The Holidays are fast approaching, which means you can count on one thing: Parties.
For a recovering addict, attending these social events can infuse fear into the fun, so here are some simple tips to staying sober during the Holidays.
A sober social life is different —in a good way. You’re different, too. Alcohol is one of the most available and addictive drugs in the world.
This can make staying sober a challenge since many social occasions revolve around booze. But with a little planning, a deep breath and these simple tips, you can enjoy the all the Holiday fun and stay on track with your progress.
1.) Determine The Party Environment.
Before accepting the invite, ask about the circumstances. Confidently inquire about the event with questions like:
“Will alcohol-free drinks available?”
“Will there be any other non-drinkers there?”
“Will partygoers be engaging in games or activities?”
Important questions to ask yourself are: “Would this group of people still be gathering if alcohol was not a part of the party?”and “Will anyone be there who could potentially sabotage my sobriety?”
Once you have an idea of the environment, you can easily decide if you want to attend and can prepare yourself in advance.
2.) Have a plan and follow it.
Go through some “what if” scenarios. Make your decisions in advance on what you will do if the event becomes difficult to handle. Will you call or text someone? Step outside and regroup? Or make an exit? Prepare for the problems and show up with your solutions already in place.
3) Use The Buddy System
The Beetles said it best. It IS easier to get by with a little help from your friends. Taking a friend or family member along who knows your situation and will support you by also not drinking will put you at ease and ensure that you stick to the plan.
You will have another sober soul to talk to if the other guests have a few too many. And if it worse comes to worst… you can give them the authority to give you the tough love you may need to stay drink-free.
If a buddy isn’t available, have a callable or textable ‘phone a friend’ on speed dial.
Sometimes just talking to someone who understands, or even the distraction of a meme war is all that you need to take your mind off the cravings until they go away… because they WILL go away.
4.) Control Your Own Drinks.
In the midst of the party, it is easy for people to forget you are staying sober and they can unwittingly pour or hand you something alcoholic by mistake.
Make sure you get your own drinks and keep tabs on the bartender to ensure no alcohol goes in your glass. And – do not put your drink down on a table to return for it later.
You could easily mistake your glass for one full of alcohol and find yourself headed for a relapse with just one mistaken sip.
Take your own alcohol-free drinks with you. A pink lemonade or ginger beer stash in your car can be very beneficial. If you’re wandering around the party with a can in hand it’s less likely you’ll be asked if you want a drink.
Gain even more control by bringing some mints, gum or candy. A burst of sweetness or mint can often quell the cravings as well as deter you from turning to the refreshment table for comfort, as it’s natural to often replace one habit with another.
5) Go to a meeting before you attend the event.
If you are open to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), or SMARTrecovery, or any other support group, a meeting before the event can give you that extra boost you need.
The support as well as new ideas on how to cope from people who have already successfully waded through social sobriety can help you feel stronger and more positive about getting through the event.
If you are experiencing strong emotions or stress before the party, this means that you may be putting yourself in danger. Since using alcohol is a form of self-medication, then we tend to drink at things, or people.
If you’re not in a good emotional space, then being at a place where alcohol is readily available maybe an immense trigger. In this case, it’s best to choose not to go to the event.
6.) Plan Your Exit.
One of the most important things when staying sober at a social event is to have an exit strategy.
If it gets late, or if the level of intoxication surrounding you makes you uncomfortable; then it is time to make your exit.
Immediately. Have your excuse ready– you have work to get caught up on, you left something in your car, or a friend needs help. If you brought a buddy with you, simply tell them you need to go.
Do not worry about saying goodbye. Send an email or call the hosts the next day with a sincere thank you, and an apology for leaving unannounced.
Leaving can save you from the temptations and the frustrations and removing yourself from the party but that doesn’t mean you’ve got to home and twiddle your lonely thumbs.
As a part of your back-up plan, have a back-up activity in place. Go see a movie, walk through an art exhibit or visit your favorite restaurant. Make your own sober fun!
You’re Going To Be Asked Why You’re Not Drinking.
At several points during early sobriety, you’re probably going to get asked why you’re not drinking. Have an answer memorized and on standby, such as:
“I don’t like the way it makes me feel.”
“I just don’t want it.”
“I promised myself I wouldn’t.”
“I’ve been told I’m sexier when I’m sober”
Whatever your phrase is, own it and say it with pride.
If someone persists with personal questions or makes you feel pressured to drink, this is the point where you have to question those relationships. Surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed.
Your sober life will be your best life!
You may feel like you are under the microscope as you emerge back into social gatherings but the fact is, nobody at the party gets to decide whether or not you should drink and what really matters, is the conversations you have with yourself.
Utilize these tips, relax and realize that sobriety is an adjustment that will take time and effort. As you change, your ideas of social fun will change with you.
Planning ahead is crucial, and if a situation is likely to be high risk, there is absolutely nothing wrong with simply denying the invitation.
With proper planning and support, you can diffuse the fear and enjoy the fun… all while keeping your holidays happy!
Written by: Lesa Thomas