We can’t expect everyone to remember we’re in recovery or to know how to offer hospitality without also offering a beer. So it’s up to us to set our own boundaries. When we know we’re going to be among people drinking and partying, we must prepare in advance and boost our resilience so we can enjoy the event along with everyone else.
David Estrada, a Recovery Specialist at Parkdale, is in recovery himself and has plenty of suggestions for staying sober at summer parties. He says that attending such events requires realistic forethought and planning. He says it’s important to “keep your support close” when going into situations which may be triggering. Here are his suggestions:
Use your support network
Attend a 12 Step or support group meeting before the event. Talk about your concerns with your fellow attendees and be sure to touch base with your sponsor. Your sponsor or other attendees can offer support before, during, and after the party.
Your family and friends can be a source of support as well. Let them know you’ll be attending the event and how they can help you.
Don't feel like you need to explain yourself
It’s not necessary to share your recovery story with anyone who offers you a drink. You do not need to explain yourself. Simply reply that you’re not drinking, or even that you’re allergic to alcohol. Most people will not press for details.
Remember the reason you’re there. Stay in the moment.
You’re not at the social gathering to drink. You’re there to enjoy your loved ones’ company. Focus on the why.
Bring your own supply of drinks and snacks.
As long as you have a drink in your hand (no matter what it is), most people will not ask questions or push you to take something else. David suggests water, Gatorade, soft drinks – even coffee.
This provides an easy exit option if you need to leave.
Use prayer and/or meditation to keep you grounded.
David says he will often take a few minutes to pray or practice mindful breathing before leaving for the event. This helps him stay focused and emotionally prepared to enjoy himself without drinking.
If gatherings with drinking family and friends are too difficult for you, it’s okay, even good, to recognize that. You set your own boundaries. Social interactions are still important, though. Many 12 Step and other support groups host sober celebrations and events throughout the season, so there are plenty of ways to have fun and socialize with people who understand you. You can also seek out alcohol-free community events, or even plan your own events with people who will enjoy themselves without the need for alcohol. Being in recovery is no reason to hide away from fun. Focus on the burgers and perfecting your cannonball dive and enjoy the moment!