One thing that doesn’t typically mix is parties and the whole “sober” thing. Our social culture is set up to glorify happy hours, dinner and drinks, or spending time with friends around a few cocktails and beers. Unfortunately, as someone who no longer drinks or uses substances, this isn’t really an option for me anymore. So, how do you manage to survive family dinners, friend get togethers, and office parties, and festive celebrations? It may look a bit different for you, but these are a few things I’ve found to be especially helpful for me. Here are a handful of suggestions for the various encounters you may face.
House Party – BYOB* (Bring Your Own Beverage) – Stop by the grocery store or at the very least a convenience store on your way to the party and grab a few things that you know you’ll enjoy and will make you feel fancy. My personal go to is ginger beer – it’s tasty and a bonus is my favorite ginger beer comes in glass bottles which make it especially easy to not think twice about who is drinking what.
Event with a bar – Ask the bartender to make you a mocktail! You can easily substitute sparkling water for booze and make something tasty and special. I find it helpful for me to always have a drink in my hand to ease any potential social anxiety and keep me occupied. I’m less likely to fidget or pay attention to what other folks are drinking if I have my own drink.
Dining out – I’m a personal fan of sparkling water and lime. Topo Chico, La Croix, Waterloo, etc. are all great options to supplement your dinner or dessert without taking away from enjoying your meal. Soda, iced tea, or plain ol’ water work great too.
Extra things to keep in mind – water is important! Make sure to stay hydrated during the fun and take a break if you need to.
If you anticipate beforehand that an event may be stressful, plan ahead! Find a friend or someone you trust to be your partner during your event (in person or virtually) in case you need a text distraction (GIFs and memes are great for this), or even if you need a break to vent and catch your breath. Maybe you’re staying at home, visiting the town you grew up in, or traveling somewhere new - if a 12 step or sobriety support meeting is part of your community there is likely something nearby for you to check out.
As always, remember it is truly okay if you need to set a boundary and avoid an event altogether. If you’re aware there may be heavy drinking, assorted substance use, or anything else that may put your sobriety or safety at risk – stay home or do something else instead! Some people may not respond well to this decision but your sanity, mental health, and personal safety are the most important. You do you.
The New Year can be a tough time for a lot of folks and being intentional about your approach to this time of year can make a world of difference. Whether this is your first end of year season sans alcohol (and/or substances), or you’re a seasoned veteran, we can all stand to practice a bit of self-love and self-compassion while being intentional and mindful of our own needs when it comes to social gatherings and family festivities.
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