The holidays can be a difficult time when you are in recovery. This year is a little different with the pandemic and so many of the usual festivities being cancelled, but in the past it seemed like there was always a party to go to around the holidays…and no shortage of booze! This is my first sober holiday season in a while, and I am honestly grateful for the lack of party invitations this year. But looking ahead, I know that special events and parties aren’t something I can avoid forever.
I got sober for the first time shortly after I turned 30 and began my recovery right before Thanksgiving. That was hard enough, but I remember that first sober Christmas party being even harder. I didn’t want to drink, but I felt left out. Everyone was drunk, gabbing away, and laughing. Meanwhile, I was just trying to remember to breathe properly and decide what to do with my hands. It was such a relief to finally go to bed after attending that first Christmas party! The morning after was even better. Everyone else was hungover and miserable, but I felt great! I got to really enjoy my holidays and I am enjoying the same wonderful feeling during this holiday season. But looking ahead, I know that I will encounter challenges in this area of my recovery again at some point, so I wanted to create a plan for how to stay sober at a party. Here’s what I came up with…
Choose an accountability buddy and tell them that you will not be drinking at the party. This is the first step towards making it through an event or party sober. Ideally, this person will stay sober with you at the party. But if you don’t have a sober friend, tell your best friend, a sibling, or even the party’s host or hostess. Just be sure to tell someone that you are in recovery and you will not be drinking any alcohol at the party.
Develop an exit strategy ahead of time. I can be around people who are drinking for a couple of hours, but I usually reach a point where it becomes overwhelming and I need to leave. It helps me to make a plan for how and when I will leave a party if I need to get out of there pronto to stay sober. Usually, I just tell the host or hostess that I have to get up early or something like that, thank them for inviting me, and head on out! Pay attention to how you’re feeling and implement your exit strategy when needed. If you’re attending the party with someone, you could also develop a secret signal to alert them when you need a quick exit.
Designate yourself as the driver for the evening. If you drive and are going to be attending a party with friends who will be drinking, consider designating yourself as the driver for the evening. I have done this for my friends and family before and it made me feel so good to be able to serve them in this way. It also made it much easier to turn down drinks because I knew that it was up to me to get my dear ones home safe! If you decide to do this, make it known to others at the party right when you arrive. For example, you could tell the host or hostess, “No alcoholic drinks for me by the way. I’m driving tonight.” If the party is at a bar, you may even get a special wristband and free non-alcoholic drinks if you tell them you’re the DD.
Sip on non-alcoholic drinks during the party. I’ve mentioned before that I am a big fan of mocktails. They help me to feel included at social events where other people are drinking. There are also some seriously fantastic tasting non-alcoholic craft beers on the market. My husband used to be a big craft beer drinker, but now he drinks NA craft beers. They have all the flavor, but no hangover and they are much lower in calories, too. Athletic Brewing Company’s Run Wild IPA is his favorite and I really like their All Out Stout. I’ve also heard good things about Bravus Brewing Company’s Oatmeal Stout, but we haven’t tried it yet.
Remember why you stopped drinking in the first place. Take some time before you head to the party to review your reasons for getting sober. Why did you quit? How did drinking affect you? How has your life improved since getting sober? You may even want to write the answers to these questions out and bring them with you to the party so you can read over them if you hit a stumbling block.
I hope this has been helpful to you! Attending your first party sober is a huge milestone in recovery and it can continue to be challenging for a while. But you can do it and making it through an event sober will be so rewarding!
Thanks for stopping by! Got additional tips on how to stay sober at a party? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear them!
“I didn’t want to drink, but I felt left out. Everyone was drunk, gabbing away, and laughing. Meanwhile, I was just trying to remember to breathe properly and decide what to do with my hands.”Tweet