How Do You Feel about the Pubs Reopening?

The pubs are opening again! Yay! Or is it? If you’ve been cutting down or taking a break from drinking during lockdown, what’s your immediate reaction – deep down? Do you need to consider boundary setting for sober socialising in pubs?

I’m sure we all want somewhere different to go to socialise! But are you newly sober and not sure how sober socialising at the pub is going to affect you? Are you desperate to get back in there to see your mates?  Or are you feeling overwhelmed at the thought of having to socialise amongst lots of people drinking post lockdown?

The reason I ask this is to put a bit of perspective on what you actually want to get out of going to the pub. They’re a real British Institution! Well, it was actually the Romans who first introduced shops that sold wine alongside Roman roads and in towns to help quench the thirst of their troops. These shops known as tabernae evolved into the places to drink ale and beer that we recognise now as pubs. Ale and beer have always formed a part of the staple British diet, as the brewing process made it a much safer option than drinking the water back then. Of course the percentage of alcohol in the ale was a lot lower, generally less than 3%.

Feeling Overwhelm

Coming out of Lockdown and going back into pubs could be quite overwhelming if you’ve recently cut down or stopped drinking. And even if you’ve been sober for a few years, like I have, the thought of being surrounded by people getting excited at the return to pubs drinking way too much is actually pretty scary when it hasn’t happened for ages.

Back when I was drinking, I don’t think I ever went to the pub for ‘just 1 or 2’. For me, once I had the first 1 or 2, I’d want 3 or 4 or more… and then I’d forget that the reason we meet in the pub is to be sociable – it became about the next drink not the people around me. So in the back of my mind, I still have an association with pubs and getting drunk.

This is quite common if you’ve stopped drinking and it can lead to feeling nervous or anxious about going there. So what you can you do to help overcome this fear and overwhelm for sober socialising in pubs?

Why do we go to Pubs?

Firstly, understand why you want to go to the pub. Remember, going to the pub is about more than the alcohol – it’s about socialising with our friends and families. It’s about meeting up, celebrating, enjoying food together, sharing stories and being part of a community. For example, what about ‘your local’? Your local is the place where you might meet your local friends for a quick catch up on a Friday night. Or maybe you pop in with your partner and your dog to connect with others in your community, perhaps meet once a week down there. It’s sometimes a place where the lonely can go to be able to meet others from their neighbourhood too.

So I don’t have a problem with ‘pubs’.  The problem comes when the drinking starts to get excessive, and behaviour begins to get out of hand. When the presence of groups get way too loud, when individuals begin to turn their drunken attention towards you and your friends uninvited, or when ‘friends’ insist and try to persuade you that you should be drinking too. I’m sure we can all relate to remembered experiences of one or more of these! In fact I get pretty cross about this and wrote a bit of a rant in one of blogs here!

So what do you do when you want to socialise but you don’t want to drink and you don’t want to feel uncomfortable? When all your mates are off to the pub and they’d love to see you, and you them, but you’re afraid of what might happen?

Boundary Setting for Sober Socialising in Pubs

You need to put some boundary setting in place for yourself so you can socialise in the pub without being anxious of the outcome. And you need to be clear on what you want from your outing. Your number one priority is you. You have to look after yourself first and foremost so you absolutely must put yourself and your needs first.

Get prepared in advance – here’s my top 5 tips for boundary setting when newly sober socialising:

1 Know who you’re meeting. That sounds pretty obvious but actually, are you meeting people who you know will want you to drink? Or are you meeting people who are happy to see you whatever? You can think of this like a traffic light system. Red – The people who put pressure on you and ‘don’t get the sober thing’. Amber – Not quite so in your face as Red, but still don’t really understand. Green – supportive, cheerleading friends and family. If your in early days of sobriety, the stay clear of the red and possibly the amber too. Confide in a close friend or relation who’s going to be there that you aren’t going to be drinking and why. If you’re feeling a bit pressured or uncomfortable, maybe you could have a secret signal so you can pop out with them for a bit of reassurance?

2. We can expend a lot of our energy trying to explain to the wrong people why we’re not drinking. If you’re uncomfortable with your friends knowing you’re not drinking, have a number of simple reasons that don’t need much explanation if you want to keep your reasons private. Maybe you’re on a health challenge, not feeling up to it, driving… Tell them you’ll buy your own drinks too. That way you can keep what you’re drinking private if you want to. They probably won’t even notice what’s in your glass doesn’t have a spirit in your tonic, or alcohol in your beer.

3. Have a reason to leave when you feel like you want to. There’s no point staying late into the night if your crowd has started to move slightly over the line, are beginning to repeat themselves, or getting a bit too loud… Perhaps you have to be up early the next morning, pick someone up, you’re driving? Get you exit plan sorted before you go. And if all else fails, you can do a ‘French exit’ – just quietly slip away.

4. Throughout your social, visualise a ‘boundary’ around you like a bubble of protection. Give the bubble colours, give it a texture, notice what temperature it is. Know that it’s their for you and if you feel pressure on it from the outside, then perhaps it’s time for you to leave. Don’t wait until your bubble gets popped!

5. We’re wired to want to fit in with ‘the tribe’ and not stand out. But it’s also important that we keep to our intentions and values. We can’t please everyone and to be honest, it might be that your ‘tribe’ changes as you change too. The friends that you only socialise with over a lot of drinks may find it difficult to accept a new sober you, although most probably, you’ll realise that you were the one drinking the most and they actually don’t mind!  Your true friends will always be true though. They’ll support and cheer you on through any positive changes, especially giving up drinking.

And a last tip from me that I learnt from someone else ages ago -when you’re off on a night out, and you’re not sure how it will go, get yourself a real treat ready for when you get back. What could be better than getting into a nice clean, freshly made bed!

Anne x

P. S. Don’t forget to download of a copy of my Guide “10 First Steps You Can Take in 15 mins to break the Drinking Cycle” – link below. And if you’re struggling, please reach out to see how I can help – you can book a free Discovery Call by emailing me at anne@discoveringsobriety.com

10 First Steps you can take in 15 mins to break the drinking cycle