How To Stop Partying And Start Staying In Without Losing All Your Mates
The Debrief: What happens next when you don't want to get wasted anymore?
It’s Friday night at 11.45pm and I’m in a crowded pub packed with groups of mates dancing, laughing, doing shots. I’m sat on a corner sofa with my fifth drink of the night, slipping further and further away from the activity and further into myself. The fact that everyone seems to be having The Time Of Their Lives doesn’t rev me up into wanting to leave my perch and join them, it just makes me all too aware that I’ve spent thirty quid so far tonight on drinks and I’m Just Not Feeling It. I’m out with my pals so what on earth is wrong with me? And, why is the absolute last place I want to be right now? Unfortunately, this wasn’t my first realisation that I just wasn’t into getting wasted or all night benders anymore - this kind of situation was starting to become my weekly reality.
Making my excuses to the cry of friends, ‘what! Why are you leaving?’, I exit the pub to the crowded smokers’ street and see a girl being sick out of the side of her Uber. On my second bus home, cold, drunk and feeling increasingly empty, I thought: enough. The next morning, I woke up with an aching head and a resolve for the last time (at least for now) to say no more to going out when I didn’t really want to.
But, what do you do when you don’t want to get wasted the whole time? And, more pertinently, how then do you maintain your friendships when everyone is congregating in the pub on a Friday night?
In my experience, the first step is to take your feelings of ‘enough is enough’ and turn them into a reality. I’d been slowly slipping away from enjoying mad nights out, hangovers and a drained bank account while becoming increasingly miserable and worried that I just wasn’t ‘fun’ anymore. I thought that something was seriously wrong with me. In the cold light of Saturday morning, as my hangover eased I realised that, in fact, I just needed to change my social habits. I was feeling just as strong a connection to my pals on the phone, over coffees and at dinners not laced with endless alcohol and feeling more and more isolated on nights out, so things clearly needed to change.
At first I considered making a grand Facebook status announcement or crafting a WhatsApp group message which stated my moment of enlightenment and told one and all that I just wouldn’t be partaking in wasted activities anymore. While this is certainly a way to get your point across, I don’t think I’d recommend it. Instead, as the next few weeks unfolded I told a few of my closest friends that I was going to try staying in for a while - I needed a break from alcohol, a break from big groups and would they like to come over for dinner one night the following weekend or meet for Sunday brunch?
Perhaps, unsurprisingly, this didn't turn out to be the massive deal I was expecting. Staying in to 'get off it' because going out almost, inevitably, results in getting on it is more common than I first thought. There comes a time when you seek meaningful memories and encounters over 4am chats that, far from wanting to remember, everyone would rather forget.
My friends had graduated from uni a while back, and to put it bluntly, we weren’t at freshers week anymore. Sure, some of my friends took offence to the fact that I didn’t want to join them on a night out, but when I met this annoyance with the offer of a chilled dinner the following night at mine, or a long coffee catch up on Sunday afternoon I was surprised at how receptive they were. Turns out, I wasn't the only one feeling the lack of relationship connection every weekend and that all-nighters just didn’t cut it for consolidating friendships anymore.
For me, the hardest thing wasn’t declining offers - though of course initially people didn’t tend to get why I didn’t want to burn through my hard earned cash doing jaeger bombs with them in a crowded club all night - it was wondering what to do with my nights in when everyone else was out. So, I got creative, I knew if I just sat at home with Pringles and Netflix, refreshing my Instagram feed and seeing everyone have a wild night I might cave on something I knew was actually a really informed decision for myself. I went back to basics asking myself: what makes me feel good? I realised that between working insane London hours and being wasted/hungover all weekend I actually never had time for MYSELF. This was where I started.
Yoga was something I knew made me feel amazing, but I never had enough cash for it let alone the time to dedicate, so I checked out a local yoga studio’s timetable and planned out some classes I could do for a dedicated Friday night ‘me time’ to unwind from my hectic weeks. I took up a candlelit yoga class that first Friday off going out, and followed it with a long bath and read a stack of the magazines I kept buying and never had time to read.
Then, there was Saturday to tackle. I usually spent most of Saturday in bed, fighting my hangover with pizza and spiraling shame - so what was I going to do with myself now? Turns out plenty happens on a Saturday — I text a friend I knew wasn’t into going out and we met for coffee in the park then wandered around a market bought food for lunch and just caught up on months of not knowing - beyond a WhatsApp group message - what was going on in each others lives.
As the weekends rolled by I filled my time with so many activities - lazy long brunches, ‘romantic’ dinners in with pals, I went to the cinema, subscribed to BFI player on TV in a bid to catch up on years of films I never quite managed to get out of bed for in weekends past. Rapidly I was finding weekends weren’t over too quickly anymore, I had plenty of time to see friends and have the all important ‘me time’ to connect with who I was, what I wanted and how my life was really going.
If you’ve just made the move to stop going out my top tip would be this: whatever you do don’t scroll Insta and sink into FOMO. Instead, repeat this mantra ‘what really, actually, truly makes me feel good?’ Then, spend your saved cash and unfolding free (lucid) time doing it! Naturally, there’s always a fear of missing out or being forgotten, and it can feel so important to be part of a crowd and sometimes there’s the worry that if you’re not at every. single. night. out people will stop asking you at all. But, it’s kind of key to remember, do you actually WANT to be friends with someone who’s only interested in seeing the ‘party’ side of you, and do you really WANT to go to something or have you reached the point where you feel like you HAVE to.
I found I could ask myself these questions and when I really listened to my answers I started to feel by in taking action to do what I really wanted I felt like a more authentic version of myself. I also felt really contented, no longer were my moods and sense of wellbeing affected by crazy nights out that I didn’t want to be at, I was connecting to a more authentic version of myself. I stopped worrying when people felt like I wasn’t being ‘fun’ enough and enjoyed the feeling I got when people were so touched that I wanted to spend quality time with them, instead of just seeing them at the bar, sprinkling salt on our hands for another round of tequila. I was rebuilding my friendships into a state where I could have proper conversations and form closer bonds with my true friends.
In the end I’ve found that I no longer do anything in my life just because I feel like it’s the ‘normal’ thing to do because ‘everyone’ is doing it. This, in turn, has made me have a better relationship with not only my friends (because I feel free and chilled when we meet) but also myself. I feel so in tune with who I am and what I’m about and able to get involved in so many activities I never had time for - I’m getting more and more into yoga, have become a film buff and finally have a repertoire of more than one dish when cooking for pals.
I've discoveed that I love entertaining friends, and in turn that people love coming over and feeling a sense of connection which goes above and beyond having been wasted together the night before. I feel like my friends and I suddenly know way more about each other again, and not in a ‘drunken chats in the club toilet’ kind of manner. Then there’s the financial side of things, I’d been struggling to stay afloat for so long in London, yet as I freed up my evenings from going out I actually had enough money to go for brunch with someone or to a yoga class and doing things that felt like I was taking care of my relationships and myself. Ultimately there’s always going to be people who think you’re ‘not fun’ anymore, but the friendships you maintain by staying true to who you are and what you want are going to last a lot longer than those that are all about stories from the hazy night before.
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