We’ve all been there, and the first time in sobriety is usually the most uncomfortable. Yeah, we know where your minds just went with that one, but for now we’re talking about social gatherings — ones where you know copious amounts of booze will be served. So just how do we maintain our sobriety and, God forbid, maybe even enjoy ourselves at such events?

Let’s face it, whether you’re newly sober or you’ve been in recovery for a while, the prospect of going to a social gathering where lots of alcohol is being served can be downright scary. And for those of us who’ve had the phenomenon of craving lifted? Well, being surrounded by a room full of inebriated people can still be kind of a drag. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a little list we’ve compiled with six tips for staying sober — and maybe even having a good time — at that upcoming birthday party or wedding. Or any other social gathering that might potentially be a drunk fest, for that matter:

6 Tips For Staying Sober At Weddings, Parties, & Other Social Gatherings

  1. Bring a sober pal as your ‘plus one.’ This is probably our favorite solution if it’s at all feasible. Not only does it give you an accountability buddy to stop you from taking that first sip, but it also gives you someone to talk to who’s on your wavelength. This can be extra comforting if the other guests start getting sloppy, and it will also help you to have more fun. The two of you can keep each other entertained when other partygoers start slurring their words. Side note: we’re not saying that there aren’t plenty of drinkers out there who do handle their alcohol with dignity, and we’re envious of those who can. But having a sober friend around ensures that you’ll be able to have a coherent conversation no matter what.
  1. Keep a non-alcoholic drink in your hand to avoid questions like, “why aren’t you drinking?” Or, “what are you drinking?” If you’ve been sober for any length of time, then you know the drill. Sometimes it’s easier just to avoid these questions altogether by carrying a fizzy juice around. Also, make sure to watch the person who pours your drink so that you know it’s alcohol-free, and keep an eye on it at all times. You don’t want to accidentally pick up someone else’s alcoholic beverage after you’ve set yours down. And while at the end of the day, it’s nobody’s business what you’re drinking or why you’re not drinking, if the topic makes you uncomfortable, it’s best to play it safe.
  1. Plan ahead and ask questions. If you’re still in really early recovery, you may choose to forgo certain social situations if you think it’ll be a challenge to stay away from a drink or a drug. This is perfectly acceptable and actually encouraged. Your recovery should come first no matter what, and anyone who truly cares about you should understand this. That said, don’t be afraid to do a little research before the gathering, and use your best judgement as well. Your cousin’s Bat Mitzvah is one thing, but if it’s a big urban loft party with an open bar that doesn’t start until 11:00PM, you may want to think about what’s really in it for you. Ask the host questions beforehand, find out if there are non-alcoholic beverages available, and then follow your instincts. If your gut tells you it’s a bad idea for you to go, pay attention. You’ve worked hard to stay sober, so honor it.
  1. Just be honest. If anyone offers you a drink, tell them that you don’t drink, or that you don’t want a drink. If they push, let them know that you’re sober. If it’s a close friend who’s offering you the drink, then they should understand. If they don’t understand or they continue to push, then maybe this person has a drinking habit they need to look at, but we’re not here to take anyone else’s inventory. In any event, stay firm in your assertions, and remember that you don’t owe anyone a detailed explanation, or any explanation for that matter. We know this tactic isn’t for everyone. It can be hard for some of us to be really straightforward about our sobriety, particularly if it’s a new deal for us. If such is the case, move onto another strategy, but we can almost guarantee that with time, it does get easier to face these questions head-on.
  1. Have an exit strategy. Exit strategies are always a good idea, even if there’s no alcohol threat. Leaving any party can be awkward. Should you say goodbye to that group in the corner that you barely knew but had an offbeat two minute conversation with? Is it rude to leave without saying goodbye to the host because you’re not in the mood to make small talk? Should you just sneak out the back door? These are all valid questions, but by being mentally prepared to make a quick getaway sans a goodbye if needed, you’ll likely handle it with much more ease and grace. And at the end of the day, most people who are drinking and having a good time won’t even notice you’ve left. So if you’re at a party and you think you might pick up, then by all means, slip on out. Once again, you’re sobriety is THE most important thing. If you’re close pals with the host, you can always explain why you left in such a huff later, but sacrificing your sobriety out of politeness is never the way anyone wants to go out.
  1. Pick up that phone and call a sober fellow. We know, we know, it weighs 100 pounds, right? Wrong! If you’re at a party or an event, you’re tempted to pick up or use, and you absolutely cannot leave for whatever reason, then call a sober friend. Call as many people as you can until you reach someone. You’re life actually depends on it if you’re an addict in recovery and you think you’re going to drink or use. And if you can’t reach anyone? Then you may want to think about high tailing it out of there. Whatever commitment you have to the good folks throwing the party is, you guessed it, NOT as important as your sobriety.

So there you have it — six of our favorite ways to stay sober at social gatherings, from fellow addicts who’ve been there. Do you have any tried-and-true stay-sober methods for these types of scenarios? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

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