How do I have fun without alcohol? The short & simple answer is that I am a fun person. This is good news - if you have ever had fun in your life, I can guarantee you will have fun sober. The bigger question living underneath this one is: how do I get over the awkwardness I feel in social situations without alcohol? Or maybe it’s how do I unwind, relax, lighten my spirits without spirits?
First, let’s debunk the myth that alcohol boosts your mood. Alcohol is classified as a depressant. An ebook authored by the National Institutes of Health states “Alcohol has been falsely thought of as a stimulant because its initial effects on some people include feelings of euphoria and lowered inhibitions. Alcohol is classified correctly as a depressant because it later causes sedation and drowsiness. In high concentrations, alcohol can induce unconsciousness, coma, and even death.”
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s tackle the awkwardness factor. Feeling awkward is a normal feeling that many people have in social situations. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, or that you are the only person in the room feeling that way. In fact, this might be a great conversation opener. It takes guts to do things like initiate conversation, attend events where you don’t know any or many people, and dance in front of others (sometimes even to dance alone at home). There’s a reason alcohol is labeled as liquid courage!
The good news is that we can train ourselves to feel more comfortable without that artificially induced boost of confidence. This article from Inc. will give you “5 Science-Backed Tips to Be a Little Less Awkward.” I particularly like the 5th tactic: relabeling those awkward and anxious feelings with more positive words like excited and energized. As in, “I’m excited to go meet some new humans who I can connect with while being my authentic, weird, wonderful self.”
On that note, alcohol changes our behavior. It lowers inhibitions that are sometimes in place for a reason. Depending how much we drink, it may even prohibit us from remembering the decisions, promises, and overtures we made. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer to live in a way that guarantees I’ll remember how much fun I had the next day. I’ve definitely lost moments that felt important to my alcohol soaked brain, and I can’t get those memories back.
When I was thinking about sobriety, and reflecting on the social activities in which I typically engaged with my circle, I realized how many of them revolved around alcohol. This made me worry I might lose friends or that my friendships would change. Honestly, I have, but it’s been okay. Most of my friends are cool with me showing up with a kombucha, or with letting me just hang out and chat with my seltzer and lime (the lime is key, y’all).
I also realized that I did a lot of things in my life without alcohol that were super fun. Game nights, potlucks, outdoor adventures, museums, coffee dates, road trips...all of these are just as fun, if not even better, without alcohol. We are seeing a new wave of spaces designed to either cater to those of us who are sober or to mixed crowds (If you’re in Orlando, check out this list of establishments with zero proof cocktails).
If you’re struggling with how being sober might affect your ability to have fun, I’d encourage you to reflect on all the times in your life you’ve already done this. Trust that it will get easier the more you do it!