Trying to stay sober while it seems like everyone around you is drinking? Ryan Bell has a plan.
Last year I wrote a post about what I learned during a year of sobriety for The Good Men Project and the most resounding question I received was, “How can I still be social?”
At first, I thought that this was such a personal thing that I couldn’t really answer it. We all come from different places and we all have different definitions and relationships with our sobriety. I guess that’s the most important thing about sobriety is the relationship you have with it… much like the drug that you may have given up.
So, how can you still be social? The best thing that you can do is have a Plan.
Your past. It’s gonna come up. Let me repeat: It’s gonna come up. Your friends don’t hate you and they’re not probing you or judging you. They straight up want to know what’s up. It’s also very probable that they recognize a problem in themselves.
I couldn’t believe how many people told me about their own problems with alcohol…rich people, successful people, awesome people…they really want to know if they can do it. I think of this part of my night as Justification O’Clock. You can remember some of these facts to help you through the night:
· 50% of the population DOES NOT DRINK
· 20% of the population drinks 80% of ALL OF THE ALCOHOL in the US
· 7% of the population drinks 50% of ALL OF THE ALCOHOL in the US
Basically, you’re not in a minority in the grand scheme of things. Maybe you’re a minority in your group of friends but… hey, we got this shit, right?
Please go somewhere that offers an activity other than staring at liquor bottles and a mirror. Why the hell do bars all have mirrors? We’re not in the Old West where some slack-jawed gunslingers gonna Bill Hickok us.
When you started drinking your social calendar was filled with concerts, playing pool, sitting on beautiful deck enjoying “vistas”… or other such practices shown in herpes commercials.
It was difficult for me to start playing pool again because I’d played drunk for so long. But after some practice I realized that I remained an adequate pool player without alcohol. And it gave me something to do and talk about.
In summary, DO NOT go to the bar that only is a bar and you’re in love with the bartender and it’s dark and nobody looks at one another. It’s a heavy drinking bar and you’re better off not being there. Everyone is better off not being there.
You need to have something in your damn hand.
When I first stopped drinking I thought that I’d have to order lame frozen drinks with big phallic bananas covered in whipped cream all hanging out and bumping around. This Diabetes Mocktail haunted my dreams all sprinkled with cinnamon, cherries and show-tunes. There had been a manliness about the fine whisky and the pilsners that I’d grown accustomed to (Jack and Bud… I’m classy because they come in glass bottles).
The truth is that you can order an assortment of things. My favorite trick is to put about 3 bucks on the bar and ask for a soda water with a lime in a rocks glass.
At first, you’re going to make the mistake of slamming these drinks and you’re going to feel awkward asking the bartender for refills. I’ve been a bartender. They’ve seen and heard everything. Refills are just another night. But if you want to make it easier for them:
· Tip every time. Usually they’ll charge you for the first drink or two but if you’re a regular tipper then they’re going to love you.
· Don’t get mad. Yes, they’re charging you for soda water BUT they are running a business and you are renting space and using facilities that cost money to run.
Now, about making it easier for you. Because this really is about you, having a good time, sober:
· Change it up. I try to stay away from caffeine because I have zero friggin’ moderation but there are late nights that I have to have a Red Bull to keep from falling out. I drink ginger beers, soda water, coke, Red Bull and an occasional mocktail if I’m at a fancy schmancy place that has cool drinks.
· ALWAYS get your drink in a glass. If everyone is drinking from plastic then take plastic but if everyone is drinking from a glass then you make certain you’re drinking from a similar glass. If the bartender gives you plastic tell him/her to pour it in a glass. It slows them down 5 seconds to do it and you’re tipping and this is important. You’ll feel less conspicuous if you’re holding the same container as everyone else.
The most valuable six words that I can give you are these:
“My relationship with alcohol wasn’t healthy.”
It’s succinct and beautiful and it tells enough of a story while not begging to go on. Say it matter-of-factly and as though you’ve said it more times than your name. The truth of it is that if you use this as though you’re saying that the sky is fuckin’ blue then you’re golden Pony Boy.
This was mine and now it’s yours.
If you come up with something better then use it but remember that you are the authority on your sobriety. It doesn’t compare to anybody else’s. Yeah, look at you go ya beautiful effin’ snowflake!
COUNT YOUR MONEY
I treat myself well. When I go out with my friends and I want to get the artisanal cheese plate I get that damn plate of cheese. It’s usually delicious, too. When I go out for steak and they have a $70 bone-in aged piece of meat that I know I’ll never get the chance to eat again… I get that damn steak.
With each drink that my friends order I don’t think of how much I want one, I think of how much it’s costing them and how my productivity is gonna Tigger the hell out of their Eeyore day (#didhereferencewinniethepooh #ohyeshedid #highfive).
By the way, would you like to come over and see my guitars? They’re awesome. Not drinking bought me that shit. Bam!
In the end, every time I go out there is a small discussion on my sobriety. I’m publicly sober and I’m damn proud of it. I don’t shove it in anyone’s face and I don’t ask anyone to change. I tell them that they can and I can tell them that life gets easier and better each day.
The truth is that I love having this conversation. I’m fine with being the sober guy. Anybody doing anything fun tonight? I’m down.
More on “The Sober Guy” from Ryan Bell: