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Alcohol and Mental Health

The Importance of Being in Control While Drinking at Parties

Published:
January 17, 2024
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14 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
January 17, 2024
·
14 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
January 17, 2024
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14 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
January 17, 2024
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14 min read
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Reframe Content Team
January 17, 2024
·
14 min read

Strategies for Drinking Safely at Parties

  • Enjoying a party with friends can be fun, but the pressure to drink socially can cause us to step outside our drinking boundaries and personal goals.
  • Developing a plan to stay mindful at drinking parties can help us stay in control.
  • The Reframe app can help you develop strategies to make healthy drinking choices that fit your health goals.

How To Stay in Control While Drinking at Parties

Parties can take many shapes, but we often picture parties as fun, boisterous events where friends get together to unwind, laugh, celebrate, or blow off steam at the end of the week. A party may be as relaxed as games, conversations, and laughter, or it may be as wild as people showing off their latest dance moves and singing their hearts out to the music.

At many parties, alcohol is one of the main ingredients used to set the tone. Some people might say, “Having a drink is the best way to loosen up!” There’s some truth to that, because alcohol can loosen our inhibitions, but this property of alcohol can quickly take us from relaxed to behaving in ways we don’t want. Let’s look at how to stay in control at a drinking party and walk away without any embarrassing memories.

The Allure of Drinking at Parties

There are many reasons why we may want to drink at a party — and sometimes, we end up drinking even when we don’t want to. Developing a habit of mindfulness around our drinking can help us make the best choices for our health goals.

Most of us have heard that staying sober or drinking responsibly is key to having a good time because it allows us to be fully present in the moment. And excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a host of problems, including impaired judgment and driving while under the influence.

Parties can be fun — until they’re not! Often, excessive alcohol consumption is the culprit when things go off the rails. Hartford and Siebring’s (2015) research concluded that high-risk settings such as parties and bars were associated with heavy drinking. Therefore, it makes sense that creating a plan to avoid or control drinking at an alcohol party is the best way to have a good time and minimize its negative consequences.   

Let’s explore ways to have fun at a drinking party while remaining in control.

What To Do Before Drinking Alcohol

The party is this evening, and we plan to be there to see friends we haven’t seen in a while. What could be better? Good food, good company, and plenty of alcohol. To stay fully present in the moment, be sure to make a plan before party time.

  • Establish a safe drinking limit. Set a limit — and stick to it! This helps us remain in control. Everyone is different: the amount of alcohol that causes intoxication varies based on a person’s gender, weight, metabolism, overall health, tolerance level, hydration, and food intake.
  • Develop a behavior plan. If we’re not sure about how alcohol will affect us, we can try a behavior-based approach. Try alternating drinks between alcohol and a non-alcoholic drink like soda or water to slow down your consumption and give yourself time to mindfully assess your intoxication level.
  • Eat something before drinking. Drinking on an empty stomach causes the alcohol to enter our bloodstream more quickly. As a result, we feel the effects of the alcohol faster. This may affect your ability to manage your drinking.

What To Do During a Drinking Party

As soon as we’re offered a drink or directed to the bar, it’s time to put our plan into action. If we decide to drink, here are some things to consider when making that first drink choice:

  • Be aware of a drink’s alcohol content. Not all alcoholic beverages are created equal. One “standard drink” can be hard to define, as alcohol content of different beverages can vary wildly. For instance, the alcohol content of beers can range anywhere from 3% to upwards of 10% alcohol by volume (ABV). Still, there are averages to keep in mind.
  1. A 12-ounce can of beer has 5% ABV
  2. A 5-ounce glass of wine has 12% ABV
  3. A 1.5-ounce shot of liquor has 40% ABV
  • Portion control. Doubles in one glass are equal to two drinks. We can’t fool our bodies by ordering a double in our cocktail and believing we are only having one drink. A double means just that: twice the alcohol.
  • Time your drinking. How long will we be at the party? How long will it take to process the alcohol we drink? The liver can process approximately one “standard” drink per hour. Anything over that and our blood alcohol content (BAC) begins to rise — and intoxication sets in. That doesn’t mean drinking two drinks over two hours is the same as two drinks quickly followed by a two-hour wait. The latter choice has a bigger impact on us and can leave us feeling more tired for the drive home.
  • Be on alert for top-ups! Top-ups tend to happen when the host is pouring wine. There’s always a friendly someone more than happy and willing to top up our half-filled glass. If we’re not paying attention, our plan to limit or moderate can quickly turn into two, three, or four drinks without noticing.
  • Stay hydrated, but not with alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it’s dehydrating. Non-alcoholic drinks such as water, soda, or mocktails are good alternatives to alcohol — they allow us to keep something in our hands and sip safely.
  • Be mindful. Part of maintaining control is paying attention to how we feel. Alcohol slows down our nervous system and reduces our bodily awareness. This means we may become uncoordinated, have slower reflexes, and have trouble thinking clearly. If we’ve set a clear intention for maintaining control throughout the evening, it’s important to check in and make sure we’re honoring that intention.
  • Be aware of snacking. All those delicious party foods? They’re often packed with salt, which can make us more thirsty — and encourage us to drink more. It’s best to avoid salty snacks, but if we decide to nibble, it’s important to have non-alcoholic options available.

How To Slow Down Drinking

Sometimes, we arrive at a party thinking we’ll only be there for an hour. But then we bump into a few people we haven’t seen in ages, and our plans change. Then, our plan to have just one drink sort of shifts. It’s time to switch to plan B, which requires us to pace ourselves to remain safely sober. Here are some tips to slow down drinking.

  • Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Today, we’re fortunate that options like mocktails and alcohol-free drinks are popular, abundant, socially accepted, and great-tasting.
  • Use a smaller glass. Using a smaller glass is a way of tricking ourselves into thinking we’re having more than we really are. We can ask for a smaller portion in a smaller glass to help us moderate. 
  • Avoid highly alcoholic drinks. It’s worth repeating: not all alcoholic beverages are created equal. Especially with cocktails, it’s easy to go overboard. We can always check with the bartender or the person mixing drinks, and develop ways to say “no” to peer pressure.
  • Don't just sit and drink – stay busy. We tend to drink more while sitting, especially while sitting alone. When we get up and mingle, join in conversations, or dance, we distract ourselves from having nothing to do but drink. By moving around, there’s a good chance we will drink less.
  • Push back on peer pressure. When we reach our limit, it’s okay to say “No!” to offers of another drink. It’s okay to let people know “I’m done for the night.” We’re in control of our own life and choices!

Summing Up

Monitoring our alcohol intake or drinking in moderation is essential to ensure a positive and enjoyable party experience. This can be done by striking a balance between the social benefits of alcohol and the potential risks associated with its excessive consumption. Finding this balance fits with Henssler et al.’s (2021) research, concluding that controlled drinking, especially when supported by counseling, provides a viable option for an abstinence-oriented approach to Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

For those of us who want to pursue a controlled drinking approach, creating a drinking plan before an event is an important way to meet our goals. Following these strategies makes it possible to remain in control while enjoying ourselves if we choose to drink — and ensure we have great memories that last past the evening!

How To Stay in Control While Drinking at Parties

Parties can take many shapes, but we often picture parties as fun, boisterous events where friends get together to unwind, laugh, celebrate, or blow off steam at the end of the week. A party may be as relaxed as games, conversations, and laughter, or it may be as wild as people showing off their latest dance moves and singing their hearts out to the music.

At many parties, alcohol is one of the main ingredients used to set the tone. Some people might say, “Having a drink is the best way to loosen up!” There’s some truth to that, because alcohol can loosen our inhibitions, but this property of alcohol can quickly take us from relaxed to behaving in ways we don’t want. Let’s look at how to stay in control at a drinking party and walk away without any embarrassing memories.

The Allure of Drinking at Parties

There are many reasons why we may want to drink at a party — and sometimes, we end up drinking even when we don’t want to. Developing a habit of mindfulness around our drinking can help us make the best choices for our health goals.

Most of us have heard that staying sober or drinking responsibly is key to having a good time because it allows us to be fully present in the moment. And excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a host of problems, including impaired judgment and driving while under the influence.

Parties can be fun — until they’re not! Often, excessive alcohol consumption is the culprit when things go off the rails. Hartford and Siebring’s (2015) research concluded that high-risk settings such as parties and bars were associated with heavy drinking. Therefore, it makes sense that creating a plan to avoid or control drinking at an alcohol party is the best way to have a good time and minimize its negative consequences.   

Let’s explore ways to have fun at a drinking party while remaining in control.

What To Do Before Drinking Alcohol

The party is this evening, and we plan to be there to see friends we haven’t seen in a while. What could be better? Good food, good company, and plenty of alcohol. To stay fully present in the moment, be sure to make a plan before party time.

  • Establish a safe drinking limit. Set a limit — and stick to it! This helps us remain in control. Everyone is different: the amount of alcohol that causes intoxication varies based on a person’s gender, weight, metabolism, overall health, tolerance level, hydration, and food intake.
  • Develop a behavior plan. If we’re not sure about how alcohol will affect us, we can try a behavior-based approach. Try alternating drinks between alcohol and a non-alcoholic drink like soda or water to slow down your consumption and give yourself time to mindfully assess your intoxication level.
  • Eat something before drinking. Drinking on an empty stomach causes the alcohol to enter our bloodstream more quickly. As a result, we feel the effects of the alcohol faster. This may affect your ability to manage your drinking.

What To Do During a Drinking Party

As soon as we’re offered a drink or directed to the bar, it’s time to put our plan into action. If we decide to drink, here are some things to consider when making that first drink choice:

  • Be aware of a drink’s alcohol content. Not all alcoholic beverages are created equal. One “standard drink” can be hard to define, as alcohol content of different beverages can vary wildly. For instance, the alcohol content of beers can range anywhere from 3% to upwards of 10% alcohol by volume (ABV). Still, there are averages to keep in mind.
  1. A 12-ounce can of beer has 5% ABV
  2. A 5-ounce glass of wine has 12% ABV
  3. A 1.5-ounce shot of liquor has 40% ABV
  • Portion control. Doubles in one glass are equal to two drinks. We can’t fool our bodies by ordering a double in our cocktail and believing we are only having one drink. A double means just that: twice the alcohol.
  • Time your drinking. How long will we be at the party? How long will it take to process the alcohol we drink? The liver can process approximately one “standard” drink per hour. Anything over that and our blood alcohol content (BAC) begins to rise — and intoxication sets in. That doesn’t mean drinking two drinks over two hours is the same as two drinks quickly followed by a two-hour wait. The latter choice has a bigger impact on us and can leave us feeling more tired for the drive home.
  • Be on alert for top-ups! Top-ups tend to happen when the host is pouring wine. There’s always a friendly someone more than happy and willing to top up our half-filled glass. If we’re not paying attention, our plan to limit or moderate can quickly turn into two, three, or four drinks without noticing.
  • Stay hydrated, but not with alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it’s dehydrating. Non-alcoholic drinks such as water, soda, or mocktails are good alternatives to alcohol — they allow us to keep something in our hands and sip safely.
  • Be mindful. Part of maintaining control is paying attention to how we feel. Alcohol slows down our nervous system and reduces our bodily awareness. This means we may become uncoordinated, have slower reflexes, and have trouble thinking clearly. If we’ve set a clear intention for maintaining control throughout the evening, it’s important to check in and make sure we’re honoring that intention.
  • Be aware of snacking. All those delicious party foods? They’re often packed with salt, which can make us more thirsty — and encourage us to drink more. It’s best to avoid salty snacks, but if we decide to nibble, it’s important to have non-alcoholic options available.

How To Slow Down Drinking

Sometimes, we arrive at a party thinking we’ll only be there for an hour. But then we bump into a few people we haven’t seen in ages, and our plans change. Then, our plan to have just one drink sort of shifts. It’s time to switch to plan B, which requires us to pace ourselves to remain safely sober. Here are some tips to slow down drinking.

  • Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Today, we’re fortunate that options like mocktails and alcohol-free drinks are popular, abundant, socially accepted, and great-tasting.
  • Use a smaller glass. Using a smaller glass is a way of tricking ourselves into thinking we’re having more than we really are. We can ask for a smaller portion in a smaller glass to help us moderate. 
  • Avoid highly alcoholic drinks. It’s worth repeating: not all alcoholic beverages are created equal. Especially with cocktails, it’s easy to go overboard. We can always check with the bartender or the person mixing drinks, and develop ways to say “no” to peer pressure.
  • Don't just sit and drink – stay busy. We tend to drink more while sitting, especially while sitting alone. When we get up and mingle, join in conversations, or dance, we distract ourselves from having nothing to do but drink. By moving around, there’s a good chance we will drink less.
  • Push back on peer pressure. When we reach our limit, it’s okay to say “No!” to offers of another drink. It’s okay to let people know “I’m done for the night.” We’re in control of our own life and choices!

Summing Up

Monitoring our alcohol intake or drinking in moderation is essential to ensure a positive and enjoyable party experience. This can be done by striking a balance between the social benefits of alcohol and the potential risks associated with its excessive consumption. Finding this balance fits with Henssler et al.’s (2021) research, concluding that controlled drinking, especially when supported by counseling, provides a viable option for an abstinence-oriented approach to Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

For those of us who want to pursue a controlled drinking approach, creating a drinking plan before an event is an important way to meet our goals. Following these strategies makes it possible to remain in control while enjoying ourselves if we choose to drink — and ensure we have great memories that last past the evening!

Summary FAQs

1. Why is it hard to estimate how much a person can drink?

Several factors prevent absolute estimates of how much a person can drink. These include age, gender, weight, metabolism, health status, hydration level, and the amount of food consumed that day.

2. Why is it important not to drink on an empty stomach?

When people don’t eat before or while they are having drinks, the alcohol enters the bloodstream much faster, and its effects can be felt sooner.

3. Which alcoholic beverage has the lowest alcohol content?

Beer generally has the lowest alcohol content, with an average of 5% alcohol by volume (ABV) for a 12-ounce serving.

4. How long does it take to metabolize an alcoholic beverage?

It takes approximately one hour for the liver to metabolize one “standard” drink. This can vary, but is typically defined as one 12-ounce can of beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, and one 1.5-ounce jigger (shot) of hard liquor.

5. If I plan to be at a party for three hours and limit myself to three drinks, is it okay to drink them one after another?

This is inadvisable, because this causes a more dramatic shift in brain chemistry that can leave us feeling more tired than we would if we drank more slowly. Plus, we will definitely spend some time in the “intoxicated” zone.

6. Why is it advisable to avoid salty foods while drinking?

Salty foods or snacks like peanuts will increase your thirst and encourage you to drink more. If you crave something salty, make sure to have a non-alcoholic beverage available!

Ready To Take Control of Your Relationship With Alcohol?

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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