Four people stand around a bar counter. Three of them cheers with beer steins in hand. The fourth person stands, resting their face on their hand holding their car keys.

How To Hang Out With Drinkers When You Don’t Drink

Beer & Spirits

As someone who doesn’t drink anymore, I had to develop a set of skills for having a decent time when surrounded by plastered people at a show. Take this advice with a grain (or rim?) of salt—it’s coming from someone who used to drink a lot and then quit, so some of this may not apply to the straight-edge-since-birth (respect!) or the sober-because-of-religion crowds.

Develop a superiority complex.

Some people tend to assume that you think you’re better than them for not partying, so you might as well make that true. While you’re already developing a sense of pride, either for recovering from an addiction or prioritizing your health, why not take that a step further? It’s a lot more enjoyable to stay sober when you’re watching people make hammered fools of themselves and thinking, “Glad I’m not that guy!”

Take a little too much pride in telling people you don’t drink and wait for the praise to roll in.

Opposite the “So you think you’re better than me?” types exist the far more common “I’m so proud of you!” folks. Quitting and abstaining from alcohol actually is really fucking hard for most people who used to drink, so you deserve to toot your own horn and allow said horn to be tooted by others. Drunkenness used to make me feel like the baddest bitch in the room, so it’s not a crime to get a little confidence boost elsewhere without it.

Take inventory of what you actually enjoy and what you just thought you enjoyed because alcohol was involved.

When I quit drinking, I mostly stopped going to bars—not only because I had a hard time being around booze, but because the small talk with old creeps made me want to rip my brain out of my skull through my ear holes. How did I ever get joy out of doing that? Oh yeah, I was shithoused. It’s worth asking yourself if you actually like going out to whatever bar/club/event or if it’s just an excuse for you to get drunk (which, by the way, you can just do without an event. It is a free country).

On a related note, take inventory of who you actually enjoy being with and who you just thought you liked when you were drunk.

I’ve discovered that there’s a shocking amount of people I can’t tolerate for more than a few minutes without booze. That being said, some people are joyous, hilarious drunks who are a delight to be around. It’s true that alcohol lowers inhibitions, for better or worse—utilize your unclouded judgment to figure out a little something about the people you’re spending time with.

Spend too much money on anything else—you can justify this by thinking of all the money you saved by not buying alcohol.

Alcohol costs a lot of fucking money, unless you’re the type who only occasionally picks up a case of PBR at your local 7-Eleven. Everything is marked up in bars and the price gouging at music venues makes me even more nauseous than the beer itself. I’ve got sober friends that spend all their money on fancy vegan food or Magic The Gathering cards now. At least it’s not alcohol anymore, right?

If you’re tempted to go back to old behaviors, remember what a hangover feels like.

I would rather be pushed through intensive military boot camp training than ever experience a single hangover symptom again. When all other motivations fail, that’s enough to keep me off the sauce for the foreseeable future.

Being sober seems to be increasingly trendy, at least according to the targeted, mind-reading Instagram promotions I see on my feed. Get ahead and start drinking weird sparkling waters instead of waiting for some life-altering trauma to convince you that taking a break from booze is a good idea. Just make sure that everyone knows that you’re drinking soda because you’re sober on purpose, not because you’re LDS. You still have to be cool about it.

Read more about staying sober in SLC:
Buzz Free Buds: Sober Squad Provides a Safe Space for the Sober Curious
Mike Brown’s Official Guide to Sobriety