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Staying Sober and Having Fun At Social Gatherings

Staying Sober and Having Fun At Social Gatherings
Social gatherings such as dinner parties, informal family get-togethers, employee holiday parties and other events are those “can’t miss” moments that become scattered on our calendars. Those events are times where diverse groups of people can interact with each other and strengthen existing relationships while forging new friendships with others. For many who attend these social events, alcohol (and in some cases other substances) can act as the motor in order to keep the good times rolling. While the use of alcohol seems to come with the territory in these situations, it can act as kryptonite for those who are in recovery from substance abuse.

Is It Possible to Be the Life of The Party While Being Sober?

Whether you are new in your recovery or if you have substantial clean time under your belt, when the invites to social gatherings pop up in your inbox or your mailbox, the hairs on the back of your neck might stand up and feelings of anxiety and dread start paying rent in your brain. Yes, your friends will be there and it could be a blast… but how do I have fun without drinking?

A large part of your social interactions prior to your recovery revolved around drinking and being around a circle of friends.

While the thoughts of avoiding all social gatherings that involve alcohol crosses your mind, it isn’t entirely realistic. Whether you like it or not, alcohol is a constant presence in our daily lives and learning to attend social events in sobriety is a skill that needs to be mastered as a part of your overall plan of recovery. We as human beings are social creatures, and we need social interaction in order to be mentally and physically healthy. Doctor and author Atul Gawande states the following regarding social interaction:

“Human beings are social creatures. We are social not just in the trivial sense that we like company, and not just in the obvious sense that we each depend on others. We are social in a more elemental way: simply to exist as a normal human being requires interaction with other people.”

Even though it can be a challenge, you can have fun without drinking and actually be the life of the party without the naughty behavior, hangovers and regret the next morning. As with everything else in your sobriety, you need to have a solid plan in place so you can take in the excitement without slipping. The following are some tips on how you can stay sober at parties and have more fun.

The Blueprint for Staying Sober at a Party: A Simple Four Point Plan

blue print to stay sober at a party

1 – Ask Questions and Act Accordingly

So… you are ready to dip your toe in the water of a social gathering and are doing so sober; what do you do? First, you may want to contact the host and ask a few question.

  • “Will there be non-alcoholic drinks provided?”
  • “Who is going to be there?”
  • “Will there be people there who aren’t drinking?”

Chances are that you are accepting an invite from a friend who may be well aware of your decision to embrace sobriety. If the host is not providing any non-alcoholic beverages, bring a bottle of your own, whether it is a liter of Coca-Cola, fruit juice or sparkling water. If there are other people who are teetotalers, you are increasing your chances of staying sober at the party by joining their circle. While you may not be familiar with these folks, you may enjoy their company and you might leave that night with a few new friends.  You also may want to bring a supportive family member or friend along to encourage you and help you feel confident.

2 – Be Prepared to Answer the Inevitable Questions… Confidently

It is a given.

You are making your rounds in your social circles and there will be more than a few folks who knew you from your wild days who may ask why you aren’t drinking. The best way to answer this question and other related questions is simple: keep it short, sweet and to the point. You can reply by saying things like:

  • “I am sticking to (your non-alcoholic drink of choice) tonight. I have a lot to do tomorrow”
  • “It’s been awhile since I have been out to see you all. I really want to remember it all.”
  • “I don’t feel the need to drink tonight. Thank you.”

Whatever your reply may be, be polite, respectful and above all CONFIDENT in what you say. Most of the people that you know at a given event may already know of your decision to embrace sobriety. By answering in a confident manner, you are letting people know that you are sticking to your guns. There will be those instances where people may try to goad or pressure you, but no matter the situation, stay your ground and be confident. If you are feeling uncomfortable with any pressure being thrown your way, it is OK to politely excuse yourself and leave the situation.

3 – Be In Total Charge of What You Are Drinking: Three Important Points

No matter what the circumstance or reason, NEVER EVER LET SOMEBODY WHO IS NOT IN RECOVERY GET YOU A DRINK. While you want to trust a friend to get you a non-alcoholic beverage, they could inadvertently grab you something that contains alcohol. Also, it is important that if you grab a drink for yourself that you watch the bartender pour your drink. Most importantly, you need to keep your hands on your drink at all times. While you may think it won’t happen, someone at a party may try to slip some alcohol or something else in your drink because they may think its funny or may want to see you “loosen up a little”. The golden rule is if you leave your drink unattended, you throw it away and ask for a new one.

4 – Have an Exit Strategy

As with most parties or get-togethers, the witching hour may strike and the atmosphere may get a little too uncomfortable for you to bear. Watching a room full of people under the influence may cut a little too close for comfort (like you need any more reminders of your past). If you are feeling uncomfortable, say your goodbyes and leave at once. If you come with a supportive family member or friend, tell them that you are ready to leave and so do right away.

If you happen to have come to the gathering by yourself, it is wise to get the phone numbers of those who are in recovery, your sponsor or a trusted family member or friend and let them know you may be giving them a call. If you leave without saying proper goodbyes to the host or your friends, call or email them the next day apologizing for your hasty exit from the party. If they already know of your commitment to your sobriety, they will completely understand.

A Final Note to Remember…

It is very important to stress that if you question your comfort in attending any function in which alcohol will be served – JUST DON’T GO. It has been stated throughout this article; your sobriety and recovery takes center stage and there will always be other invitations that come down the pike. If you are new and in your first year of recovery, it is best to avoid these functions until you are more comfortable in your recovery.

Ultimately, if you do decide that you are ready to regain your wings and become a social butterfly once again, the tips given above will give you a good foundation to party smart, sane and safe without drinking.

Original Article re-printed here with permission from

Red Rock Recovery Center is a Colorado state licensed substance abuse extended care treatment program designed to help you or your loved one recover from the struggles associated with alcoholism and drug addiction. Located in Denver, Colorado we offer a safe haven for those afflicted by the ravages of untreated addiction. Our program is based on a compassionate 12-step model that applies behavioral as well as life skill therapies, which will enable our clients to heal and recover.

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