For many of us, the holidays are a time to get together and catch up with family and friends. In addition to good food, most of these family gatherings and parties are also likely to involve alcohol. While this may not seem like a big deal to many, it can be a much more difficult environment for those who are sober and in recovery. If not handled properly, this situation can become uncomfortable for both drinking and sober guests, or even worse, lead a person who has chosen to be sober to break their sobriety.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help ensure everyone feels comfortable and still has a good time whether they choose to drink or abstain. The tips below can help those in recovery successfully attend parties and other social gatherings where alcohol is present and help those hosting make sure the needs of all their guests are met.
Attending a Party While in Recovery
Choosing to attend a party where there will be alcohol can be a big step for someone in recovery. However, you don’t have to go simply because you’re invited. Make sure you’re comfortable with your sobriety before deciding to attend. If you do decide to go, these tips can help ensure you have a good time and maintain your sobriety.
- Bring a friend. Being the only person at a party who isn’t drinking can make you feel isolated and uncomfortable. Consider bringing a friend who also isn’t drinking or who understands and supports your desire to stay sober. If you do go alone, let your sponsor or a trusted friend know where you’re going so they can get in touch and check in.
- Bring your own non-alcoholic drinks. Reduce the temptation to drink by bringing a non-alcoholic beverage you enjoy. Bring a pen to mark your cup so you can have peace of mind that your drink won’t accidentally get mixed up with someone else’s. Having a drink in your hand can also keep others from offering you an alcoholic drink you don’t want. Pouring your water or soda into a cup or making a drink that looks like a cocktail but isn’t (e.g., club soda with lemon) may help you avoid unwanted questions.
- Choose to arrive later. Depending on the party, you may want to arrive later, such as for a dinner party where the first hour is mostly snacking and social drinking. Find out when dinner will be served and let the host know you’ll arrive closer to that time.
- Sharing your story is your choice. If someone asks why you’re not drinking, don’t feel obligated to share your story. It’s okay to make up an excuse like saying you’re on medication or are the designated driver. Your sobriety is your business and you shouldn’t feel obligated to share unless you feel comfortable.
- Don’t be afraid to leave early. Protecting your sobriety is more important than any party. If you feel uncomfortable, it’s okay to leave. This feeling may improve over time as you get used to attending events where others are drinking and you aren’t.
Hosting a Party
If you’re hosting a party and want to make sure your sober guests have a good time, follow the tips below.
- Have non-alcoholic drinks available. Water, soda, tea and coffee are all good choices. If you’re using plastic cups, provide markers so people can write their name on their cup and avoid mixing up a drink accidentally.
- Make guests aware of drinks and food with hidden alcohol. If a bowl of punch or a pitcher of juice already has alcohol in it, make your guests aware of it. Labeling drinks and food items that contain alcohol (including what kind) helps everyone make sure they’re only consuming what they want. Labeling may also help keep your guests who are drinking from accidently overserving themselves.
- Shift the focus away from alcohol. It can often seem like the goal of a party is for everyone to get drunk. Avoid this atmosphere by putting the focus on fun activities and creative food and non-alcoholic drink options.
- Treat sober guests like anyone else at the party. Check in to see if they need anything and are having a good time without hovering or making them feel uncomfortable. Ask yourself how you’d treat the person if they were not drinking because they were on a certain medication or were pregnant. Treat your sober guests in recovery the same way.
- Don’t draw extra attention to sober guests. Choosing to be sober, whatever the reason, is a personal choice. Let your sober guests choose whether to share this information – don’t do it for them by pointing out that they aren’t drinking or telling other people at the party about their sobriety.
The LHSFNA has many publications related to responsible alcohol use, including our Drinking & Driving pamphlet and our DUI vs. Taxi and Addictions Come in All Shapes and Sizes posters. These and other publications can be ordered through our online Publications Catalogue.