Picture this: You are at a party, and you either do not drink or you know you have passed your limit and you need to stop or slow way down for the night. Unfortunately, it’s a traditionally heavy drinking night (St. Patrick’s Day, Superbowl Sunday, or the infamous “Blackout Wednesday”), and everyone around you in downing shots like it’s the only way to get to the next day, and they don’t want you to “be a party pooper”. I’m sure we have all been there, with varying degrees of success. But what now? What can you do to please your friends and still enjoy the party without getting too crazy? 

Here are a few tricks I have used in the past, and an ideal situation which I have been blessed with during my journey through sobriety.

First is the “open can” technique. As long as you have a drink in your hand, most of the time your peers will assume you are drinking it. I mean, who would carry something around and not use it? This isn’t the greatest technique by itself, since I have been in many situations where people will challenge you to “chug with them” or complain that your can is still full. To improve this technique, go to the bathroom/sink, pour out the beer, and fill it with water. Now you can freely drink and stay responsible! And besides, drunk people always need to go to the bathroom, so no one will find it suspicious that you keep going to the bathroom whenever your drink is empty Now for the sake of completeness there is the “Red Solo Cup variation”, but this has limited use unless you have the ability to make the drinks on your own. Just fill it up with the chasers available, skip the alcohol. If you put a lime or lemon and a bunch of ice in your cup, most people assume there is alcohol in it, even if it looks like water

Next is the classic “I have to wake up early” technique. As you may be able to guess, people like to drink less when they have important things to do the next day, especially if that activity must be done before noon. As mad as people might get at you initially by telling them you have to wake up for an important activity tomorrow, typically they feel for you and will just be happy that you are still with them and losing sleep with them. Common excuses include work, family coming in from out of town, group project for a class, etc. Warning: If you have very persistent friends/peers, or are easily persuaded like I am, this doesn’t always work. 

Finally, the best way to avoid these awkward situations is to surround yourself with people who aren’t pushy and respect your decisions. This is definitely an ideal situation, and one that I have found myself in recently. If you are open from the beginning about your intentions for the night (or the year, in my instance), in my experience good friends will stand behind your decision, and they may even help you with the awkward encounters with the very pushy people at the party. This happened to me more recently while watching the Superbowl this year at a party back home. I was the youngest person in the group, and only a few people there had none that I had decided to do a sober year. Every touchdown, someone passed out Jell-O shots to everyone at the party. Luckily, they are easy to hide, so I was accumulating a nice pile or passing them off to my friends (which isn’t the greatest idea, since now that person is “drinking for two people”). Eventually, I got super embarrassed and just told everyone that I wasn’t drinking this year and to not bother with handing me any alcohol that night. Since this was the first time seeing most of these people while I was sober in a long time, I was expecting some huge backlash from people. But boy was I surprised when everyone started praising me for my “bravery” and apologizing for trying to pressure me. This was the first time that people at a party actually tried to make me feel better for not participating in the debauchery of the night! I’ve realized that there is no point in being friends with people who pressure you to do things that you aren’t comfortable doing, and I would encourage everyone to try and seek put people like those at my party. It may be hard at first if you are very bad with social pressure like I am, but the rewards far exceed anything else that may happen from being pressured to drink more than you are comfortable.