How To Say “No” To Alcohol In A Social Setting

How To Say "No" To Alcohol In A Social Setting - TRC

Alcohol consumption is a very integrated part of our culture. It is hard to find a social setting – outside of recovery groups or church meetings – which do not serve it as a supposed enhancement to camaraderie.

For those who are seeking to abstain from alcohol, being surrounded by others who are imbibing can result in an uncomfortable position.

While battling our own temptations to drink, we may also be called upon to continually reject the suggestions from others that we “lighten up” with a drink or two. When facing the urge to give into something we already know is not good for us, it is helpful to be armed with some strategy toward staying strong.

Consider employing the following ideas as ammunition against the temptation to drink.


Understand the Brainwashing

Have you ever thought about the content of commercials for alcohol? Everyone is depicted as having a good time, whether dancing at a noisy club or resting on a sunny beach. When arriving at someone’s house for a party, a smiling guest – with perfect teeth, by the way – is always holding up a twelve pack. The media message is that drinking is a necessary part of being cool, having fun, and socializing.

There is a reason that these advertisements don’t use realistic settings. They don’t show the dive joint, where the old man has been sitting at a bar for years, destroying his liver and occasionally crying over his loneliness. They don’t train their cameras on the flashing red lights at an accident scene at 2:30 in the morning, as the firemen pull the bleeding drunk driver from the wreckage. And they don’t show the living room of the drunk couple, as they shout and throw things at each other while the children cry in the bedroom.

It is very important for the alcohol industry that drinking always – and only – be associated with friends and fun. Those who have observed the darker side of what alcohol can do are able to recognize this ruse.

The reality of the matter is that alcohol is a culprit in destroying the lives of many people. It is, in fact, ranked third as a factor in preventable cause of death.


Don’t Fight the Feeling, Fight the Action

Most of our temptations toward doing something counterproductive occur in the immediate moment.

We will be going along, just fine, and then suddenly be hit with an urge to drink. This urge can be particularly striking when we are surrounded by others who don’t appear to be having any trouble with using alcohol in moderation, and who are only observed as gaining the benefits of it. We can begin to feel as though we are doing well enough to get away with the same.

In between the feeling of desiring to drink, and the action of picking up the bottle, there is a small space. That space is the ability to think.

Rather than using that thought space to argue with yourself about the urge, try applying mindfulness techniques during that moment. Mindfulness involves acknowledging, rather than attempting to dismiss, the feelings which arise.

There is something about the feeling of temptation to drink which causes it to come back stronger, and with a vengeance, whenever it is suppressed or ignored. It can be like a pesky fly, landing on us again and again, whenever we are just intending to have a good time while sober.

Rather than batting that feeling away, over and over, take a moment to thoughtfully accept it. This feeling is real, and, wow, it can be powerful. Bringing that urge to drink out into the light of reality can diminish its impact, and can free us to continue our previous actions of socializing without it. Give that demon of temptation a name, and then tell it to sit back down.


Remember Your Past

Another way to resist the temptation to consume alcohol in a social setting is through taking the time to ponder why you stopped drinking, in the first place.

Chances are good that you didn’t start out with a full-fledged alcohol problem. You probably started slowly, with a few beers or glasses of wine while at dinner with friends, or while hanging out at the backyard barbecue.

The scenario which prompted you to start drinking, in the first place, may be the exact scenario which you find yourself in when the temptation hits you, now.

Not everyone eventually develops a problematic relationship with alcohol, but the fact that you are reading this indicates that you are not one who got away with drinking in moderation.

Some of us are more prone to act in extremism, or to seek to avoid emotional and mental discomfort through self-medicating. There was something about the alcohol which took you down a very wrong path, and the chances of escaping its grasp again – after being bound by its effects the first time around – aren’t in your favor.

While it is no fun to consider that the negative effects of something may be more powerful than we are able to withstand, for many, such is the case with alcohol. How many people were hurt by your drinking problem? How many chances were lost, and how much time was wasted?

These types of thoughts are called sobering for a reason. Calling upon them during times of temptation can cause them to work as your ally.


Remember Your Future

Another approach toward resisting the temptation to drink can piggyback on the considerations of why you choose not to drink.

When you envision your future, it is likely that the scenes which flash before your mind are not images of you drinking. They are likely images of you being successful in a career; being in a loving partnership; or enjoying time with the kids and grandchildren.

If you have already experienced the dark side of alcohol, you can probably surmise that these beautiful futures are unlikely to manifest with booze in the mix.

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