Dear Reluctant Teetotaler

“Dear Reluctant Teetotaler,

I have to go to a party this weekend and I am not sure what to do?

Yours in teetotaling solidarity,

A fellow traveler”

First, as discerning drinkers, we need to be aware that whatever beverages are available at any party, they may not be our ideal, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. So the my first recommendation is to do exactly as you would do if you were drinking alcohol: Bring Your Own Beverage

Bring enough tasty beverage for yourself, some to share, and, (if you think they’d enjoy it,) leave whatever is leftover with your hosts. (If you don’t think they’d enjoy it, feel free to recover the leftovers and take them home with you.)

However, your larger question may be, “Help! I have to go to a work party! I hate small talk. I can’t stand my coworkers! I can’t imagine going without drinking myself into a coma. Everyone else will be drinking! What should I do?”

Well, yes. The easiest answer, if you truly think attending this party will trigger some sort of alcoholic episode, is to make an excuse, (cat’s sick, family emergency, no sitter for kids, transport problems, &c.) and not go. Attend a meeting, if you have to. I hear meetings can help.

However, if you must, or really want to attend said party, perhaps some hints are in order.

First off, aside from the alleged therapeutic and psychoactive benefits of booze, mostly, in social situations, it is just something to do while you’re not talking. Occupy your hands, take a sip with your lips. Maybe you can avoid making a funny face, or exclaiming out loud in dismay, while your neighbor posits a horrible theory regarding the nature of human existence.

Alcoholic Beverage is, essentially, a PROP.

So, the first thing you need to do, is to get yourself a decoy prop, because there is nothing sadder than the clunk of a plastic water bottle or empty hands when someone is making a toast.

So, rocks glass with soda water, bitters, and a twist. Who could tell you weren’t drinking an old fashioned. Perfect. Tall glass of tonic or soda with a lime or lemon wedge. Why it might be a Gin and Tonic or a Tom Collins. Personally, I like a mix of Knudsen’s Just Cranberry, Cloudy Apple Juice, and a little water or soda in a wine glass. If you get the mix right, it looks, and pretty much tastes, like a glass of wine. Well, better than most non-alcoholic wine, anyway. It took almost 3 dinner parties until my in-laws noticed the color was a bit off from their Zinfandel and ask if I wasn’t drinking.

Alternatively, you can carry around a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail and just NOT drink it. The old skill of many a bartender. To appear to be drinking, while you are, in fact, not. At one of my jobs, we used to give a hard time to one of the managers (*cough*Trevor*cough*) for leaving full bottles of beer all over the restaurant every night while pretending to drink with his friends. Now, however, I admire the skill with which he carried non-drinking of alcoholic beverages off. Only the few of us who knew him pretty well even noticed. However, this is a bit of a slippery slope, especially if you forget you’re carrying a loaded drink.

Most importantly, let’s get back to the idea that drinking is really just “something to do”. Strip it of its ritual meaning and associations, just let them go, and suddenly drinking loses much of its power over you.

If you’re going to a party and aren’t going to drink, the best thing to do is to find something else to do!

Help out in the kitchen, I’m sure they’ll appreciate some sober help. Volunteer ahead for different duties, since you know you won’t be drinking. Can you bring a punch? Heck, if you know how, make drinks for other people. The bartender is supposed to be sober, or at least less drunk than the other people. Or make a game of finding an interesting person to talk to. As a sober person, you have a certain advantage!

But most of all, try to find some way to have fun or at least be occupied.

Parties are supposed to be fun and no one wants you staring at them, sad and mopey because you don’t have a drink.

Get over yourself.

(OK, this note is really just to myself…)