As part of our New Year’s resolution to live healthier this year, many of us choose to forego alcohol for the month of January in a phenomenon known as Dry January.
Among its many health benefits, the choice to abstain from alcohol has been shown to lead to better sleep and better immune systems overall. But our road toward good intentions is paved with obstacles at the office, such as happy hours, networking events, and our friendly coworker inviting us to be their drinking buddy.
To stay firm to our resolution, we need to learn how to navigate the inevitable temptations to drink. Here’s how.
Try no excuses
You do not have to go into a long defense of your decision when you are put into situations where drinks are available. Politely but firmly decline when a bartender or colleague offers you a drink. Then move on.
Bobby Coffey, founding member of the DC Recovery Community Alliance, recommends visualizing the social situation and how you will respond before it starts: “Imagine the different direct ways you will be offered alcohol and say ‘no’ to each of those before you even leave the house. You may be surprised at just how hard it is for you to say ‘no’ and also surprised at how easy it is for people to just accept ‘no’ and move on.”
Try enlisting allies
Your “no” should be enough to stop drinks from being offered, but if you find yourself still tempted, enlist reinforcements in your work allies. Tell your trusted colleagues that you are embarking on a Dry January and have them attend events with you.
Coffey says you can “ask them to step in with a distraction if your ‘no’ is starting to waver.”
You can try brushing off unwanted attention with humor as your defense.
“I tell people I’m pregnant,” a male Wall Street trader told the New York Times about how he deflects inquiries from curious colleagues about his sobriety.
Some of us work in cultures where drinking at work is acceptable and beers are in our office fridges. Some of us may even work in cultures where not drinking may be seen as a sign that we are not a good cultural fit for the workplace. Holding a non-alcoholic beverage that looks like alcohol is one solution to warding off unwanted questions about our personal decision in public work situations.
“The truth is people generally don’t notice what you are drinking. A club soda with a lime looks exactly the same as a gin and tonic. In fact pretty much any soda in a short glass with a cocktail straw looks like a mixed drink. And most bartenders can whip up a good mocktail,” Tara Cottrell, co-author of Buddha’s Diet: The Ancient Art of Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind, told The Globe and Mail. “Is it ridiculous to pretend to be drinking when you don’t actually want to drink? Maybe. But as you try this way of socializing, it may help ease the transition.”
If you don’t feel like explaining your Dry January, don’t. Hold your seltzer in a fancy glass and continue to nod along to your colleague explaining their vacation to you. If a perceptive colleague asks you why you’re not drinking, you don’t need to explain yourself, but you can hold up your seltzer with a wry, “Pacing myself,” as one writer advises.
The bottom line
Whether you are abstaining from alcohol for your religion, health, or for other personal preferences, recognize that you don’t need to justify or explain your decision to your coworkers. Your success should not depend on your ability to crush beers with coworkers, and if it does, then the problem lies with your workplace, not you. Drink up your tea, water, and mocktails and enjoy!