I’m devoting this article to the art of going teetotal. The benefits of becoming teetotal are too numerous to list, and life without alcohol is a matter of mindset. I’ll do my best to convey how much fun the teetotal lifestyle can be. If you’ve landed here because you want to quit drinking alcohol and you’re wary of being ostracized, you’re in the right place.
Teetotal is a funny adjective. I like it more than the word sober. If you’re teetotal, you’re unique and you might confuse people who can’t imagine plodding through life without alcohol. That’s their problem; you have the right to be your own person.
Unlike many sober people, who see alcohol as a mischievous devil permanently perched on their shoulder, I see alcohol as a moot substance. It’s simply a waste of my time and vital energy. I drank alcoholically for a decade before quitting about three years ago.
Not only did I refuse to sacrifice my social life, I’ve had more fun these past three years as a teetotaler than I ever did as a drinker.
If you want to know what it takes to navigate modern society without drinking AND without sacrificing your fun, independence, and dignity, then read on.
I’m going to use some personal anecdotes to help me explain my strategies for going teetotal at dinners, parties, and weddings.
Dinners And Dates
I used to see dates, banquets and special occasions as excuses for getting hammered. This is a self-limiting mentality that even some non-alcoholics subscribe to. Going teetotal and sticking with your decision is much more fun than living in an alcoholic haze.
However, I did suffer from major alcohol cravings when I quit drinking. I remember not knowing whether it was possible for me to have fun without drinking.
Over time, I realized that the desire to drink, aside from the physical compulsion of alcoholics, is largely a social construct. We are not hardwired to want to drink, but we are hardwired to want to enjoy the company of other people. My past belief that it was impossible to enjoy dates and dinners without alcohol was a myth, and I was the only one who could refute it for myself.
When you’re out with a small to medium sized group of people, the fun you have while teetotaling will depend on three things:
The bad news is that it’s hard to have fun with a rude date or a group of boring people. I used to work with number crunchers who happened to be extremely bland. Their idea of a good time was to go out to go to a club and finish a few bottles of vodka while barely talking to each other.
People say that alcohol makes other people more interesting. In reality, it makes drinkers self-satisfied and easily entertained by boring things. This is not an ideal state of mind for special occasions, which are best spent with people whom you find genuinely uplifting and interesting. The only total solution is to take total control of your life so that you don’t have to spend your leisure time with people who aren’t worth your time.
The good news is that with practice, you can improve your own energy levels and sociability to almost make up for being out with a bland group of people. I work out before going on dates so that my endorphins are flowing by the time I arrive. I’ve seen wit, charm, and humor on the part of one individual transform a dead dinner into raucous cascades of laughter.
Reading self-improvement blogs and books can help you devise strategies to increase your energy and sociability. Learning NLP can also be very useful for controlling your emotions and influencing other people.
Also, some people who seem boring at first are simply reluctant to open up. Try to see this as a challenge you can solve rather than an intractable problem. Shortly after I quit drinking, I spent some time with a great girl who was very shy. She used alcohol to loosen up for the first few dates. After she became comfortable around me, she told me that she thought it was refreshing that I don’t drink. She then stopped drinking around me – not for my sake, but for her own. We went on bike rides, walks in the park, and went to small parties in which all of our friends knew that I didn’t drink.
I have a good friend who entertains clients at boozy dinners as part of his managerial duties. He’s recently quit drinking, which is a difficult feat in such a position. As he gets further away from alcohol, I think he’ll begin to see that people silently respect him for teetotaling. If you’re in a similar position, there are a few other strategies that can help:
For the past several years, I’ve been upfront about my teetotaling before going on dates. (I don’t say that I teetotal; most people have no idea what the word means.) Out of dozens of coffee dates and even bar dates, only 4 girls have refused to meet me because I don’t drink. Somehow, girls who have turned out to be the heaviest drinkers have admired my teetotaling the most: “I wish I could do it / I don’t know how you do it!” is a very common response when I tell them I don’t drink.
With that said, I’ve been surprised at how many people actually prefer not to drink on dates. It seems like every other girl out there has an alcoholic ex-boyfriend who she’s relieved to be rid of.
To be clear, I don’t make any excuses for why I don’t drink – unless I’m temporarily trapped with a belligerent drunk, which has happened once in three years. I simply say that I used to drink too much, so I quit, and now my life is much more enjoyable. I make clear that this was my personal decision and I don’t judge anyone who drinks. 99% of people will respect you if you’ve given up alcohol because you once had a problem, as long as you don’t preach about it.
Parties and Weddings
The strategies I discussed above also work for going teetotal at larger parties and weddings. There are a few key differences from smaller gatherings and intimate dates, in my experience:
- If you’re genuinely close to whoever is throwing the big party or wedding, it will be a blast because you have something to celebrate with people you actually care about.
- If you’re a guest or you simply don’t click with the people present, there’s nothing wrong with simply making an appearance and leaving early.
- All of your friends lining up for tequila shots at the wedding party bar can be frustrating or a funny spectacle, depending on how you choose to frame it.
- Drunk conversations between strangers that happen after midnight are rarely worth sticking around for; you’re not missing out by going home and sleeping.
- If you’re having fun but getting tired, most bars serve coffee – I met up with some great friends last NYE and was able to stay conversational until 2 AM this way.
I had a hard time with sudden alcohol cravings for months after I gave up alcohol. It wasn’t that I needed alcohol, it was that my body wanted sugar, didn’t have enough magnesium to feel relaxed, didn’t get enough sunlight (vitamin D), and my brain didn’t produce enough serotonin and dopamine. At a wedding only a few months after I quit drinking, it was tough for me to sit there feeling mildly subpar while my friends laughed over shots. This moment soon passed though, and I had a great time at the rest of the wedding because I was with great people.
My alcohol cravings went away because I tackled my nutrition proactively. I also ramped up my workouts until my physique became a point of pride. Eventually, my fitness level morphed into an unintended conversation piece when I met up with old friends. Not only do I not feel cravings anymore, but I don’t want to contaminate my hard won progress.
It might sound arrogant, but these days I often suspect that people who drink around me are trying to get on my level of well-being. I don’t judge them or pity them; they have the right to do whatever makes them feel good. I used to drink more than all of them and I ruined my body for years. My priority is to enjoy being fit and feeling great. If other people want to drink, that’s their business, but I’ve been there and done that. On to new things!
Alternatives To Alcohol
While I’m totally in favor of going teetotal, I’m not one to preach against mind-alteration. I use meditation, breathing techniques and exercise to alter my state of mind almost every day. There are also a number of supplements, herbs and drugs that are much safer than alcohol.
I don’t recommend that you use all of them recreationally, but they are worth knowing about in case they can enhance your quality of life. I have mixed views on prescription drugs, which I think are overused but useful in specific circumstances.
Below is a list of mood-enhancing substances that are safer than alcohol. I’m not a doctor, so none of this is medical advice. Consult with a medical professional before trying anything new.
Going teetotal is far from the end of the world. You can navigate the social dilemmas posed by not drinking in a culture obsessed with alcohol. Most importantly, you may just discover some new ways to enhance your personality and your health.
Your most memorable experiences will have very little to do with the amount of alcohol present. One thing I’ve learned since I quit drinking is that great times stand out more in my memory. On many of these occasions, other people were drinking and I was not.
Moreover, my own teetotaling never stands out as my defining memory of these events. I remember great conversations, friendly faces, positive vibes, and the ambiance or scenery of whatever the venues were. I’m glad that I didn’t avoid my long-time friends just because I’d quit drinking. I naturally fell out of touch with the few friends I had who were simply alcoholic drinking buddies.
I also remind myself that alcohol doesn’t have a monopoly on mind-alteration. A great workout creates endorphins for hours. Eating healthy food improves your energy levels. If you’re anxious, tired, or depressed, look into nutritional supplements that can repair your physiology. If you still can’t seem to feel your best without alcohol, don’t give up! Something on the list in the previous section, or elsewhere on this website, may be able to help you.
People often ask me if I still take all of the supplements I’ve written about on this site. The answer is that I only take supplements as needed, or to assess their effects for an article. Luckily, I haven’t needed anything for alcohol withdrawal or PAWS in a long time!
If you have any questions about this guide to going teetotal, please leave them in the comment box below.