A little tip for getting through the myriad of Christmas functions that most people attend is to run through not drinking in your mind before you get to the event.
When I was in the military we did drill. Most people, when you mention drill, think about square bashing (ie marching up and down a drill square). Moving in a ‘formed body of men’ doesn’t really have much place in modern warfare, but there was other types of (more relevant) drill we used to do. Like weapons drill.
Loading, making a weapon ready, firing, clearing blockages, reloading, striping, cleaning, making safe. Over and over and over and over again until you were literally doing it your sleep. Why? So that when you are freezing cold and can’t feel your hands, when you are so exhausted you can scarcely think, when you are in the pitch dark, in a panic, in the most chaotic situation you can possible imagine, and your weapon jams, you clear the blockage and keep firing without missing a step. The more stressed you are, the more in a panic you are, the more you fall back to an automatic or subconscious reaction (for more detail on the working of the subconscious see chapter 3 of Alcohol Explained which you can read here). That is one of the purposes of the subconscious, it jumps in and takes action when our conscious mind is struggling to cope.
Of course I’m not advocating saying ‘An orange juice for me thanks’ over and over again, but thinking about the occasion before you attend it, and running through your thought processes, can be a very powerful tool.
Firstly think about what you are declining. A poison (something that is used to sterilise because it kills germs, but it isn’t just germs it kills, it kills all living things) diluted in water with huge amounts of sugar to try to hide its naturally vile flavour. And if you doubt me about the sugar, think about the last time you spilled some on your skin. It’s very sticky when it starts to dry, isn’t it? That is the sugar in it.
Secondly think about what that drink will actually do to you. It will slightly dull your senses, not a particularly desirable or enjoyable effect. That will upset you brain’s delicate balance, and when the alcohol starts to wear off you will have a corresponding feeling of anxiety (for more detail on the bodies chemical reaction to alcohol see chapter 2 of Alcohol Explained which you can read here). Your choice then is to continue to drink to keep trying to anaesthetise that ever increasing feeling of anxiety (and become increasingly intoxicated as you do so) or just suffer that decidedly unpleasant feeling.
Thirdly think about the impact that drink will have on your sleep. Whether you have one drink or many, the quality of your sleep will be ruined with the result that you will wake up the following day feeling tired and lethargic.
Run through all these thought processes before you get to the event in question, don’t just turn up and hope you’ll be ok. Plan and prepare. In the same way you would prepare what you will wear, how you will get there, and how you will get home after. Think yourself through the process of going to it and not drinking.
We tend to build up ‘not drinking’ at social occasions in our minds until it becomes a far bigger thing than it actually is. A lot of people feel very self-conscious going out and not drinking. They feel like it is going to cause a big stir. Winston Churchill once said:
“When you’re 20 you care what everyone thinks, when you’re 40 you stop caring what everyone thinks, when you’re 60 you realize no one was ever thinking about you in the first place.”
Think of all the times you’ve been out drinking. Think of all the people who were there who weren’t drinking for one reason or another. Do you remember them? Do you spend time thinking about that person and their not drinking? Of course you don’t. Chances are no one will even bat an eyelid if you aren’t drinking, even if they do then it will be subject of some commentary for a few seconds before the conversation moves on, in exactly the same way it would if you were to turn up in a particularly garish Christmas jumper. The people you are out with will generally fall into one of two categories, those who aren’t that bothered about drinking, and those who are. Those who aren’t that interested in their own drinking will be even less interested in your drinking, and those for whom drinking is a key part of the festivities won’t care at all if you are drinking or not, so long as their drinking isn’t affected.
Go out, relax, and enjoy yourself. And if you stop enjoying yourself, leave. One of the main benefits of no drinking at social functions is not having to stay to the bitter end, and not letting the evening ruin the next day, which you have just as much right to enjoy as you did the night before.