The holiday season is upon us, which means holiday parties. There’s a sort of compulsory or forced quality to the cheer; the holidays are supposed to be fun and you full of joy. But this is not the case for many people who find the holidays challenging. Whether with family, friends, or co-workers, holiday parties present challenges to people who do not drink. People don’t drink for all sorts of reasons (substance use disorder, health concerns, religious prohibitions, history of bad experiences with people who do drink, solidarity with others who don’t drink, etc). Navigating these parties may feel like crossing a landscape populated with monsters from your worst nightmares. Most often there will be someone who offers you a drink and in response to your polite refusal, pushes you harder and starts asking why you don’t drink. This can become quite awkward quickly. On the one hand, you may not want to answer honestly if you have a strong sense that it is nobody’s business or that you will be outing yourself with your answer somehow held against you. On the other hand, you may not want to lie because that goes against your grain.
Work parties are vexing because of all the unstated but still understood expectations for being social and a good team player. You may worry that people will interpret your not drinking as a kind of disapproval of their drinking. Or you may be charged with ruining the fun. Family parties can be vexing because of long histories and well established dynamics. You may worry about being regarded as the kill joy or even worse, as a traitor to the family. As much as you might like to skip these parties, doing so may come at too great a cost. Caught between a rock and a hard place, you decide to attend the gathering. The goal is to get through it with the least amount of discomfort.
It may seem strange to consider, but it is always a good idea to have a strategy when you go to a party where there will be alcohol. Work parties are an extension of the work place. Being with family is emotional and social labor; it is work. Any goal is best met with a strategy; the goal of getting through the party is no exception. These strategies combined with some ready-at-hand lines can deflect and defuse a situation. Some tried and true suggestions:
Tis the season to survive the holiday parties.