Alcoholism or Alcoholic concept : Close up young guy feeling depressed drinking alcohol alone in pub or bar because life problem or stress.

A Celebration without Alcohol? You Can’t Be Serious

By Rebecca E. Williams, PhD, author of Simple Ways to Unwind without Alcohol

Can we get real for just a minute here? Is it actually possible to go out with friends and not drink any alcohol? Or celebrate a holiday without alcohol to toast the occasion? Is it even doable to get home at the end of a stressful workday and not reach for a glass of wine?

Well, the truth is, we are talking about changing habits. What you used to do every single time will look and feel slightly different when you change the habit of drinking alcohol to celebrate or take the edge off your day.

There are a few ways to take the charge out of that event where everyone is drinking alcohol. But it’s going to require your full attention and focus. There are things you can do to unwind and take care of yourself, so your decisions are in your best interest. The goal is for you to feel good, not only during the event, but the next morning, too.

The simpler the strategies are, the better chance you will do them and lean on them when things feel awkward, challenging, or sensitive.

The first, and my personal favorite, is to breathe. Yep. Take a wonderful inhale and a relaxing exhale when you are in a situation where you feel pressure to drink but are choosing not to. Then, breathe again. If you can move your breath all the way down to your belly, all the better. Use this if you feel tense, bothered, bored, or just plain frustrated.

The second, and my all-time go-to, is to slow the decision down. Sometimes you might find yourself in a situation where everyone is making fast decisions about alcohol. You can sit back, look around, and give yourself a few minutes to decide what you plan to do. Phrases like: “Give me a few minutes to think about what I want and get back to you,” or “I’m not quite ready yet.” Use this whenever you feel rushed, anxious, annoyed, or confused.

The third, and one that I use all the time, is to excuse yourself from the situation or event for a few moments. When you are making a behavioral change like cutting down or quitting alcohol, it’s okay to change your environment and regroup. Go outside if you can, look up to the vast sky, explore the clouds or stars, find something interesting to focus on for a little while. If you cannot get outside, go to the restroom and run warm water over your hands. Use this when you feel triggered, agitated, boxed in, or uncertain.

Changing a habit or behavior can be pretty cool if you allow the experience to unfold, notice how you are feeling in different situations, and use a few simple techniques. Give yourself time to reflect on your successes and keep going.

Rebecca E. Williams, PhD, is a psychologist, wellness expert, and award-winning author specializing in healthy recovery from mental illness, addiction, and life challenges. She is coauthor of The Gift of Recovery and The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction. You can learn more at:

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