10 Ways to Stay Sober at Drinking Events
Going to weddings, barbecues, concerts and parties may be an enormous challenge for you, especially in early sobriety. The fear of being exposed as the person that doesn’t drink, or possibly being so tempted that you actually end up drinking, is quite overwhelming.
For me, there was always this uncomfortable time before the event, when my mind would go in circles, as I was trying to figure out what I was going to say, how I was going to say it, and even if I was going to be able to say it at all! And of course, how will the other person react. Will they push on? Will they ask why? Will they laugh at me? Will I have to explain? Will I feel left out? Will I feel uncool? Will I have any fun?! Ugh. Lots to worry about, right?!
But, one of the greatest things that I have learned in recovery was that whatever fear I carry about whatever situation I am facing, it always appears to me, to be way bigger than what it actually ends up being! And drinking events are no exception! My great fear that I will be the only person not drinking, and that everyone will notice that I am the only person not drinking, and that they will all be staring at me, and pointing at me as if I had a huge pimple on the very top of my nose, just because I am not drinking, is completely NOT TRUE!!! What usually happens is that no one notices that I am not drinking, and no one cares that I am not drinking, and then I feel disappointed that no one noticed or cared that I was not drinking! LOL!
Nevertheless, I can completely understand and relate to all those feelings however absurd they may turn out in the end. So to help with some of the fear and anxiety I have picked up several tools to help me along the way.
Here are the 10 things that might be helpful to you!
1. DON’T GO! This alone will save you every time! I know sometimes it is not possible not to go, or you might think that you absolutely have to go. Let me tell you first hand, NO, you do not have to go! The key here is to be honest with yourself. If you are not comfortable with it, and you feel like you might feel uncomfortable enough to pick up a drink, seriously… don’t go! You surely don’t need the extra pressure. This was and is still the most important decision to make.
2. Make sure that your feelings are in a good space. If you are experiencing the onset of the fuck its, this means that you may be putting yourself in danger if you are already sad, mad, or resentful and go to a drinking event. Since we are used to using alcohol to self-medicated, and we tend to drink at things, or at people, a place where alcohol is readily available maybe an immense trigger. In this case, I would choose not to attend the event at all.
3. Go to a meeting before you attend the event. If you are open to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), or SMARTrecovery, or any other support group, going to a meeting can give you the extra confidence. Chances are that you will get some great support there, as well as new ideas on how to cope. It is always helpful to hear this first hand from people who have already done it successfully. This will help you feel stronger and more positive about getting through the event.
4. Have a plan and be prepared to follow it. Play out couple of “what if” scenarios, make a decision on what you will do when it becomes too slippery for you to stay at the event. Whether you will call someone, or text them, or get some quiet time outside, or just plainly leave, make a plan so when the pressure gets overwhelming you know what to do.
5. Take a buddy with you. Preferably a non-drinking one, and one that understands how important it is for you not to drink. Having a support person right there with you is really empowering; there is always more strength in numbers.
6. Bring some mints, gum or candy. I find that this helped me with the cravings lots of times, as well as it deterred me from eating too much food, which I have done on a few occasions, as replacement for drinking. This maybe important as we often tend to replace one habit with another.
7. Get a non-alcoholic drink as soon as you get there. Get a coke, club soda, or cranberry and orange juice, then stick a lime on the rim and voilà, it looks like a drink! You can Also ask for the virgin (non-alcoholic) versions of Strawberry Daiquiri, Pina Colada or even a margarita. With a drink in hand already, chances are that no one will be asking you if you would like a drink.
8. When asked if you would like something to drink, say Yes! Then ask for one of the non-alcoholic drinks mentioned above. If you are specifically being ask if you would like an alcoholic drink, say No, thank you, and that’s all. There really is no need for any explanations! And you might want to ask again for the non-alcoholic drink anyways.
9. Call/text your support person. If you were not able to bring a buddy, have one available to contact while you are at the event. Sometimes just talking to someone who understands, or just talk to someone about something completely different, is all that you need to get your mind of the cravings. Remember, cravings are temporary, and they do go away.
10. LEAVE! This action alone will save you from the temptations and the frustrations! This may not be always possible to do, but if you can, just sneak out, pretending to go to the bathroom, or get a call outside, or get something that you forgot in your car. Trust me, your sobriety is important enough to remove yourself from the dangerous situation at any time!
I know this may not appear easy at all, I understand! I avoided many events in the beginning, because I wanted to protect my sobriety at any and all costs. Of course at some point I wanted to have a social life too! So I was ready and willing to take all the necessary steps to ensure that my sobriety was still #1 and I was able to enjoy the vent!
What other tools have you used? Please share!
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)*, please check out the Sober Courage menu at the top of this page for an extensive list of support groups and recovery related articles. You may also find some great inspiration, support and resources at the bottom of this page.
*Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD. AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using. (Ref: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders)