You Can Stay Focused and Have Fun
Sometimes, resisting the urge to drink is more than just saying no. You need solid intention and a step-by-step plan to stay focused on goals and avoid relapse. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy sober socializing, holiday parties, or other large celebratory gatherings.
However, you do need to be honest with yourself; outline any potential triggers—negative or positive—that are catalysts for drinking; and acknowledge there’s a little extra effort involved to have a good time.
Be Realistic About Your Capacity for Sobriety
Sometimes, when a person is sober for a while, they believe a sip of champagne or an occasional glass of wine with dinner won’t be a big deal. They’ve completed inpatient rehabilitation facility treatment, attended hundreds of 12-Step meetings and maybe even have sign-off from a sponsor, and rely on healthful coping techniques. Their daily lives now seem stable and full of focus, so what’s a little tipple to celebrate a special occasion, holiday, or other event?
Unfortunately, for most people in recovery, moderate drinking simply isn’t an option. Also known as controlled drinking, there are varying studies and hotly-contested points of view about whether a recovering alcoholic has to abstain forever. But the majority of addiction science researchers believe alcoholism is a brain disease and consequently, occasionally drinking doesn’t promote sobriety or long-term wellness—it will likely affect the brain’s cognitive function as it once did. You’re wise to be diligent in monitoring and dispelling any urges.
Identify Your Triggers
If you completed a treatment program, your healthcare provider outlined a continuum of care plan that included root causes for your behavior and progressive steps for wellness. In that analysis, many triggers came to light.
Each person’s internal and external triggers vary considerably—trauma, grief, co-occurring disorders, heredity, loneliness, environmental influences, and chronic health conditions are just a few of the most common aspects of causation. But remember: an urge to drink at a party is less about being included in the festivities and more about reacting to a triggered response. Recognizing this will help you maintain control.
Reassess How You Cope With Cravings
There’s no reason to feel ashamed or guilty about having cravings, especially during newfound sobriety. You’re a human being, not a robot. But if you have a special event coming up, run through your checklist for how you manage cravings and step up the behaviors that reinforce wellness, such as proper sleep, diet, and exercise.
If you’re having a moment during a party, and your senses are assaulted by the sight and smell of alcohol, remember:
- The average craving lasts about 30 minutes, so find another way to occupy your time. You may feel overwhelmed by it at first, but diverting your attention helps you settle down. Offer to wash dishes. Go outside for some fresh air. Call or text your sponsor or another member of your support network. Acknowledging a craving is the opposite of weakness, but you’ll need to employ critical techniques to move past it.
- Practicing mindfulness is a great way to recognize what’s happening in the present moment without judgment and trust that this uncomfortable feeling is only temporary. If you notice a craving rise, find a quiet corner and take 10 deep breaths. On each exhale, let go of more fragments of the craving. Then, inhale as you squeeze your hands into fists, and fully open your fingers on an exhale. Repeat three times. This passive muscle relaxation technique reduces the “fight or flight” response of your nervous system.
Yes, the potential for relapse is a valid concern for a lot of people—40 to 60 percent, in some cases. Being in a high-risk environment such as socializing after work, a special holiday occasion, or other functions where alcohol is commonly served presents additional challenges.
Use what you learned in treatment, through counseling, and within support groups to stay clear on what matters most.
Tips for Sober Fun at Parties
Whatever the occasion, you’re bound to find great joy at all types of parties, and you should! Positive social interactions are necessary for our overall well-being. When you feel a sense of belonging, it’s preventative medicine: it tempers the loneliness often felt during recovery, provides valuable connections to understanding and togetherness, and reinforces special intentions for healthful behaviors.
So seek out different ways to make parties fun! Here are some suggestions.
If you’re extraverted:
- Set up a photo booth with goofy props found onsite and act as photographer.
- Create a music trivia contest using your smartphone for research.
- Coordinate the “question game:” use blank name tags and place questions on some people and answers on others, and help them find one another through a series of prompts.
If you’re introverted:
- Suggest a board game that encourages people to break off into small groups. This eases the pressure for a lot of socializing.
- Tell your host you plan to attend for a certain amount of time—such as 45 minutes—and stick to it. If you feel more comfortable, you can always extend your stay.
- Choose an activity that keeps you busy, helpful, and out of the limelight, such as refreshing the buffet, taking people’s coats, or crafting with kids.
By staying active and interacting with people on your terms, you’ll move past idle chitchat-with-drinks-in-hand to a more rewarding experience.
Try Out Your Socializing Skills at Willingway Functions
Did you know that throughout the South, Willingway offers weekly Continuing Care Community Groups? In these environments, you can learn more about navigating parties and enjoy conversations about other recovery topics or just life itself. Check out this full list to find and event near you.