What To Drink When You’re Not Drinking

As I’ve said in previous posts, I don’t drink. I quit 3.5 years ago when it became perfectly obvious that the negatives quite heavily outweighed the positives, and I haven’t looked back.

There’s a fear there, in today’s society, about what it will be like to be the person who doesn’t drink. What that will look like to others. What they’ll think of you for it. What it’ll do to your social life, friendships, etc.

It seems silly to me now, that those things would have even be on my mind when thinking about giving up alcohol. But the fact remains that drinking has become such a ubiquitous part of life, popular culture, and social scenes, you can’t help but wonder what happens when you abstain.

The fact is, though, that those things don’t need to be worries. Life, it turns out, continues on just fine. You’ll just have to walk into those same situations you used to be in, where having a drink (or many) seems like a requirement, with a plan.

My main goal, the plan I employ, is to have a few beverages in mind that I could have that fit the situation or suit my needs. Here’s how I approach the usual situations.

Out to dinner

For a regular meal out with the family, I’m likely to go with a water if I’m eating healthy, or a soda if I’m eating some kind of bar food or pizza. I’m not much for cold teas, but those are very good options as well.

If I’m out to a nice meal, I like to have something other than the above. I’ll occasionally have an NA beer if the restaurant has something on hand that seems worth having. Since this is unusual, my main fallback is tonic and lime or a mint tea if it’s available.

After dinner, I’ll sometimes go with a nice coffee, tea, or cappuccino if that’s available. Otherwise I’ll just stick to whatever I was having with the meal.

At a bar

It’s inevitable that, unless you plan to forgo the situations where the main point is social drinking (a decision I respect and cannot find fault in), you’ll find yourself at a bar.

If it’s a dive bar, you’re probably not going to have a lot of options. If it’s a nicer place with someone behind the bar who cares about more than selling a thousand American lagers, you’re likely to have more options.

In either situation, if you’d like to keep the focus off of what’s in your glass, the tonic and lime remains a good choice as it is indistinguishable from a gin and tonic. This is my go-to. I’ve also had some luck at nicer places with some more craft-type soft drinks like ginger beer, a personal favorite.

There’s the perfectly acceptable “virgin” options for a lot of favorites, too, if you fancy that kind of thing.

A party

These may be the toughest situations to be in. As a parent whose friends are almost all parents as well, I don’t find myself in this situation often, but there are plenty of parties where the expressed intent is to drink and to get drunk.

Your best bet here is not to assume what will be available, and to bring something with you that fits your plan, whatever that is. The other option is to avoid these parties altogether, especially if you’re worried about being pressured.

End of the day/night cap

As an adult, with all the various responsibilities and stresses that pound at you throughout the day, the evening seems like one of the most obvious times to pour yourself a drink. It’s your time to unwind, relax, and get ready to get some sleep.

There are two great options in this situation, each for their own reason.

First is water. If you’re like me, you’ve inevitably spent the day drinking caffeinated beverages – I’ll take all the coffee, thanks – or getting caught up in life and drinking nothing at all. In the time between dinner and bed, I like to get myself back on track and hydrate a bit. It’s good for piece of mind, as well as just being generally supportive of your overall well-being.

Second is herbal tea. There are so many options to choose from, you’re bound to find something you like. A personal favorite is Yogi Kava Stress Relief tea. If what you’re looking for out of your evening beverage is to take a little edge off what your day threw at you, this is a perfect substitute.


If you’ve ever wondered to yourself whether your alcohol consumption is a problem, my suggestion is to give it up now, and for good. There’s just no sense playing with fire, the cost/benefit is not in your favor.

If you’re looking for a good resolution for the coming new year, even just for 30 days (a nice round number), or feel like it’s time for a change, give this a shot.

Lastly, if you’re worried about the questions you’ll have to answer from friends and family, I’ve found that saying “I don’t drink” tends to put an end to the conversation and everyone can just move on. “I’m not drinking” sounds like a temporary situation and will invite more conversation and pressuring.

Here’s to your new year, I hope you make it your best yet.

Accountability Self Improvement


2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Mate very timely for me. I’ve decided to give up alcohol entirely for 2018. It was a big decision and I’ve been thinking about all the things you brought up in this blog, particularly the social drinking element. My first big test will be a mate’s birthday party this Friday night. I also have my 40th birthday in April, so that will be particularly tough, given it’s a milestone birthday. The idea of me not drinking is probably even more alien to my friends than to me!

    Good on you for giving it up though. Hearing how easily you’ve done it gives me hope. Thanks for sharing!


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