Staying Sober at a Party: Managing Addiction After Treatment

Managing your addiction after treatment often brings up significant challenges as you begin to participate in everyday activities without the use of drugs or alcohol. The following tips can help you stay sober at parties and cope with potential triggers as you commit yourself to recovery.

It’s 6am at Daybreaker, the dance floor is flooded, and the speakers are streaming the kind of bass you mistake for your heartbeat. Disco lights spin, scattering light over hundreds of people dancing in glow-stick necklaces. Someone climbs onto the stage and others follow, dancing around the DJ, while others cheer on their friends’ dance moves. It is a scene you could find on any Saturday night in cities across the world—except for one difference. At this party, no one is drinking. No one is snorting lines in the bathroom or spilling cocktails on strangers. At this party, the uninhibited dancing, laughing, and fast friendships all happen while sober.

Daybreaker is one of the growing number of sober parties spreading their way across the country and the world; sober bars, dinner parties, and raves have popped up in London, Dallas, Toronto, Paris, and Chicago. Guests at the Sober club in Stockholm have to take a breathalyzer test that shows no alcohol in their system before gaining access. Matthew Brimer, one of Daybreaker’s founders, says, “We want to take out all the bad stuff associated with clubbing: the drinking and self-destructive behavior […] and just bring people together. There’s no guilt whatsoever here.” And it’s working: Daybreaker events are regularly sold out and attendees quickly become devotees.

“I love that everyone’s sober, so no one is spilling drinks on me, pushing people around, or hitting anyone. It’s just dancing and having a great time,” explains 29-year-old Brooklyn resident Antonia Predovan. Catherine Manzanares, a 27-year-old living in Los Angeles, says, “It’s so easy to just compliment someone, chat with them, or vibe with music together.” Others, like Ben Rolnik, creator of the Conscious Family Dinner, say the events “are about creating a new form of play that facilitates meaningful connections, not the vapid chit-chat that often proliferates at cocktail parties or bars.” But for people in recovery, these events do something even more significant; they provide an easy solution for staying sober at parties.

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Managing Your Recovery After Treatment

Your time in addiction treatment can be one of profound transformation that fundamentally alters your relationship with drugs and alcohol, opening up new avenues for how to be in the world without engaging in self-destruction. But even if you have gone through treatment with utmost dedication, your sobriety may still be tested once you return to your everyday living environment and begin to manage your recovery in the real world. This includes participating in social and professional communities in meaningful ways in order to benefit from the power of human connection. Unfortunately, in a culture where so much socialization revolves around drinking, this can be harder than it sounds.

While events like Daybreak provide innovative new ways of staying sober at parties by making sobriety an inherent feature of the party itself, these events alone are unlikely to fulfill all your social needs and obligations. There are work parties, dinner parties, holiday parties, and regular nights out with friends where alcohol will undoubtedly be present and at which your recovery will be tested. Even if you are not tempted directly by alcohol, you may worry about feeling alienated, self-conscious, and even embarrassed. By creating a strategy for maintaining your sobriety at these events, you can set yourself up for success and protect your recovery while still having fun.

Tips for Staying Sober At Parties

Staying sober at parties when you’re in recovery can’t just be something you hope for, but must be something you plan for. The following tips can help you avoid alcohol and drug use in social situations.

Get Support Ahead of Time

If you are anxious about staying sober at an upcoming party, talk it out in your 12-step meeting or support group. Your peers have been there before, know what you are experiencing, and can offer meaningful support as you face the challenges ahead. By expressing your concerns within a safe environment, you can more clearly understand your potential triggers and develop strategies for coping with them effectively. Talking it through with your group may also help you stay accountable and strengthen your resolve to stay clean.

Go With a Sober Friend

Staying sober at parties can be most difficult when you are the only one not drinking; not only can you feel conspicuous and lonely, you may also start to believe that the only way to have fun at a party is to drink. After all, that seems to be what everyone else is doing. By bringing a sober friend, you will have someone who understands your situation and will be your ally when it comes to staying clean. If you do not have a sober friend, make sure you at least go with someone who knows you are sober and will support you even if they are drinking moderately themselves.

Prepare Your Answers

If people don’t know you’re in recovery, it’s likely that you will be offered a drink out of simple hospitality. Creating a plan for coping with that situation before you find yourself in it is imperative for maintaining your sobriety even in uncomfortable moments. While it’s natural to build up this moment in your mind, usually a simple, “No thanks!” or “Thank you, but I’m not drinking tonight” will do. Remember that you do not owe anyone any explanations about why you are staying sober; it is entirely up to you whether or not to disclose the fact that you are in recovery. It’s also completely acceptable to make up an excuse, whether it’s “I have an early day tomorrow” or “I’m the designated driver.” Anyone who truly cares about you will respect your decision and your privacy and won’t try to pressure you into having a drink.

Prepare Your Own Drinks

Many people in recovery feel that it is easier to refuse alcoholic drinks when they already have a non-alcoholic drink in hand. If you are not sure if there will be good non-alcoholic options available, bring your own juice, seltzer water, or other soft drinks to ensure you will have choices aside from alcohol. Also, be sure to prepare these drinks yourself; in the midst of a party, it can be easy for someone to give you an alcoholic drink due to a simple mix-up and cause you to relapse.

Have an Escape Plan

If a party is getting to be too much for you and you feel your sobriety or emotional wellness is threatened, leave. It could be that you’re not having fun and begin to wonder if having a drink would loosen you up. It could be that being around inebriated people brings up difficult feelings that begin to overwhelm you. It could be that you start to wonder if your sobriety is holding you back from social or professional opportunities and contemplate just having one. In these cases, removing yourself from the dangerous situation is the best thing you can do. Planning for this scenario ahead of time by thinking about what you’ll say to the host and ensuring you have transportation available makes implementing the plan significantly easier at a time when you may be entering distress. Sure, you may feel awkward or even embarrassed, but maintaining your sobriety is the most important thing you can do.

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Continuous Commitment to Recovery

Recovery is a lifetime journey that requires continuous re-commitment in order to protect yourself from relapse. Staying sober at parties is often one of the biggest challenges after treatment and chances are that you will have to relearn (or learn for the first time) how to have fun without using. Draw on the skills you learned in treatment, the support of the recovery community, and on your own inner strength to keep yourself safe and healthy. Remember the reasons you entered recovery and enjoy the possibilities of sobriety as you forge new connections and find joy in experiencing life without drugs or alcohol. “You get to meet people in a clearer head space,” Courtney Nichols, a 28-year-old event planner says of her experiences attending parties without using. “You leave the party and you feel refreshed.”

Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned suite of recovery programs and how we can help you or your loved one start on the path to a richer, more fulfilling future.