. At the same time remember how great you are going to feel the next day.
Be a gamesmaster
Make sure you are fully loaded at social gatherings with plenty of board games. Be prepared to start a game of charades or Pictionary to keep the troops entertained.
Games are such a great leveller and something that everyone can enjoy whether drinking or not. The bonus is that you will surprise everyone by bringing the fun without a drop of alcohol in sight.
Use visualisation to prepare
Just like an athlete uses visualisation to prepare for a competition, you should rehearse your alcohol-free evening in your mind. The beauty of visualisation is that you can rehearse as many times as you like in your head. This is why athletes use the technique. They can’t run a thousand races but they can rehearse a thousand races in their mind.
By mentally practising what you will say on hearing the bartender (or family member) ask what you’d like to drink, your mind and body will know how to react.
Write down all the reasons why you don’t want to drink
Amazing research has shown that writing down your thoughts is great for changing habits and general wellness. But more than this, it creates a change mindset, preparing you for the task ahead. Before you arrive at the party, remind yourself over and over all the reasons why you don’t want to drink.
Take out the ringleaders
If you are unsure about how your friends and colleagues will respond to you going alcohol free, consider taking out the ringleaders first. Before you meet that ‘mate’ in the bar – you know, the one who holds court and who can also make your life a misery with their witty repartee – tell them all the reasons you are on this adventure. This is not a conversation to have via text – meet this person face-to-face if possible and get them on board. Once you have their backing, watch the rest follow.
Always have an escape route
While alcohol-free parties can be off-the-scale fun, it’s good to have an escape route for later on in the evening when you may no longer be on the same wavelength as the drinkers! If you aren’t driving or walking, pre-book a cab or know what time the buses or trains are. Have a time in mind to leave and stick to it. When you leave sober and happy, make sure to do a mini fist pump. Pat yourself on the back, smile wide and look forward to the morning, knowing you will feel great when the rest of your friends will be in a right mess!
Turn the night into a mini challenge
The average night out lasts roughly five hours – that’s all you have to survive. Why not make a game out of it and have fun? Score a point for every drunken snog you witness, 2 points for how many times your best friend says “I love you!” and so on. The jackpot – dancing sober! Get creative and turn it into five hours of fun.
Celebrate your success
Surprisingly, many of the greatest moments we have witnessed from thousands of our OneYearNoBeer members comes after a big social challenge. When you first attend a wedding, holiday, stag do or party alcohol-free, there is a rush of confidence that is the foundation of a deep belief that actually life can be so much better without the booze.
Rather than viewing these events as a reason to put off an alcohol-free challenge, they are the reason to start. So at the end of the night celebrate by treating yourself to something nice – you deserve it. The best treat of all, however, is waking up the following morning full of life and ready to take on the world!
For more tips and tricks to help your alcohol-free resolve stick, watch this video with authors Andy and Ruari: