Attending parties and events can be one of the most difficult and stressful challenges for people in recovery and should be avoided during the first six months of sobriety. But as you gain confidence in your recovery, attending social functions or having an evening out with trusted friends and family can bring a sense of normalcy and help you feel less isolated.
Contrary to popular belief, your life doesn’t have to become boring or routine when you get sober. The party doesn’t have to end just because you can’t drink or use drugs. The key is to party smart.
Be aware that drugs and alcohol may be present, recognize that certain environments can make you feel vulnerable, and be conscious to the fact that seeing friends happily indulge may trigger a relapse. Never put yourself into a situation you can’t escape quickly and always seek help from the sober community when you need support. As addiction treatment specialists, we have heard it all.
Here are a few more tips to help you party sober:
Only attend social functions that serve a purpose – a celebration for someone you care about or that commemorate a certain occasion; and choose parties and events that are in a safe environment with supportive people that you know and trust. Talk to the event’s host ahead of time. If you know there will be open bar, excessive drinking or drug use at the party, politely pass on the invitation or go the party early while the guests are still sober and leave before any serious drinking occurs.
Bring a Friend
If you’re feeling uneasy about attending an event, ask a trusted friend who knows about your sobriety to attend with you. Bringing a sober buddy that you feel comfortable with and that will support you if you’re feeling anxious or vulnerable, will make the party more enjoyable.
Prepare for Questions
Having a rehearsed response to why you aren’t drinking or using drugs will help ease any unnecessary stress when these inevitable questions arise. Don’t feel obligated to reveal that you’re in recovery, unless you want to, as this can lead to more questions and further anxiety. The easiest responses are nonchalant, conversation closers: “I’m the designated driver tonight” or “I’m taking medication that can be dangerous when mixed with alcohol.”
Bring Your Own Drinks
At house parties or other private gatherings, you can’t always be certain that non-alcoholic options will be available. Be prepared and bring your own drinks. It’s better to ensure that you have options, then to feel uncomfortable asking the host for tap water. Plus, bringing your own beverages guarantees that you’ll get to enjoy the drinks you prefer, which will increase the enjoyment of the party as well.
Always Have a Drink in Your Hand
Making sure to always have a drink in hand avoids people bringing or buying you one, putting you in an uncomfortable and compromising position. Carrying a drink at a party or in a bar also acts as a security blanket. The glass will make you less conspicuous as sober drinker to the other guests and will help you feel less alienated.
If you want to make it look like your drinking when you’re not, ask the bartender to make you a special mocktail. Order your drink in a cocktail glass and don’t forget the garnish – add a slice of lemon or lime to the side of your glass.
Have an Escape Plan
Never feel obligated to stay at a party any longer than you want to, and always be prepared with an exit strategy, so you can leave whenever you like. Bring your own vehicle or be prepared to pay for a taxi, avoid carpooling, and practice an exit line to avoid guests from hassling you to stay.
Enjoy yourself. Being sober doesn’t mean you can’t act silly and have fun. Tear up the dance floor, chow down on the hors d’oeuvres, play party games, initiate conversations, and tell jokes. Stop caring about what other people think and prove to yourself and to others that having a good time doesn’t have to include alcohol.
If you’re at an event and you’re feeling vulnerable:
- Leave the party immediately.
- Call your sponsor, a trusted friend or someone else you know in recovery.
- Contact an addiction crisis hotline.
- Go to an AA or other support group meeting.
Or, if you feel that attending social functions will put your recovery in jeopardy, don’t go.
Remember, your sobriety is the most important thing.
Please note, that right now we encourage everyone to follow the government of Ontario lockdown rules and limit your exposure to those in your household. We all have to do our part to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.