Partying the Sober Way

Partying the Sober Way

Most of us look forward to summer’s arrival. The longer days, the nice weather, the get-togethers, the outdoor activities, the extra time off — all these make summer one of the best times of the year.

But summer is not easy for those in recovery. The outdoor parties and celebrations like weddings and graduations often entail alcohol. Not to mention they can make you feel nostalgic about all the “fun” you had at those kinds of parties when you were addicted.

Does avoiding temptation mean you need to stay away from pool parties, 4th of July barbecues and various other social events? Not necessarily.

Saying no is the easiest way to avoid being in a situation that may bring a relapse trigger. But if you’ve been building resiliency and are working every day to keep your commitment strong, you can still enjoy summer celebrations as long as you use the right strategies.

Be selective — the more temptations, the easier it is to eventually cave in. Choose only parties that are the most important, such as a close family member’s wedding or a holiday like July 4th, and say no to the rest that are not alcohol-free.

Find alcohol-free parties — join a sobriety group or church, which will not allow alcohol at their get-togethers. Some social clubs also don’t serve drinks at their events. If you have a friend who’s a member, ask your friend to take you as a guest as well as introduce you. And don’t forget Olalla Recovery’s annual picnic coming up in August!

Throw your own party — why not get a few like-minded friends together for clean fun? If you don’t have a place that can accommodate a party, ask friends who do if you can host at their home. Just make sure you take care of everything, from the invitations and food prep to the cleanup. And if you schedule your party earlier in the day, there’s less expectation that there would be drinking.

Plan other sober activities — if you keep yourself isolated, you’re more likely to say yes to a party just so you can be around other people. Plan activities with your kids or other close family, take a summer class, find a recovery café in your community, join a running club — there are plenty of ways to keep yourself busy.

Find alternatives to “good times” — if you loved hanging out with friends at a club every Friday or Saturday night, put a twist on that tradition. Ask to hang out at a coffee shop instead, or do other things together like going hiking or to a free outdoor summer concert.

Know your triggers — as much as you want to be at that event, if this will be a situation that’s asking for trouble, just say no. Whether it’s old drinking buddies, a specific occasion or location, know what your triggers are. It’s better to ask the family member or friend for forgiveness than to lose all the ground you’ve work hard to gain.

If you do find yourself RSVPing to a party that will have alcohol, go prepared:

  • Bring a sober friend. It could feel awkward to be the only one not drinking. Bringing a sober friend not only makes you feel less awkward but also gives you a support person who can help you stay accountable.
  • Drive yourself if at all possible. You need to be able to leave if a situation challenges your sobriety. If you get a ride to the party from a friend, have a backup plan for departure, like making sure you can get a ride-sharing service at your party location.
  • Plan your lines. Think ahead what you may say in various situations, such as when someone offers a drink or asks you about your abstinence during a friendly chat.
  • Serve yourself. Serve your own food and drink so you know what you’re eating and drinking. Have a nonalcoholic drink in your hand at all times and nurse it slowly — that way party hosts and others won’t feel the need to refill your glass.

Do enjoy your summer! There are so many reasons to celebrate: your sobriety, your new life, your supportive family and friends. Reaffirm your commitment, surround yourself with a positive network and keep an eye on your goals  — all these things will help you stay strong when a party may be calling your name.