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Warm weather and summertime beckon outdoor parties. The days are long and many hosts enjoy coming up with unique and delicious cocktails to entice their guests and quench their thirst in the heat. This can be fun and festive for those who are able to sip on one or two drinks throughout the evening and then call it quits. However, for people who are trying to stay away from alcohol, summertime parties can sometimes be intimidating. What are the best strategies to maneuver around the alcohol without calling attention to oneself ? How often have you heard, “have a drink and relax!” Explaining that you are fine without alcohol and are relaxed can get old and become your topic of conversation for the evening. Some individuals may not even feel comfortable divulging the information that they are recovering alcoholics. Therefore, having a game plan prior to attending the function is extremely helpful.

To start with, stay away from the bar. This is where you will find it most difficult to avoid other drinkers. So, either have someone you trust go get you a non-alcoholic drink or go up to the bar yourself, place your order and then go mingle across the yard or room. Try to keep a drink in hand so the hosts don’t feel obligated to push their “tastey” alcoholic beverages on you.

If you don’t want to have to explain yourself, don’t hold a can of soda, but something that looks like it could be a cocktail. Specifically, have your drink poured into a cup. This will make it less obvious and other guests will be less likely to question why you aren’t drinking an alcoholic beverage.

Be ready to turn down a drink if someone is being pushy. Look at the person directly in the eye and be firm by saying “no thank you. But, I would like a Perrier” or whatever it is you would enjoy. If you don’t want to come right out and say that you are a recovering alcoholic trying to stay on the wagon, than tell them you are the designated driver for the night.

Focus on socializing and catching up with friends. Get involved in conversations so you aren’t thinking about alcohol. Dance, play croquet, badminton, or any other games that are offered. Keeping busy will also keep you from thinking about or desiring an alcoholic beverage. Attending with or finding a sober friend at the party is also helpful and will make you feel more comfortable throughout the evening as others are beginning to become drunk and less tactful.

Lastly, be sure to have a well thought out escape plan. If it all becomes too much and you are thinking about having “just one” than leave! Tell people you have to be up early the next morning, pretend to take an important call on your cell phone and explain that you have to go help someone - anything it takes to get you away gracefully. Do not cave! It is absolutely not worth it. At the end of the evening, you will realize how much fun you had, how many meaningful conversations you will be able to remember and how many calories you saved yourself from, and will be thoroughly happy you avoided the alcohol!  Learn more from an alcohol awareness class.