{17/01/2013}   Socialising sober

It being January, some of my friends are abstaining from alcohol and I have realised that it’s really hard to think of places to meet up where alcohol is not the norm.  It seems a bit mean suggesting going out to a pub when you know your friend is struggling not to succumb to the temptation of alcohol, and likewise I feel mildly uncomfortable drinking, say, wine with a meal out while said friend is desperately trying not to stare longingly at my glass of wine.  So where on earth do you meet up?

I have one friend who doesn’t drink alcohol, indeed never has.  She’s not at all bothered where we meet up as she’s used to it so that’s easy.  But I have one friend who gave up alcohol for a month (or Lent, I can’t remember which) and she pretty much refused to meet up with anyone in that time.  I did manage to lure her out once by going to an alcohol-free Indian restaurant, though she did mention more than once that Indian food isn’t the same without beer.  So we drank our mango lassi and later revelled in the taste of the food, appreciated more without the taste and effects of beer.

It’s a shame that there seem to be few places to go of an evening where alcohol is not usually involved.  The cafe culture that has sprung up in the UK in recent years is great, but there are so few cafes open at night time that meeting up after work in a cafe is very unlikely to work out.  Americans have the right idea for it’s easy to go somewhere for a coffee at night time, indeed to a cafe rather than a bar that has a coffee machine.

It’s fine going to someone’s house for a meal but do you or don’t you join in their abstinence and what do you bring as a thank you?  If you’re drinking and you bring wine, I guess the implication is that you’ve brought your own drink, but that does seem a bit mean.  I prefer not to drink if it’s just me and one friend who isn’t drinking as I feel horribly aware that to them it’s obvious that the more I drink, the more pissed I come across, which is always a bit embarrassing, and I think everyone has at some point been sober in a room full of drunken people.  It’s amusing up to a point, though I do find a degree of sober smugness creeping in as it becomes increasingly apparent who is going to have a banging hangover the next day!

It annoys me that this is even a consideration, that so much of British socialising culture revolves around alcohol.  I have been the sober one on many occasions and sometimes I don’t mind going to a pub and drinking blackcurrant and soda (my non-alcoholic pub drink of choice as it’s usually cheap and there are few soft drinks for sale in pubs that interest me and which aren’t laden with sugar that just serves to perk me up a little too much ahead of bed time).  However, sometimes somewhere like a late-opening cafe would be much nicer, easier and conducive to conversation.

As for other places to go, there’s the cinema, but I don’t really see the point of going to the cinema to “socialise”; it’s all about the chatting.  Restaurants are ok, but as I mentioned previously people often associate meals out with a nice glass of wine or whatever.  What else is there?  I can’t imagine getting a great response, particularly at this time of year, suggesting to work colleagues at the end of the day, “Hey, anyone fancy going for a walk?”

So this year, so far I’ve not met up with any elective sobers; two I have asked have suggested we meet up in February.  Surely being sober does not mean you can’t have a social life?  But perhaps the answer to that lies in another issue, something along the lines of drinking alcohol for confidence, etc.  But as someone who hasn’t given up alcohol for January, I am quite enjoying drinking a fair bit less than normal, due in part to a queieter social life than normal!


My sober meet up of choice is meeting on a Saturday/Sunday afternoon for a trip to a gallery followed by tea and cake! (Didn’t we do that once at the British Museum?)

Day time is so much easier. Mmmm, tea and cake is so much better than beer and nuts! Ah, yes, we did once meet at the British Museum for a sober January meet up … quite some years ago!

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