How to Stay Sober at Social Events Without Anyone Noticing
By: Stephanie Torres
Every person in recovery will have to face the challenge of how to stay sober at social events at some point. While you may be able to avoid a few parties in the beginning of your recovery, it’s impractical and unrealistic to assume you’ll be able to avoid every wedding, holiday party, and social gathering for the rest of your life. At some point, you will have to master the art of having fun while sober.
Getting that Facebook event invite or formal letter invitation may be a moment you dread at first, but with the right mental preparation, you won’t need a drink or drugs to have a good time. Learn how to stay sober at social events with these easy steps:
Get out of your head and ignore bad thoughts.
Part of the reason people in recovery are nervous about going to parties, especially if they’re new to sobriety, is because deep down, DARE’s PSA horror stories about peer pressure still strike fear in all our hearts. If you’re worried about people judging you for not drinking or using drugs at a party, the first thing you need to do is wipe those insecurities out of your mind.
You will always be much more self-aware about your sobriety than anyone else will. Most people won’t think twice about whether you’re drinking, especially if they’re drinking—and those that do pressure you may be revealing their own problems by doing so. Just ignore negative vibes and hang out with people who don’t need substances to socialize, which is becoming a preferred lifestyle choice for millennials.
Have a game plan, rehearse your answers, and be true to yourself.
Before going to a social event, establish a few personal rules for yourself, like how late you intend to stay there and how much you’re willing to stand until you need to go. Don’t force yourself to be in a situation that you don’t want to be in. If you think a certain event is a bad idea altogether, then don’t go. It’s as simple as that. You deserve to have fun at parties, too! So only go to events that you feel comfortable in and that involve people you trust.
It’s also good to rehearse some ready-made answers to when people ask to offer you a drink or why you’re not drinking/using. You don’t have to reveal the fact that you’re in recovery unless you choose to be open about it. Instead, consider some nonchalant replies:
- “Got a busy day tomorrow, so I’m staying sober tonight.”
- “I just don’t feel like drinking tonight, thank you.”
- “I’m taking medication that doesn’t react well with alcohol.”
- “I’m the designated driver.”
- “I’m on a strict diet.”
Go to a meeting before the party and get a pep talk.
If you’ve still got nerves before a social event, go to a meeting before to discuss your concerns and learn how others in recovery handle going to parties sober. They can give you tips on how to handle triggers and also give you confidence that you can still have fun sober. Your recovery peers are living examples that it gets better with time and hard effort.
If at the party you start to feel triggered, don’t feel ashamed if you have to leave early and attend a meeting to calm yourself down. Your sobriety should remain first priority, so don’t worry about not being able to handle a party even after a few months of being in recovery. Do things at your own pace. Talk things through with your peers and take everything as a learning lesson. You’ll get through this.
Bring a friend or a sponsor, then look for other sober buddies.
When in doubt, practice the buddy system. Ask a trusted friend who knows about your sobriety to attend a social event with you. Other good party buddies include your sponsor, a partner, or a close sibling. Your friend will be your first line of defense, there to make sure you don’t give into temptation and also a shoulder to lean on if you get anxious or bitter.
When you arrive at the event, look out for other sober party-goers. People choose not to drink for all sorts of reasons, whether it’s for health reasons or their religious beliefs. Some people don’t like the taste of alcohol, let alone the thought of using drugs, which may seem foreign to you. Hang out with these people and learn how they have fun sober. What better teacher for you than a person who never questioned having a fun sober life in the first place?
Have someone you can call or use a sobriety app.
If you can’t find a friend to bring with you to a social event, ask someone to be your go-to phone call when you need them. If you have a sponsor, ask them to check in with you throughout the event, even if it means every hour until you return home. You can also use social media to help you stay grounded and feel more accountable for your actions, whether it’s posting about the event or using it as a distraction to ease your nerves.
There are also apps for people in recovery to connect with others in their community. You can find your next romantic interest through Sober (it’s basically Tinder for folks in recovery) or find someone to talk to through Sober Grid if you feel down. Look through your phone’s app stores for more recovery tools and, as always, use caution when speaking with strangers.
When you arrive, immediately serve yourself a nonalcoholic drink.
Don’t give people the opportunity to tempt you. Immediately get yourself a nonalcoholic drink so that you have something in your hand to ward off any offers. You could get water, but—to be honest—that might make you feel a little sad, so opt for something a little more fun and tasty, like fruit juices or sodas. If you intend to stay up all night dancing, maybe grab a Red Bull or down an espresso shot to get your energy going, but also make sure to keep hydrated!
Make sure to ask the host if other nonalcohol drinks will be available before you go. If not, bring your own drinks as if you were going to a regular BYOB shindig. Be in control of your beverages. Besides, you know what flavors you like and there’s nothing worse than having to choose between water and a questionable carton of milk.
Focus on a fun activity to ease your nerves.
When you weren’t sober, the point of parties was to get drunk, high, and wasted off your mind. Believe it or not, there are other things to do at parties besides using substances (crazy, right?) and they won’t make you feel like garbage in the morning.
Most people use alcohol and drugs to lower their inhibitions because they’re preoccupied with their own social anxieties, but you won’t have that buffer when you’re sober. You’re going to have to get used to be honest about your own personality with people—but this isn’t a bad thing! At the end of the day, people want to have an excuse to be free in parties.
Dance like no one’s watching. Eat all the hors d’oeuvres, even if the waiter glares at you. Mime the silliest clues in a game of charades. Make new friends over deep conversations, funny jokes, mutual dislike over things, or passionate opinions about nothing. Play with the house pets and try not to kidnap them. Volunteer to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen for karaoke and really go for those high/low notes. Discover how much fun you can have when you stop caring about what other people think.
Be ready to leave if you start feeling uncomfortable.
When you start to notice the witching hour approaching, the point at which the guests seem to start getting tipsy and perhaps a little wild, you may start to feel like a fish out of water. Know that it’s okay to leave. You don’t have to stay anywhere you don’t want to be.
Don’t have a ride? Grab a taxi or use Uber/Lyft to pick you up and take you home. Use public transit or call a friend to give you a ride if you’re low on cash, or walk home if you absolutely have to.
If you have to leave a party at ten o’clock, don’t feel like a lame duck for doing so. Consider the last time you were drunk and/or high at a party and how that compares to you now. Life is better when you know where you’re going to wake up in the morning and remember what you did last night. So if a night of partying ends with you watching some Netflix before nodding off to sleep, consider that a comfier improvement.
Can’t stay sober at social events? Get addiction treatment now.
While some people may be able to go to quit their addiction just by going to support group meetings, not everyone can discipline themselves to stop using substances through sheer willpower. If you or a loved one find it difficult to stay sober at social events or in general, it’s time to enter an alcohol or drug treatment program. There’s no shame is receiving help to start your journey to sobriety.
Delphi Behavioral Health Group has several addiction treatment facilities across the nation. Feel free to call our 24-hour helpline at (844) 899-5777 and talk with one of our addiction specialists to learn more about drug treatment options, our residential rehab facilities, and how to afford addiction treatment. Start your recovery today.