It's that time of year again. It's 'party' season.
The general expectation is that you will drink every night from now until 1 January. Forget weight loss, your health, or waking up with a clear head. You are going to enjoy yourself whether you like it or not.
But instead of diving headfirst into a vat of mulled wine, emerging only to unforgivably insult your boss at the Christmas party, why not get started on the New Year's resolutions? I know it's not the season of abstinence yet, but if you feel like skipping the hangovers here are our top tips for surviving into the New Year from my free book Rebel Non-drinking.
What are you going to drink?
The thing about not drinking is that you might need to put some thought into what you are going to be drinking, or not.
Pubs and bars have improved in the last few years, but it can still be difficult to find good non-alcoholic options. If you are going to an event, check out their website in advance to see what's on offer, and maybe email a special request. When it comes to pubs, clubs and bars, you can always do a bit of research online to work out if they have something you want to drink. Failing that you have two options left.
Option one: Get a bit creative with what they do have. Do they make cocktails, because cocktails = mocktails? Or bitters? Bitters are a non drinker's best friend because they solve the whole 'soft drinks are too sweet' issue. Try them with tonic water, or with ginger beer and lime cordial.
Option two: Take your own. Bottles of chilled tea, small bottles of cordial to pimp tap water, and even kombucha - bring your own drink and just grab a glass. Or bring some tea leaves and ask for hot water. If you're unsure about socialising sans alcohol this is a guaranteed conversation starter.
No one has ever questioned me when I have done this, but in case they ever do memorize this reply: "You don't serve anything I can drink, but everyone else here is drinking and I am eating/snacking/putting money in the jukebox/improving the view." If they don't like it, then it's a great chance for them to rethink how they accommodate non-drinkers.
The people you are out with can make your sober night out amazing... or awful. If you have a buddy you can trust to help you through the party season it can be a great support mechanism. Knowing that they are sitting there supporting you can help you through the times when your resolve is weakening. And if anyone buys you a drink you have an understanding friend you can palm it off on.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are people who get really weird about non-drinking. A quick Google search will reveal all sorts of diabolical tips and tricks for faking drinking. You can try any or all of these (do what works for you) or you can just do your best to steer clear of the bore who is really really interested in a) asking exactly why you're not drinking and b) encouraging you to drink.
This person is rude and dull, and you should treat them like you would treat anyone else sadly lacking in manners. Do your best to politely avoid them. You don't have to defend your non-drinking, and you don't have to become a sober evangelist. You are just making a decision that works for you. Anyway, you probably have to be up early in the morning.
On excuses and exits
Speaking of which, it may be time to make your exit. Nothing good ever happens after 11.30pm. You can move that deadline according to your group and social occasion, there's probably an equation. The point is there's no harm in leaving if you're feeling bored and are actually quite tired now. It's very unlikely that this frankly dull office party is going to get exponentially more interesting after you leave. What's probably going to happen is at least one person is going to get very, very drunk and corner you for a tearful discussion of their last relationship until they are interrupted by a tide of vomit.
Drunk people have an instinct for tracking down sober people who can look after them. So have a good excuse lined up. Your shopping is being delivered very early in the morning, you have to work or take the kids to school, you're going to start running, actually for real this time. You have a cold, you're tired and fancy a coffee to wake you up and then an early night.
There are, when you start thinking about it, all sorts of reasons for not drinking. Like wanting to do really anything at all tomorrow. And if you feel depressed or like you're missing out on something, take a few minutes to review why you were drawn to a hangover-free party season in the first place. Probably for very good reasons. But not drinking doesn't mean you have to miss out on a social life. It just means rearranging your social life to be more on your own terms.
Just because a lot of (or even most) social occasions revolve around alcohol doesn't mean that you have to dive in. There is no social contract that says if you want to go out you are also obliged to get pissed. So chill and have a great Christmas!
Going alcohol-free in January?
Then plan ahead. Club Soda is running bootcamps for people going dry this January, both online and for real in London. Getting some help to get through the month will improve your chances of success. After all as Christmas shows, we get pissed together so why should we get sober alone?