All the good feelings, but without the booze
This is being written in the first week of January, but it could just as well be written after July 4th weekend, or any other holiday stretch that involves partying, socializing and imbibing more than your share of the sweet nectar. Which is to say, you’ve been drinking more beer, wine, martinis, scotch or whatever-else-floats-your-boat than usual. And you’re thinking about embarking on a dry spell.
There is something called “Janopause,” which is a January without alcoholic beverages of any kind. As you can imagine, there are benefits of this: Preliminary research conducted by New Scientist research Andy Coghlan on a small sample found that those who de-boozed for five weeks lost approximately 3 pounds, plus cut cholesterol and blood glucose levels.
Compelling, isn’t it? You no doubt have a mix of personal reasons for putting the break on boozing, whether it’s related to thinking more clearly, not being a public buffoon, drinking and driving, budget reasons or the mere fact that you realize you don’t particularly like the feeling. Or the horrible, day wasting hangovers that ensue.
Even if you’re the lightest of social drinkers, completely abstaining can be tough. Alcohol is often part of our social rituals, whether it’s the camaraderie of an after work get-together or the clinking on high of wine glasses at the start of a meal or to tag a celebration.
Being the dude with the glass of water can be tough. For starters, other people will want you to be drinking alongside them. Not drinking with them lands you in the out-group, to take a page from social psychology.
Of course, you could spend the night listing for others the very responsible, rational reasons you are not drinking, above the music and laughter. This, however, tends to be not very fun and not convincing to someone who’s in full-blown Party Mode. And you’ll land further from the in-group, socially, and more in the group with the teetotaling aunt and the grandpa wearing the button-front cardigan.
Here are strategies to help you stay off the alcohol while still remaining very much in the heart of the festivities:
•Look at the glassware. Is everyone drinking beer out of red plastic cups? Sipping something fizzy from glass flutes? Select the same glass and fill it with something non-alcoholic.
Bonus if your choice visually resembles an alcoholic drink that some or many are consuming. Pour yourself a ginger ale is champagne is what everyone’s drinking, or an ice-filled glass with something that could very well be rum and cola, or a vodka tonic. Complete it with a garnish, like a lemon or lime wedge, for authenticity.
•A glass in hand is worth not having a horrible hangover. Keeping a glass in hand is not just a good visual cue of being part of the ingroup, it is a physiological cue for you that will help keep you in the festive spirit, particularly if you are accustomed to always having a glass in hand at social events.
The glass-full mentality is also a big reason that people end up drinking too much. After a few, they are on auto pilot, and the empty glass is refilled without thinking. If you’re at the party or club long enough, one vodka tonic becomes three, which becomes six.
•To the question: What are you drinking? You can just raise your filled glass and smile. Very different than being the dude with the steamy cup of chamomile tea.
One of the most succinct rebuttals comes from a friend of mine, who happens to be a bodybuilder and a socializer. He trains heavily and has never been a drinker, and when people ask him why, he tells them something along these lines: Drinking usually helps people be more relaxed and social. It does the opposite for me. It makes me want to immediately go to sleep.
It works like a charm. No one wants to put their fellow partygoer to sleep.
If someone is being pushy but otherwise benign, you can say, “Sure, I’ll have a …….. ” Take the drink. Thank them. Don’t drink it. If they get uber-pushy (which they won’t) as in, “I want to see you drink it,” you have a choice. Smile, and dump it over their head.
Or just dump it over their head without the smile.
•Be a fun guy. Sober. Dry. None of those words really help promote the idea that a non-drunk guy is still a fun-as-heck guy!
I have a friend who doesn’t drink a speck. But you’d never know it because she’s always the life of the party. She smiles, chats, giggles, flirts, dances. She’s always having so much fun that no one ever thinks to hassle her about drinking. In their buzzed state, others assume that she’s had a few.
•Get in the habit. The first few times you socialize without booze are going to be tough unless you have some strategies in place. Without getting into why, it is much easier to softly detour an existing habit than dynamite a longstanding ritual and start from scratch. Relying on the force of your iron will and white knuckles to change is hard.
Refining an existing pattern is easier. Let’s say you are meeting friends for drinks after work. Without thinking, you probably are used to heading to the bar or nearest cocktail server and placing your order. You recite one of your usual concoctions or you lean into your closest buddy and ask, “What are you drinking?”
You turn to order and say: “I’ll have that.”
Don’t have that. Have your nonalcoholic drink order on the tip of your tongue when you walk into the place. When you’re finished, reorder it. Just like that.
•What are we here for? Over time, you may notice that it’s the balm of positive social contact that relaxes people more than the booze itself, which is ultimately a prop. You’ll notice it in about 20 minutes, when everyone is finishing their first drink and showing noticeable signs of unwind.
Good luck to you on your no-booze journey. And while you’re at it, lift a glass to you: To better health and a more beautiful body and mind.
Salud, Skål, Santé, Cheers and much more.