Almost a year ago I decided to take the plunge and see what life would be like alcohol free. Fast forward 334 days and life’s never been better. Within that almost-year, I’ve landed myself a book deal, got a promotion, am about to buy a house, have lost weight, my relationship is thriving, I have healthier skin and hair, and I’ve started my own business. So, I’ve achieved a lot. But as some friends recently asked me, without booze, has life become less fun?
And after all, what is more fun, than a wedding with a free bar? Or the perfect excuse to let loose at a stag or hen do with your closest friends? When I tell people I don’t drink anymore, weddings and their related events are usually the only occasions that receive the ‘oh well that’s no fun’ reaction.
Yet in my alcohol-free year, I’ve spent four weddings and three hen do’s without a drop of the strong stuff – and I danced at every single one. I know, I wouldn’t have thought it possible myself eighteen months ago, but here I am, as I said, happier than ever… So, regardless of all the wonderful things going alcohol free can help us to achieve, as wedding season approaches, what words of advice can I give you to get through your first wedding, or even hen or stag do alcohol free, and have fun too?
Why did I choose to drink?
My first tip, is to understand why you want to, or why you used to drink at these events. Ask, ‘why do I want to drink at weddings?’ Is it to have fun? Or another reason?
If your initial answer is to have fun, delve a little deeper – why are weddings and stags/hens more fun with alcohol? Maybe, when you look closer, you might discover that there is a reason why it makes the event more fun for you. Is it just because you always have had fun drinking at weddings? Or perhaps you love the excuse to let your hair down and feel that alcohol helps you do that?
Or maybe, (it’s OK, be honest) you use alcohol to get through it. Weddings aren’t always fun affairs for everyone – if you experience social anxiety in large groups or you have just come out of a relationship, weddings can be tough. Likewise, hen and stag do’s can be socially intense, especially if you don’t know everyone attending, and so we often use alcohol to help us get through the awkwardness, the boredom, even the heartache.
You might drink alcohol at weddings for all three of these reasons at once, or at different times – or for any number of other reasons. It doesn’t really matter why you drink, but understanding your why can help you approach wedding season with a consciously created game plan, rather than an unconscious approach which can lead to more reactive responses to the difficult moments where you encounter temptation, or the pull of old habitual behaviours.
If you are finding this tough, spend some time journaling around the question: ‘I drink at weddings because…’.
Have a Game Plan
Once you’ve identified why it is you want to drink at weddings and hen dos, you can come up with a game plan as to what you need to do to get through them without it.
If you drink at weddings, hen and stags because you simply always have, can you decide on a new go-to alcohol-free drink that still makes you feel included in the festivities? Alcohol free beer, or aromatic tonic water garnished with a slice of grapefruit (my go-to). What will make you feel like you are involved, celebrating, and give you that sense of ‘party’ atmosphere?
If you love the excuse to let your hair down, think about how else can you enjoy the event? Is it possible to approach the event as an experiment – how much fun you can have without alcohol? You might surprise yourself! Dancing, catching up with friends, hen and stag activities are all still enjoyable without booze, and I’ve found once you allow yourself to try, you realise that alcohol isn’t the all-singing, all-dancing fun machine you thought it was.
Failing that, think about the fun you’ll miss out on the next day if you have a hangover. If I look around me at everyone having fun and ever feel like I’m missing out, I remind myself that tomorrow won’t be much fun with a hangover.
Remember to look out for yourself
And if you use alcohol to ‘get through’ an event you think won’t particularly enjoy, how can you take steps to look after yourself before and while you are there? This might mean taking time out for some solitude or quiet time during the event. It might mean going for only as long as you know you’ll have fun for. Or perhaps it means supplementing your experience with something that helps you to deal with it emotionally, perhaps meditation, or even Bach’s Flower Remedies. I like to take Australian Bush Flower Essences ‘Calm and Clear’ remedy – I put a few drops into my tonic water and it instantly gives me that intention of ‘calm and clear’ with every sip.
Get creative, plan ahead and think about what you need not only to have fun, but also take care of your mental wellbeing, so that you feel comfortable and confident without the help of alcohol.