Oftentimes at the end of a workday, I feel pretty drained and exhausted, and I don’t feel like being social. In the past, having a few drinks with friends would help me to relax and also liven me up in social situations. When I’m not drinking, going to meet with friends after a long day of work can feel more like a chore than fun. Do you have any advice about how to feel more energised when I’m going out sober? Kate
In our culture, socialising and drinking are often seen as the same thing. Going out with friends means drinking alcohol. So if you’re taking a break or cutting down on drinking, going out sober can be a real challenge, especially if alcohol-free socialising feels like a low-energy option.
Alcohol as a source of energy
So let’s be honest. Alcohol gives you energy, both physically and socially.
At a physical level, alcoholic drinks are calorie-dense. At seven calories per gram, alcohol contains almost as much energy as fat. Also, many alcoholic drinks and mixers are packed with sugar. So long evenings of drinking are a source of real physical energy. As anyone pulling an all-nighter knows, if you can’t sleep, calories can keep you going. And that extra consumption can keep you awake, long past your bedtime.
Drinking gives you social energy too. I wonder if you’ve ever compared how you feel when you’re drinking on your own, compared to drinking with others? Especially when you drink with friends, you’ll get more animated as the evening wears on. Alcohol is a disinhibitor, so you laugh harder, shout louder and move more (at first, anyway). In social settings, group dynamics amplify these effects, so you get swept along in the collective energy of the occasion.
Of course, in the heat of the moment, you may forget that all that energy is being borrowed from tomorrow. Crawling out of bed late on Sunday is the price you pay for a huge Saturday night out. Alcohol’s energy isn’t limitless.
Energy for going out sober
But if you’re used to socialising with alcohol, going out sober will feel different. It can take some time to recalibrate your expectations. And in the short term, you will notice the lack of all that physical and social energy alcohol gave you.
Especially in the early days of stopping drinking, you may also have lower energy levels. It’s common to feel wiped out in the aftermath of stopping drinking. If you’ve been hammering the booze for a long time, you’ve put your body through quite an ordeal. All those late nights, disrupted sleep patterns and the negative effects of alcohol on your metabolism can all leave you feeling physically drained. You need time to recover.
So initially, you’re going to want to choose your socialising carefully. It’s good that you’ve noticed that some occasions, without a drink, feel like a chore. But if that’s the case, I need to ask, why are you even going?
Sometimes, we go the boring birthday or the dull dinner because it’s the right thing to do, for the sake of maintaining a relationship. And that’s OK. Not everything can be fun, all the time. But if the balance of your socialising tilts towards events that you’d rather not attend, you may want to ask some more fundamental questions about how you’re spending your free time.
Make your social commitments work for you. A late night of drinking can be pretty dull if you’re going out sober. But there are other options for gathering with friends: dinner parties, shopping trips, walks in the park, and anything with cake (or is that just me?). Take charge of the options, and set your own social agenda.
And remember that it’s OK to go home. How many times have you stayed at an event you didn’t enjoy, and had another drink rather than calling a cab? It’s entirely acceptable to leave when you want to.
Your drunkest friends won’t notice your departure. And your best friends will be happy to have seen you.
Your social evolution
Being the life and soul of every party is a huge pressure. But you don’t need to be in the middle of every occasion to maintain your friendships. Never forget that people like you. Your friends won’t forget you if you miss an event or two. So give yourself a break. You are allowed some time and space, just for you.
Stopping or significantly cutting down drinking is an amazing thing; it gives you the opportunity to evolve. Trust that your social life will evolve too. New opportunities will open up, new activities and even new friendships.
It may take some time as the world adjusts to the new you. But it will happen – and that’s something to be excited about.
Dru Jaeger designs and leads Club Soda’s courses, and is the author of How to Be A Mindful Drinker. If you’re curious about going out sober, check out Club Soda’s events for online and real-world alcohol-free socialising.
If you’ve got a question to Ask Dru, get in touch.