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In this Just Melissa episode, I’m helping you navigate the questions, peer pressure, and social challenges that may arise when you commit to a sober lifestyle, do a Whole30, or take on an “I’m not drinking right now” experiment. I’ll share how to say no gracefully when offered a drink; how to handle questions like “why aren’t you drinking” or statements like “you’re no fun;” and how to respond to peer pressure in a firm but polite way. I also cover how to adjust your social circle, plan events that aren’t centered around alcohol, and navigate dating while sober—and at the end, I’ll provide the ONE mindset shift you’ll need to effectively hold this self-care boundary.

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THIS EPISODE’S GUEST

Melissa Urban

Whole30 CEO, Co-Founder

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Episode Notes
Do the Thing with Holly Whitaker (Build a Life You Don’t Want to Escape From)

Do the Thing, Just Melissa (“Are you pregnant?” Answering this question when turning down alcohol)

Do the Thing, Just Melissa (What Judgment is Really About)

Do the Thing, Just Melissa (Still Not Drinking Right Now)

 #melissaurbanreads
Quit Like a Woman
, Holly Whitaker

We are the Luckiest, Laura McKowen

Sober Curious, Ruby Warrington

This Naked Mind and The Alcohol Experiment, Annie Grace

Blackout, Sarah Hepola

Drinking: A Love Story, Caroline Knapp

MU: 00:03 Hi, my name is Melissa Urban and you’re listening to Do The Thing, a podcast where we explore what’s been missing every time you’ve tried to make a change and make it stick.

MU: 00:20 We are in the middle of the January Whole30 and a bunch of you are doing Dry January where you give up alcohol for 30 days, but even more than that, the sobriety movement is having a moment, a well deserved long overdue moment. Books like Holly Whitaker’s Quit Like a Woman and Laura McCowen’s We are the Luckiest are talking about what it’s like to take your life back or at the very least, imagine what your life could be like without alcohol. So many of you are sober-curious and ready and eager to examine your relationship with alcohol, but it’s not as easy as it sounds, as many of you doing the Whole30 right now are realizing. You’d think it would just be as simple as not drinking for a month, but peer pressure or overt or subtle being made to feel awkward or othered in social situations from family, friends or coworkers and most important the reactions you get just by drinking water are all challenges that you might have to face when you say no to that glass of wine or beer.

MU: 01:26 I’ve been talking about my own I’m not drinking right now experiment on the podcast and on Instagram for the better part of 17 months. It started in September, 2018 when I decided I wouldn’t drink for a month and it’s just rolled on since then. I’ve shared in a podcast the benefits that have come with just not drinking right now and I’ve helped a number of you on Instagram through DM, through stories, through an Instagram live, navigate the same challenges that I faced when I decided to start saying no. Actually I didn’t face a lot of these challenges. That’s a lie. I’ve actually had a really easy time of it in part because most of my friends are very health focused. A lot of them already don’t drink for health reasons or fitness reasons and I don’t really have a hard time holding my boundaries. So when I say no thank you, I mean it and I don’t really take any shit from people who tried to give me a hard time about it.

MU: 02:19 However, in talking about this with you for so many months now I realize I’m the exception not the rule and that peer pressure does exist outside of the seventh grade and that for whatever reason, alcohol is the only drug that requires us to defend ourselves when we decide not to use and that the people we would expect to support us the most when we are doing something that we feel is in our highest interest and for our health are often the ones who push back on us the most pressure us, the most disrespect our decisions the most. So what I’m going to do with this episode is try to help you navigate some of the challenges that may come up with saying no to alcohol. I took to Instagram about two weeks ago and asked you what do you need help with? What are some of the most common issues you face?

MU: 03:08 What are some talking points I could give you to help you gracefully navigate these challenges and how do you handle things like parties, work events, or dating? So that’s exactly what we’re going to do today. I’ve compiled your questions, I’m answering as many as I can. This episode is already really long, but there was so much to discuss and if you are brave enough to examine your relationship with alcohol, I want you to be as successful as possible. So let’s dive in and talk about the best way for you to say I’m not drinking right now. All right, so in this first section, I’m just getting you started in the conversation around you not drinking right now in social situations. So one of the most common questions I get is how do I not drink when I’m offered? And the easiest thing, your go-to, the very first thing you should say is a simple no thank you.

MU: 04:01 Said confidently said with a smile and then maybe you change the subject right after. Oh, can I get you a glass of wine? No, but thank you. Um, how was that vacation you just took? No, thank you. Is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. If you say it confidently, if you say it without hesitation, often that is enough to just move the person along and you don’t have to worry about this turning into like a situation. One of the themes that’s going to come up again and again in this podcast is the bigger a deal you make out of the fact you’re not drinking, they’re more likely to make a big deal out of it. So answer it with complete confidence and complete surety. Would you like a drink? No. Thank you. If it helps, think about it like someone is offering you a cigarette and you just don’t smoke.

MU: 04:49 Would you like a cigarette? No thank you. It’s as simple and complete as that. If they ask you again like, Oh, are you sure or don’t you want just one? You can just repeat that again. No, really thank you. Or no, I’m all set. Thank you. Occasionally people will press like, why aren’t you drinking? Or why don’t you want one? And one of you in my DM said, how do I say like how do I respond to this? But also, how do I say like none of your business without sounding rude. So ultimately it is nobody’s business. Why you aren’t choosing to drink. And there are a number of reasons why. Even asking that question is insensitive. Maybe you have a health condition, maybe you’re new to recovery, maybe you’re pregnant and haven’t told anyone yet. Maybe you have a family history of alcoholism and you’re just conscientious about your consumption.

MU: 05:45 There are a number of reasons why this question, like why aren’t you drinking is not okay. But you can choose to respond in a way that is appropriate for the social situation. So if it’s a really close or family member, you can simply give them your very personal reason for not drinking. I’m doing a 30 day self experiment where I’m not drinking right now. I want to see it, how it impacts my sleep and my energy so you know I’m committed to this right now. You can also just say, I’m just not feeling it tonight and for some people that’s going to be hard to understand because they’ve never had a night in their life where they’re not feeling having a glass of wine or a beer. But that is a perfectly acceptable answer. I just don’t want any right now. You can also, if appropriate or if you are feeling the need to hold a boundary, respond with something like you might not realize it, but that’s actually a pretty personal question and so I’m just going to decline tonight.

MU: 06:42 That sends a message in a very graceful way that this conversation is not open for discussion at this time and hopefully gives the person pause to go back and think, wow, you know, maybe that is a bit of a sensitive question and maybe I should stop asking people who refuse alcohol, why they’re not drinking. So if you feel comfortable and if the relationship is such that you feel secure saying that you can always push back in a graceful but um, kind of stern way to hold that boundary that you aren’t going to talk about it. Now someone else asked, is it okay to pretend you are drinking like ordering a club soda and lime and you just say it’s vodka soda. So yes and no. It’s completely okay to order something that looks like an adult beverage, like a club soda and a lime or a non-alcoholic bloody Mary or some kind of mocktail from their list and just carry that around.

MU: 07:38 If you have a drink in your hand, even if it’s obvious that it’s plain old water, people are probably less likely to ask if you want a drink cause you obviously already have one. What I don’t want you to do is straight up lie about the fact that it’s alcohol cause that could get you in trouble in a couple of ways. First, it’s not authentic and you will know that you’re kind of hiding behind this line, which will make you less confident in future social situations to just say, no, I would just like a water. Thank you. The other thing is it can get you in trouble. If you’re telling people you’re drinking vodka soda and someone sees that you’re running low and just orders you a replacement automatically. Now you have this weird social situation where someone gives you an alcoholic beverage and now you have to decline something that’s already been ordered for you because they thought you are drinking.

MU: 08:27 It’s not impossible to get out of, but I would like to have you prevent that situation in the first place and if you are going to continue this not drinking experiment for any length of time or if you suspect that not drinking like for the rest of your life is in your highest interest, you need to get comfortable showing up in social situations and not drinking. So it’s okay to have that club soda and lime in your hand, but it’s not okay to pretend that it is alcohol. Right. I want you to show up authentically as you in these situations. And we’re actually gonna talk about this a bit more later. A lot of you asked what I order in social situations. I’ve been doing this not drinking experiment, um, for 16, 17 months now. And also I’m not a people pleaser and I have no trouble holding boundaries.

MU: 09:17 So I have shown up in social situations and just ordered plain old water. I’ve ordered sparkling water with lime. If I go out for lunch or dinner, I will very often order iced or a pot of hot herbal tea. A lot of bars are now serving kombucha, which might be an appropriate choice for you. I do know some people who choose not to drink alcohol at all. Recognize that there is a tiny amount in kombucha and for that population, kombucha might not serve you, but that could be a good choice as something kind of festive and sparkling and kombucha. And a lot of our bars and restaurants now have a pretty extensive mocktail menu. So we went to a place in salt Lake city recently called Punchbowl Social and their list of nonalcoholic drinks was a full page. So you can be as creative as you want in these situations and like take the time to actually look at the menu because very often if you have been drinking you kind of skip over the non-alcoholic choices and go straight to the booze.

MU: 10:14 So some of your favorite spots may surprise you in terms of the extensiveness of their non alcoholic offerings. Now a lot of you asked how you handle peer pressure in these situations, whether you are with friends or family or in a work setting. If you’re on a Whole30 or you’re committed to dry January, it’s way easier because you just say, Nope, I’m on the Whole30 Nope, I’m committed to dry January. This is a commitment I made. I am 100% sticking with it. That’s kind of simple cause it’s a built in excuse. If you are not doing a Whole30 or this is just your new lifestyle, it’s a lot more difficult. And invariably people might question why you won’t drink and pressure you to have just one. Now. I would hope that peer pressure fell out of style in seventh grade. It’s super weird that as adults we feel like it’s okay to peer pressure our friends or our colleagues into doing something they don’t want to do, particularly if that thing is a drug and yet it does happen.

MU: 11:19 So I have this sort of threat level system that I rely on when it comes to how strong your response to peer pressure should be. So you know how Homeland security has like threat level yellow threat level red. We’ve got that too. When it comes to peer pressure and not drinking. So threat level low is someone just really curiously asking why you’re not choosing to drink. It’s really innocent. So they’ll just say something like, can I get you a glass of wine or are you sure I don’t mind. Here’s where your no thank you. Or Nope, I’m fine, but thank you. Should do the trick. That should be like a pretty easy one. Threat level guarded is when you get that followup to your, no thank you. Like they’re giving you a little bit of pushback and it’s time to kind of pay attention, but you’re not under attack at this point.

MU: 12:09 So here’s where I just stick to my guns and then pointedly change the subject. So are you sure I can’t get you a glass of wine or are you sure you don’t want just one? And I would say, honestly, I am all set, but thank you. How’s your new employee working out? Or how is your kid’s baseball going at this level? People will generally take the hint and move on. Threat level elevated. This is where maybe people have already been drinking or they’re just deciding to give you a little bit of a hard time about your decision. So they might say something like, Oh, come on, it’s the weekend. Lighten up. Or you’re no fun. They’re not really pressuring you, but they’re putting you a little bit on the defensive cause this is a little bit aggressive. So the first thing I want you to avoid doing, don’t give an excuse.

MU: 13:00 So saying something like, Oh, I can’t, I have to help a friend move early tomorrow morning. You might think that’s a good out, but an excuse is just begging for a fix. And what people will hear is you saying I would, I really would, but I have this problem that’s preventing me from doing it. And then your friends think or your coworkers think, well if I can help them fix that problem, then they’ll have the drink. So they’ll say something like, Oh, I’ll come help you move tomorrow and you can sleep in a little bit later. And like now we’ve got space for that margarita. That is not what we want to happen. Because now you’re in this weird situation where like you might have to give another excuse or you still say no thank you. And now it’s just confusing. Another reason why you don’t want to give an excuse is because it can put you in an awkward situation.

MU: 13:45 So if you say something like thank you so much, but I’m getting up really early tomorrow morning to go to the gym. Then they might come back with something like, Oh, so your gym session is more important than hanging out with us tonight, and that just puts you between a rock and a hard place. So I don’t want you to give some kind of excuse. This is where you can just be a little bit more direct and a little bit more deliberate. So with full eye contact saying very clearly and precisely again, no, but thank you. Or you could just state the obvious. I’ve said no three times in a row. I think that’s pretty clear. Or if you want to be a little more humorous about it, I’ve said no three times in a row and now you’re just making it weird. It’s a little less polite, it’s a little more direct.

MU: 14:33 But that might get your point across. If you decide that you’re going to offer up a reason because you have a close relationship with this person or you’re trying to build a friendship or you feel like you know, giving a reason is in your highest interest, even though it’s none of their business. This is where you want to keep it really personal and only about you. So seeing something like, you know, I did a bunch of research and it turns out alcohol is really bad for you while this person has a drink in their hand, not the way to make friends and influence people, keep it about you and share your personal reason as personal as, as appropriate for your relationship with them. So it could be, you know, I did this little not drinking experiment and I noticed that I slept so much better.

MU: 15:19 I had more energy in the morning. Not drinking right now is just really serving me. Now notice the two words I inserted into that phrase right now. I didn’t say I’m not drinking. I didn’t say I’m never drinking again. I said, I’m not drinking right now. Back in September, 2018 when I started this experiment, I found those two little words went so far to defuse any defensive tendency in my conversation partner and frankly for my brain, which is a Gretchen Rubin upholder with a side of rebel. It’s a lot easier for me to tell myself, you’re just choosing not to drink right now. I’m not saying you can never drink again. I’m just choosing not to right now. So what your conversation partner hears is I’m making a very conscientious, deliberate choice in this moment. I’m not drinking right now and for some reason those two little words tend to smooth over the conversation in such a powerful way.

MU: 16:22 Now, if you’re the kind of person who you know for a fact, you’re never going to drink again and you’re perfectly comfortable holding that boundary and just making it known, feel free to say, I don’t drink anymore or just plain old, I don’t drink. If you feel comfortable doing that, that’s a fantastic stand to take because A, it’s truthful and authentic. B, you’re setting the tone for every future encounter you have with this person, which means that this peer pressure and the like are you sure you don’t want just one goes away. And what you’re also doing is paving the way to normalize, not drinking you using your voice and this strong of a fashion helps normalize showing up in social situations and not drinking and makes it easier for the other people in these social events to make the same choice. So if you feel comfortable doing that in whatever situation you can just say I don’t drink anymore but if you need those two little smoothing words you can just add right now.

MU: 17:26 Okay so threat level high is where you are getting full on peer pressure or even worse they’ve begun to like ridicule you for your choices. So I got this a lot. I took a year off from drinking entirely back in like the early 2000’s. I was training for a triathlon I was running every morning. I was just really committed to this new healthy lifestyle. I decided drinking was not a part of that. I would go to work situations cause I had a nine to five job and it would be like, Oh miss healthy, miss triathlon. Of course she’s not having a beer, which was ridiculous because all I had done was order myself a water. I didn’t say anything about what I was drinking or anything about what they were drinking, but me doing what I was doing was enough to make them uncomfortable. And this is where I would step up and give like a little bit more of an aggressive response.

MU: 18:16 Now sometimes you can just give a little bit of ribbing right back and it kind of turns what could be a confrontation into a light event. So something like, yeah, well when the zombies come I will totally be able to outrun all of you fools. Like that approach isn’t right for everyone. Probably not for your boss or your mother in law, but in some situations if they’re kind of just teasing you a little, there’s like a little bit of seriousness, but it’s still just a tease. A little bit of humor can diffuse the situation. You can also opt for like a little bit of a shaming response and again wield this one cautiously, but you can call your conversation partner out on it. Hey boss, it sounds like you’re pressuring your employees to drink. I’m pretty sure that’s not part of the company policy or yeah, this peer pressure is not cool.

MU: 19:02 I thought we outgrew this. I’m not telling you what to drink, so can we please just drop it. You’re not being mean, you’re just calling them out on their rude behavior and sticking up for yourself. One thing that you mentioned hearing a lot is people saying stuff like you’re no fun and I think you could respond to this in a couple of different ways. One way is just to say in a very dry fashion. Yeah, I guess we have very different ideas of fun or you could say something like, wow, it’s interesting that you think you need alcohol to have fun. I like that phrase. It’s interesting because it sounds observational in nature, but there’s just enough of a pointedness to the observation that hopefully they get the idea that you are not particularly pleased with their response. The other thing that I’ve heard someone say, a friend of mine here in salt Lake city does consider himself an alcoholic and he is sober.

MU: 19:56 And what I’ve heard him say in these situations is, you know, I gotta tell ya, when I used to drink, nobody had any fun. And that is a little bit lighthearted, but it’s actually serious enough that hopefully the person will take the message and stop pressing the issue. So those are sort of some approaches to how you can handle peer pressure with this like gradient where you start off kind of nice and gentle and then by the end if they’re really coming on strong, you can respond in kind. The other thing you can do honestly is just change conversation partners opt out altogether. You know what, I’m just going to go talk to Dave over there. Thanks for the conversation. Physically leave, excuse yourself out to make a phone call and if it’s something that you want to maintain a relationship with this person or is a coworker or it is a boss, it’s something you should address later on, not around alcohol and let them know how it made you feel.

MU: 20:49 You know, we went out the other night and I’m really holding my boundary. I have this like self care initiative where I’m not drinking right now and you peer pressured me so hard and it was not cool. I don’t want that to happen again. Right. Hold that boundary and stick up for yourself, but don’t do that around OCHA hall because when the person is intoxicated is not the right time to try to have a logical conversation with them. The other thing I like to do in social situations, especially if I’m hanging out with people who I suspect are wanting to drink drink that night is I show up at the party or at the event right on time. Like I show up as soon as it starts, I’m not fashionably late. I get some good one on one time with the host or with the people who are there early and then I kind of put my time in such that when things are really starting to get kind of crazy and people are starting to get more drunk, I just leave so I’ve put my time in, everyone’s seen me there.

MU: 21:43 I’ve had these good conversations earlier in the night when people you know are not necessarily under the influence and then I leave before it gets a little bit too uncomfortable for me. Finally, one of the questions I had, and this is a really interesting one, how do I seem like I’m not judging people when they’re drinking but I’m not. I think the first question you have to ask yourself in this situation is, are you judging? Maybe it’s not overt, but when we take on health initiatives or especially when they make us start to feel as good as like not drinking or the Whole30 Ken, it’s kind of natural that we get a little bit of self righteousness in there. Like, Ooh, I’m doing this thing and it’s really hard, but it’s worth it and I feel amazing and I wouldn’t want to go back to the way that I was feeling.

MU: 22:33 And now I see you engaging in this behavior and I’m kind of telling myself a story that you don’t feel as good as I feel because you’re engaging in this behavior and that can translate as a little bit of judgment and it’s possible that there is a little bit of judgment in your response in that situation. So the first question I’d want you to ask yourself is, am I being judgmental? If the answer is no, then the best way you can seem like you’re not judging is just to do your thing, right? You stay in your business and that’s it. If people try to bait you and they sometimes will, they’ll say something like, Oh, you’re probably cringing at this Jack and Coke in my glass. You can just laugh it off and ignore it. Or you can say, I don’t care what’s in your glass.

MU: 23:17 I’m really happy to be out with you tonight catching up and then change the subject. The less you can talk about or focus on what’s in your glass and what’s in there is the easier and smoother this social situation is going to be for all of you also and perhaps most important when it comes to this question. Remember that podcast I did a while ago where I talked about judgment is a mirror not a window, and if you think that people are judging you, more likely than not, it’s just you judging yourself. Remember that if people tell you that they feel like you’re being judgmental just because you show up and don’t have a drink, you don’t have to take that on. If you’re truly not being judgmental and all you’re doing is choosing to hold that boundary for yourself in the name of self care, that’s not your responsibility.

MU: 24:06 They’re going to have to figure out how you showing up drinking water is impacting them and how they see their habits and how they see their own behaviors and that is entirely their business. You have no role in that whatsoever and you do not have to pick that up and carry it. So as long as you’re not being judgmental and as long as you stay in your business and just do your thing and you can say, but also demonstrate throughout the course of the night that it doesn’t matter what’s in the glass, you’re just happy to be there. Eventually. I would like to say that perceived judgment will wear off and with time this does get a lot easier. The more you show up with your friends and not drink but still show up for social situations, you still engage and you’re just as friendly and you have just as much fun.

MU: 24:51 The less people will feel like you’re being judgmental and the more they’ll accept like, Oh, she’s really just not drinking right now and that has no negative impact on our friendship or on the social situations or on our relationship. And that is a really good place to be. All right, and this section we’re going to talk about friends and social situations. So the first question I got came up a number of times. My social circle revolves around drinking and passing on booze feels like I am rejecting them. This is one of those really difficult life truths. You sometimes outgrow your friends. So you know I think about when I was a drug addict and then w entered into recovery. I dropped most of my friends because their lives focused around using and I no longer used and for my own safety and protection, I could no longer be around people who used and it was also very uncomfortable for me to be in that situation.

MU: 25:55 Now your situation might not be as severe as that. Perhaps you’re not an alcoholic, you’re just choosing not to drink. But if you have decided that alcohol is not serving you and your friends all rely on alcohol as their primary form of entertainment, you no longer have a whole lot in common. And that is unfortunately just a cold, hard truth of evolution. Sometimes we outgrow each other and sometimes we need to move on to a new social circle. Now, I’m not saying you have to abandon your friends right away. So here are a few things you can try. First, try to plan activities with your friends that don’t revolve around drinking. So if they’re always suggesting, let’s go out for drinks on Friday night, let’s go out to the bar on Saturday night. Instead can propose something else. Maybe it’s an activity where they can drink. You don’t have to drink, but drinking isn’t the only focus.

MU: 26:53 So go bowling, go throw darts, go throw an axe. Go to a movie where you can order food and beverages if you want to. But like it’s not all about the drinking. You can also suggest activities that do support your new health focused mindset. So you can recommend that you go for a walk or go for a hike or go to a yoga class form a book club where sometimes you can serve adult refreshments and maybe if it’s at your house you don’t. But you can try to shift the friendship away from situations that revolve around drinking and maintain the friendship. Outside of that. If you find that that just doesn’t work, if they really don’t have outside interests outside of drinking or they’re unwilling to meet you halfway, then unfortunately that is not a friendship that is serving you any longer and then it’s time to make some new friends and again, that might sound harsh, but what are the chances that you’re going to maintain your new healthy habits and your commitment to yourself if you constantly surround yourself with people who are either overtly or subtly pressuring you to go back to your old behaviors.

MU: 28:03 James Clear talked about this in our recent podcast and Nedra Tawwab and I spoke about this too, that part of self sabotage is putting yourself in these risky situations. So if you decide that it is time to perhaps expand upon your social circle, it’s not one or the other. You don’t have to necessarily let your current friends go, but maybe you want to make some new like-minded friends that are more health focused and whose lives don’t revolve around alcohol. What’s the best way to meet new people? Well, this is going to sound kind of obvious, but meet people where you would want to hang out. So don’t go to the bars on Friday night hoping to meet new people and then draw them into this life that doesn’t revolve around the bar. That doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Go places where you’re going to meet people who think like you.

MU: 28:53 Maybe it’s a class at the gym or the yoga studio. Maybe it’s on a group hike. Maybe you’re taking a cooking class, maybe you sign up for lessons at the rock climbing gym. Go places where you’re going to meet people who want to do the same kinds of things that you do and that way you remove some of the friction associated with this. Like I want to drink all the time and you’re not a drinker. That’s the best thing to do and I should probably do an entire podcast about making friends as an adult because having moved to salt Lake city about 10 years ago, not knowing anybody and not going to the bars now going to an office here in salt Lake, it was really hard to make friends, so I’m going to put a note down for myself that that’s going to be another podcast episode, but look for new people in an environment where you would actually want to spend one of you asked, how do I navigate events that are totally alcohol centered, like a wine tasting.

MU: 29:49 Here is another cold hard truth. You don’t go to those events if the entirety of the event is about tasting wine or tasting beer or if it’s a whiskey class where you get to sample various kinds of whiskey and you’re not drinking, you don’t go. If someone invited you to a yoga class and you really don’t like yoga, you wouldn’t go. It’s the same situation here. There are tons of social situations that involve alcohol but are not centered on alcohol. Absolutely go to those, continue to go. Don’t drink, use all the tips I’m giving you and have a great time, but if the entirety of the event is centered around booze, don’t go to those events. And again, if that’s all your friends want to seem to do, if they only want to do wine tastings and whiskey tastings and brewery tours, you need a new social circle.

MU: 30:41 That’s like the truth of that situation. All right. A dear friend of mine asked this question and it’s a good one cause I struggled with this one myself. A glass of wine is so romantic and cozy with a friend. How can I replace that? I had the exact same feeling during a Whole30 a couple of years ago. I have a group of girlfriends here in salt Lake. There’s five of us. We liked to get together and sit on the patio on a beautiful summer day and drink a glass of wine. Nobody was a big drinker. I don’t think anyone ever had more than like two glasses in an evening, but there was something about that that did feel very romantic and cozy and I really struggled with what are we going to do instead? The key was just to show up at that event and not have a glass of wine and realize that you’re still sitting on a patio.

MU: 31:33 You’re still surrounded by some of your best girlfriends. It wasn’t until I did the activity without alcohol that it made me realize that the alcohol isn’t the cozy part of that scenario. It’s the set and the setting and the people that you’re with. And so the advice I would give you my friend is just to eliminate alcohol from that equation and experience what that relationship would be like outside of alcohol. And this is something else that’s going to come up again and again, which is you are not able to show up as your most authentic self if you have alcohol between you, meaning even one glass of wine throws me outside of my authentic self enough that I am now no longer able to connect as fully as I want with the people I am with. And if the point of this meeting is to really connect with that friend and bond and share and have those like good, you know, oxytocin boosting results, wine, I will tell you only gets in the way of that.

MU: 32:40 So have the romantic and cozy event, eliminate alcohol from the occasion and realize that it’s not actually about the wine and then you’re free. Then if you do decide that you want the glass of wine the next time, it’s fantastic and you can enjoy it because it’s worth it. But you realize that you don’t need it. I’ll also say this if you’re stuck on this idea of like, but we always go out for drinks. What else are we supposed to do? I mean there are a million other things that you could do with your friends. I love going out for tea or coffee so we will meet in the mid afternoon or even if it’s in the evening I’ll do a pot of herbal tea and like that’s just as warm and cozy. Invite her to your house and cook a meal together. That’s incredibly romantic and cozy.

MU: 33:23 You’re chopping, you’ve got a playlist on, you’re sautéing, you’re cooking. Then you sit down over a table and eat. I mean that ticks all my boxes. One of my favorite activities to do with friends is go for a walk, meet at a park or on a trail. It doesn’t have to be a hike, but there’s something about being outside, having the green space, having the fresh air and maybe some sunshine and then also research shows. This is super interesting, but if you want to have a really open, authentic conversation with someone sitting side by side or walking side by side facilitates that better than facing each other because it feels less vulnerable. So inviting a friend out to go for a walk is another really fantastic way of actually connecting that isn’t centered around going out for a drink. So maybe it’s just this idea of getting outside of what you’ve always done and starting a new tradition.

MU: 34:19 The same conversation applies to dating. I had a lot of people who asked, how do I navigate dating and not drinking? One person actually wrote dating is hard enough without feeling like the weirdo. All right, we’re going to tackle that one in a minute. But the same thought process applies here as it does to going out for drinks with friends. If you are meeting someone for the very first time, you want to make it super clear that you’re not a big drinker or that you’re not drinking at all. So if they, if your first date says, do you want to meet for drinks? The easiest thing to do is just to say, actually, I don’t drink. Would you like to go out for coffee instead? Or I’m not drinking right now and to be honest, I’m not a big drinker in general. Would you like to meet for coffee instead, get that right out in the open because if they like going out for drinks all the time, that’s not going to be your person and you might as well find that out.

MU: 35:14 Now talk about setting yourself up for success. If you want to make new like-minded friends or you want to make a new like-minded partner, make sure that that first encounter is really authentic to who you really are. If they invited you out for golf and you didn’t play golf, you would say, no, I don’t golf, and if golf is their life, they would realize that you’re not the person for them. If they invite you out for a drink and drinking is not your life and they’re about it, they’re not the person for you. Figure that out. Now.

MU: 35:46 Now back to this idea of dating is hard enough. I don’t want to feel like a weirdo honey. You are the only one who can make yourself feel like a weirdo. You need to get straight with that in your own head before you show up in front of somebody else. If you walk into a situation thinking to yourself, the not drinker is the weird one in this scenario or there’s something about not drinking that makes me weird, then that’s the energy you’re going to project and probably the energy you’re going to attract out in the world. If you come to this realization that I don’t drink and that is super cool of me, then that’s the energy you’re going to bring into a date and you’re going to meet and attract the same kind of person. Someone who also thinks that it is super cool that you also don’t drink, so that’s some work you have to do internally in your own head before you show up for the date is getting over this story that you’re weird because you don’t drink.

MU: 36:38 I actually think that’s kind of like a superpower. If you can believe that too, you’ll be in a much different place the next time you show up for a first date. Also, you can use that as a litmus test. If you say, I’m not a big drinker and he can’t think of a single thing to do on your first date, second date, third date. That doesn’t revolve around drinking. He’s not your person. Not that the guy has to plan all the dates, but assuming you take turns in the planning, I’m sure you can come up with things to do that don’t revolve around drinking, but can your date. A long time ago I dated a guy here in salt Lake city. We ended up just being friends, but we went on like two or three dates and he was so creative with his choice of dates.

MU: 37:16 We went to this painting class where we both came home with these terrible mountain scenes, but it was still so much fun. We went to top golf and he taught me how to drive a golf ball. It was a really fantastic lesson in using creativity, getting outside of your comfort zone and really getting to know each other and also realizing that like it’s so awesome that this person’s life doesn’t revolve around booze. Lyman, you’re a superstar. The other benefit of not drinking on your first or second or third date is that you actually get to know the person and that they are getting to know you authentically. You know, not having that lubrication of alcohol in between you means that you’re showing up as yourself, you’re thinking crisply and clearly you’re evaluating their positive characteristics and maybe they’re negative and you can make a really honest decision about whether you want to pursue further dates.

MU: 38:12 So taking alcohol out of the equation just lets you make better choices in this situation, which means you have less bad dates to look forward to in your future. Now that kind of leads to the next question, which came up a lot in my DMS. I’m going to summarize here. I use alcohol to lubricate social situations. It helps me loosen up. It makes me less nervous. It makes me a bit more confident and talkative. How do I achieve this? Same thing without the booze. I will tell you right now that you are showing up in those situations using alcohol as a crutch, but again, you’re not showing up as you. You are showing up as you under the influence of alcohol and people aren’t getting to know the real you. You’re not able to authentically connect because you have this barrier between you and now you’re reliant on this thing.

MU: 39:05 You’re telling yourself a narrative. You’re telling yourself a story that without the alcohol, you’re not as confident. You’re not as talkative, you’re not as charming, you’re not as fun, and if that’s the story you’re telling yourself, it’s no wonder you’re willing to accept that same story from those who are trying to pure pressure you and your social circle, and here’s the irony. You are more likely than not showing up in these social situations under the influence of a glass or two of wine and in the back of your head that’s making you a little bit insecure. Can my conversation partner tell that I’ve been drinking? Do I sound a little bit tipsy? Am I making really good sense? Am I as sharp as I would be without the wine? It’s almost like you are bringing about the same nervous, anxious reaction that you were trying to do away with by lubricating yourself with alcohol.

MU: 39:54 So the only way to do it is to do it. Go into social situations without the alcohol and practice. I’ve been in so many social settings and I’ve practiced this idea of small talk. I’ve practiced, you know, being interested in people and good listening skills. So again, I could probably do a whole podcast about how to be like a good social conversation partner and there are a number of resources I could give you just this morning on Medium. I read an article that said here are twenty five of the most interesting conversation openers. Read articles like that. Have a couple of these questions in your back pocket. Here’s another tip. People love talking about themselves. So if you want to be confident and charming and you really want to make an impression on people, ask them questions about themselves and then be a good active listener, you know, mimic their body language, use reflective phrases to tell them that you’re listening.

MU: 40:52 You will leave an impression on them without ever having to figure out how to like be the most fascinating, charming person in the room. And the more you practice that, the easier it will become. But you have to get rid of that crutch. You do not need booze to be nice, to be fun, to be a good conversation partner, to be interesting. You don’t need it and until you take it away, you won’t realize just how capable and confident and charming and powerful you can be. All right. There’s one last question I want to address and I feel like it’s a really good wrap up. This question was echoed a number of times in my DMs, but I’m just going to summarize it by one person’s, how do I not take on the discomfort that my not drinking evokes for other people? I have a very simple answer and it is full of good news, which is you don’t because that’s not your job.

MU: 41:48 It’s not your responsibility and it’s not your business. You can’t make anybody feel anything. So it’s always a choice for people to be offended, for people to be uncomfortable, for people to get defensive. You can’t make anyone feel like that. If I told you I didn’t drink and you were vicious in making fun of me for it or in peer pressuring me, I still get to choose how I respond to that and I can choose to just laugh you off or dismiss you or say which is far more accurate. Boy, you obviously have some issues with your own relationship with alcohol and the things you’re saying right now have nothing to do with me and say everything about you and I’m just choosing not to take this on. You do not have to take on other people’s discomfort because that is not yours to carry.

MU: 42:46 If people are uncomfortable with the fact that you’re not drinking, if they get defensive when you walk up to the bar and order sparkling water with a lime, if they are upset or if they lash out or if they make fun or peer pressure that says nothing about you and everything about them. And what that tells me is that there’s something in your behavior that is like holding up a mirror to their own. It is reflecting back on them that there is something about their relationship with alcohol or how they are choosing to drink or their healthy habits or lack thereof that is making them uncomfortable. You don’t have to do anything but show up and drink your water and they will still get uncomfortable and it has nothing to do with you. And the faster you release yourself from that burden, the easier it will be to practice self care and hold your own boundaries.

MU: 43:43 If you allow other people to pile that on your shoulders, you are far more likely to give up your own goals. The things that you know are in your highest interest just to keep the peace and to make them feel less uncomfortable and does that sound like a fair trade to you? Why should you be the one who’s hurting yourself, who’s making yourself feel worse? Who’s making decisions that are not for your highest good just so someone else can feel a little bit better? Also, that’s not how it works. Even if you could do that, that’s not how it works. So the best news in this entire podcast is that their discomfort around your not drinking is not your business. That is something they need to handle and process and deal with on their own. You can certainly be kind and graceful about it. You can not rub it in their faces.

MU: 44:34 You can not be judgmental. You could not be preachy about how their life would be better if they chose not to drink. Again, I go back to the advice of staying in your own business and just do what you do for your highest interest, but also don’t take on this burden that is not yours to carry. I feel like that’s a really good place to leave this episode. I will continue to talk about this on social media in my XO M U newsletter and here on the podcast because as I have come to realize there are more and more of you every single day who are examining your relationship with alcohol and wondering what your life might be like without it. I would love to hear what you thought about this episode, the tip or trick that you’re going to employ in your life or whether this gives you the tools you need to take on your own I’m not drinking right now experiment.


Thanks for listening!

Continue the conversation with me @melissau on Instagram. If you have a question for Dear Melissa or a topic idea for the show, leave me a voicemail at (321) 209-1480.

Do the Thing is part of ‘The Onward Project,’ a family of podcasts brought together by Gretchen Rubin—all about how to make your life better.  Check out the other Onward Project podcasts — Happier with Gretchen Rubin, Side Hustle School, and Happier in Hollywood.

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