A woman on a dock reaching out toward a bottle of wine rowing away in a boat.

Managing Crohn's In Social Settings

Managing IBD symptoms in social settings can be difficult. It’s easy to moderate your diet and stay away from alcohol when at home. This becomes way more tricky, though, when in a social setting where there can be tremendous peer pressure.

Limiting alcohol to help with symptoms

Take drinking alcohol. About ten years ago I quit drinking alcohol entirely. Alcohol is a major trigger for me and I do better without it. Quitting, therefore, ameliorated my symptoms and put me in a much better overall state of health.

Quitting wasn’t too tough at home. I just dumped out any alcohol I had around the apartment and stopped buying anything that might tempt me. I also changed the channel when an alcohol ad came on and basically just put it out of sight and out of mind.

Tempted to drink in social settings

This worked out fine until I started getting tempted to drink in certain social settings. A good example is New Year’s Eve. At a festive party, everyone was handed a glass of champagne.

To not accept it made me seem like a poor sport. One little glass of bubbly. Why did I have to be such a teetotaler? Although I didn’t really want to drink, I imbibed the drink with my compatriots in an effort to fit in.

Bad move. I got caught up in the moment and had a few more drinks. The next day I felt lousy. It triggered a flare. Ended up being sick for weeks. I resolved then and there to commit more fully to my principles and not be swayed by peer pressure.

Still, other events arose where toasts were made: Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, Religious Holidays. Each time I was tempted, but almost always turned down the drink.

How I managed the peer pressure

If I felt really pressured to fit in I handled matters a different way: accepted the champagne glass, raised it for the toast, then discreetly left it on a table. Most people didn’t even notice.

Peer pressure to drink also happened on the dating scene. When single, and on a first date, it is of course often customary to have a drink to loosen the mood. 

This is a tricky situation when you know even one drink can activate your Crohn's disease. To have your date order a Margarita and you order an Apple Juice can really kill the mood.

Still, I’d avoid the alcohol. Explain I wasn’t in the mood. Get to the establishment early and order a mocktail to fit in. Or, in whatever way I could, get out of ingesting alcohol.

Crohn's changes our lifestyle

Similar problems have arisen, at times, around food. Once, when getting over a flare, I attended a friend’s bachelor party at a high-end NYC Steakhouse. Everyone was ordering porterhouse, ribeye, filet mignon, you name it.

Needless to say, dining on salmon and kale in a room full of brawny guys gobbling down red meat felt a bit awkward. But I stuck to my guns, played it cool, ate my salmon dinner, and made the best of it.

Clearly, Crohn's changes our lifestyle. My feeling is we have to stick to who we are even if it at times we feel a bit out of place. Any loss in social capital is a necessary sacrifice.  

Health comes first. I’m generally able to follow that, even though, on occasion, I’m tempted to stray. Thanks for reading, and, as always, feel free to comment below.

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