We have probably all been at a social event where we were pressured to drink alcohol when we didn’t want to. There are many reasons why we might choose not to drink alcohol but, regardless of the reason why, the social pressure can make it difficult to stay alcohol-free. It can be particularly difficult during big events such as New Year’s Eve, Christmas, Australia Day, birthdays and weddings.
Australia has a culture of heavy drinking; alcohol consumption is normalised as an everyday social activity and to celebrate big occasions. A 2019 poll by FARE Australia found that many Australians were drinking above recommended drinking levels, with 64% of respondents drinking to get drunk at least twice a week. Comedian Shaun Micallef examined Australia’s drinking culture in his popular TV Series On the Sauce which aired on SBS in 2020. He found that many people associated alcohol consumption with socialising and celebrating life’s milestones. For those who want to stay alcohol-free at social events – for life, for a period of time, or just for the night – the pressure to drink can derail all good intentions. But staying alcohol-free can be achieved with this list of helpful tips:
- Don’t go out – and do something else instead
This may be an overly-simplified suggestion, but for those who are in the situation where staying alcohol-free is especially important it may be worth considering not going to those events which you know will be alcohol-laden and doing something else instead.
Untoxicated and Meetup Australia offer some great alcohol-free events, and for those in rural or regional areas, Sober in the Country can link you with events. Alternatively, suggesting a catch up for fish and chips on the beach, a coffee or a different type of social activity can all be great alcohol-free options.
- Go with a backup person
Research shows that having a support person with you who is also abstaining from alcohol can help you to resist the social pressure to drink. Your back up person can be your partner, a friend, or even the host – just make sure that the person is as dedicated to staying sober as you are. For women who are pregnant, having a conversation with your partner before you attend the event can be especially helpful (see NOFASD’s blog for men supporting their partners for more).
- Take non-alcoholic beverages with you
In an ideal world, each event would cater for those who want to stay alcohol-free, but we all know that isn’t always the case. Sometimes water or soft drink options just don’t cut it – just because we don’t want to drink alcohol, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the same experiences that come with drinking – such as sipping from an expensive-looking glass with crazy garnishes or weird flavour concoctions that somehow work so well together. We can still have all of this without the alcohol, but we need to be prepared.
Here’s a list of some Australian online outlets and brands that sell amazing alcohol-free alternatives:
- Sans Drinks
- Craft Zero
- Clear Mind Non-Alcoholic European Beverages
- Etch Sparkling
- Lyres Non-Alcoholic Spirits
That’s right. At events and celebration, the desire to consume alcohol may increase as we desire the repetitive hand-to-mouth action that we associate with drinking alcohol. We can partially satisfy this behavioural need by eating the amazing food usually on offer at celebrations and events. By eating, you’re also getting your sugar fix which you usually get when drinking alcohol. This is your permission to go all out on the food so you can put away the alcohol.
- Book something the next morning
If you’re someone who struggles to say no, then it may be more difficult to resist peer pressure to drink alcohol. If you make plans with a good friend or family member the following morning then you’re less likely to drink alcohol the night before, in case you miss your morning plans.
Think about it: It’s New Year’s Eve and you really don’t want to drink. But your friends are putting some pressure on you, calling you ‘boring’ in the process. And you respond with – “I’m not drinking because I have a skydive booked in tomorrow at 9am”or “I’m going for a breakfast and beach date with my girlfriend and then we’re hitting the shops” or “I’m going on a holiday in (insert amazing resort location here) and we’re doing (list all the amazing things you’re going to do).” Who’s the boring person now hey? (You might even get them thinking about their own alcohol-fuelled plans that will probably leave them in bed the whole next day).
It can be difficult to stay alcohol-free at big events and celebrations, but standing up for what you really want to do is a powerful thing. You might be surprised at the support you get, or at the very least, you may start people thinking about their own alcohol habits. Saying no to alcohol is not only healthier for you (and your baby if you’re pregnant), but it helps others to say no to alcohol too.
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