In a recent article published in the health supplement in the Irish Times, I spoke about my experience socialising without alcohol. I occasionally drink alcohol and enjoy a good glass of wine with a nice meal out, however, for the most part my socialising does not involve alcohol. The Irish Times article "Christmas Cheer without the Beer" can be found here:
I maintain a very balanced, non-judgemental view towards alcohol and have no issue with people drinking. In my work as a psychotherapist, I support and witness people as they bring about healing in many aspects of their lives – emotionally, physically, spiritually, in their relationships and with their mental health. I work holistically and believe if I am to support people in this fashion, I myself must adopt a holistic approach in my own life and wellbeing and regularly consuming alcohol is not, for me, consistent with holistic wellbeing.
Some people believe there is no alternative to socialising outside of a pub or nightclub and can struggle to engage socially without alcohol to boost their confidence. I believe differently - my experience is that we now have more choice available to us and it is possible to build confidence to engage socially without drinking. World-class stadiums, concert arenas, theaters, cinemas and holistic centers provide alternative socialising possibilities. There are many cultural and music festivals around the country and while many of these events promote alcohol, the entertainment can be enjoyed without it. I do, however, understand that it is difficult to choose to stay sober and I am aware of the challenges that it can bring up for people. It took time for me to build the confidence to socialise without alcohol - I developed my self-confidence over time and am now more content and accepting of myself just the way I am so I don’t need it to release inhibitions or give me courage to engage with people.
Our relationship with alcohol is a very individual and personal one and for many it does not pose any problem or complication in day-to-day living. However, for some people, this is not the case. I come very close to witnessing the emotional, psychological, physical an financial fallout from alcohol abuse and alcoholism in my work and my experience tells me that where there is an unhealthy relationship with alcohol there is also an absence of meaningful relationships. If alcohol is an inherent part of a relationship it can hinder the deepening of that relationship into meaningful one. I encourage anyone who is concerned about their relationship with alcohol to seek the help and support that can be offered through counselling and psychotherapy.
For those who would like engage socially without alcohol, I would recommend that you take time to explore the many different ways of socializing to find social events and activities that you enjoy and that do not revolve entirely around drinking. Dont give up if the first couple of attempts are not satisfying - not all alcohol free social scenes are suited to all people and it does take time to find the right places for you! It takes a little courage to venture out into these places but by getting out there and trying different things you might discover hobbies and interests that you were not even aware of. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that you enjoy doing other things and may then meet someone who shares the same interest. I believe that when we are involved in something that we really enjoy then we are more likely to feel at ease in being ourselves without the need for alcohol. Social scenes without alcohol in their nature are inclusive so its absolutely fine to go there alone – you will very quickly meet new people and start to recognize familiar faces!
If you find you need alcohol to help you feel more physically at ease, I encourage you to persue activities that involve becoming more attuned to your physical body like yoga, ecstatic dance, mindfulness and meditation. Such activities can really help you to feel more comfortable and confident within your body which can lead to having more confidence in physical relationships and intimacy.
For those who struggle with low confidence, self-esteem, image, identity and intimacy issues and particularly those who have or are developing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, I encourage you to speak with a therapist who can support and help you work through these difficulties. Therapy provides a supportive, caring and confidential environment in which to explore the obstacles that prevent you from moving forward with your life.
Finally, know that you do have choice and can foster a healthy balance between socializing with and without alcohol.