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Socializing Sans Substances

Socializing Sans Substances

Socializing Sans Substances

| By Wellvyl Media Editorial

Socializing sans substances

Full disclosure: I have never been known to turn down a glass of red wine.

Pricey bottles accepted from pushy sommeliers, two dollar gambles at Trader Joe’s, and worryingly inexpensive happy hour deals have all solidified my status as a vino enthusiast, if not exactly a connoisseur. Lately, though, I’ve been cutting back on the Cabernet, and I’m not alone. With internet challenges such as “Sober October” and dry events like New York’s own Club Soda series cropping up across the globe, sober socializing is gaining in popularity, especially amongst the city’s health and wellness crowd. I get it: starting your day with a sunrise yoga class and ending it with one or two (or three or four) vodka shots seems counterproductive somehow. Or maybe you find your desire to dig deep into your own inner psyche clashing with the sometimes shallow atmosphere found in many bars. Whatever your motivation for dipping a toe into the dry social scene, this decision is likely followed by the question: How does one navigate social situations without the use of substances?

It’s a good question, too. It feels easier to approach an attractive person or interact with strangers when you’re buzzed. For many of us, even family gatherings are made more comfortable with the aid of alcohol. But why is that? What does Drunk You have that Sober You doesn’t? Confidence? A sense of calm or comfort in your own skin? Why is it that we so often feel the need to look outside ourselves to find these things? Once you begin asking yourself these questions and enduring the often-uncomfortable process of coming up with answers, your #ThirstyThursday celebrations start to lose their appeal. You still want to socialize, but you want to do it as you, fully present and with no asterisks.

Now, how do we go about doing just that?

What can you do when someone moves to fill your glass or an attractive stranger offers you a drink? Keeping things short and sweet and saying something like “I’m not drinking tonight, but I’d love a water/coffee” (or kombucha if you’ve got gut health on the brain) allows you to participate in the social situation at hand without having to explain your lifestyle or choices. Once you’ve accepted the cutie’s offer, you can carry a conversation with no buzz—and no added awkwardness— simply by being friendly. You’re hoping to form a connection with this person, so share from an honest place, ask questions and actually be interested in (and capable of remembering) the answers. Luckily, your judgment hasn’t been dulled by drugs or alcohol, so you can be sure you’re presenting yourself in a way that feels authentic and can tune in to any noticeable vibes around. And if there is a connection (lucky you!), you can know that this person is attracted to you as you were this afternoon and as you’ll be tomorrow morning. Looks like you underestimated Sober You, after all.

More meaningful connections and an active social life you feel fully present in are definite perks, but the changes brought on by this lifestyle shift may not all be so positive. Drinking and drug use are ingrained and even normalized in American culture, and the decision to remove yourself from that lifestyle will almost certainly shake up your personal society. You may discover there are certain friends you have difficulty connecting with without the aid of substances or find yourself labeled a killjoy by obnoxious relatives or acquaintances. (As a mostly-sober, plant-based feminist, I can promise you: being a killjoy— not half-bad).

Socializing sans substances

Hopefully, a shared love of PBRs isn’t the only thing bonding you to your friends and family members, but if you do find the difference in lifestyles challenging, try socializing around new or shared interests rather than that pitcher of rum punch. Take an acro yoga class, check out that fusion spot you read about in Time Out, finally make your way to that museum exhibit before it closes. Make your sober social outings exciting, and your companions won’t miss lounging around at the bar. Sitting back with a cold beer feels good, but getting up, going out, and doing things? You feel productive, stimulated, even proud. When was the last time after-work drinks made you feel like that?

This is not a “just say no” ad. By all means, say yes if you want to. Since I scaled back my own drinking, I’ve discovered I don’t actually enjoy certain social environments I thought I did, and yes, I’ve spent more Saturday evenings in lately. But I’ve also learned that an early morning outing, usually involving a fitness class followed by a greasy breakfast spread somewhere in Brooklyn, is the right form of socializing for who I am now and who I hope to become. All of this is okay. Great, in fact, because for the first time I’m paying attention to how my choices make me feel, to whether or not they’re aligned with the person I want to be. I’m still going to indulge in my occasional glass of red wine, but I’m going to do so now with an awareness of why I’m drinking.

Billboards, TV commercials, even subway ads will all warn you to drink responsibly even as they attempt to sell you their products. What I’m proposing is a slight shift in thinking, a riff on this age-old marketing line. This weekend, set aside that vague “responsibly,” and let’s start eating, doing, and yes, drinking mindfully. Is the drink in your hand a crutch, or does it just happen to be the perfect pairing for the bomb-ass bibimap you’re about to eat? Just be mindful of the answer. Come Friday, try being present, conscious, as you connect to yourself and to others, and remember:

Drink—or don’t— mindfully.