Summer is officially here, and that means that many of us will be busy with camping trips, backyard BBQs, and plenty of other social events. All these parties are a lot of fun, but they can also be nerve-wracking for people struggling with addiction. After all, parties often include alcohol. How can they stay sober when everyone else is drinking?
We get it. When you first start your recovery journey, you feel very vulnerable. It feels like anything — even a party with people you love — could be the thing that ruins your newfound sobriety. But don’t worry: having fun and sober summer is possible, and we are here to show you how.
Here are a few tips for staying sober during summer events.
Tip #1: Know Your Triggers
When you go through drug addiction or alcoholism recovery, one of the most important parts of your treatment is learning to recognize your “triggers.” This term refers to the internal and external stimuli that can make you feel the need to drink or use drugs.
Triggers vary for everyone, and they can be anything from emotions like stress or fear to a specific place or person. If you want to learn how to stay sober for the long run, you MUST identify your triggers. Once you know what stimuli are driving your addiction, you can learn how to avoid or cope with those triggers and protect yourself and your sobriety.
Tip #2: Choose Sober Activities
The summer months are great for parties, concerts, and sporting events — but those events typically have lots of alcohol on hand. If you don’t feel ready to be around alcohol or drugs this summer, that’s ok. Just look for sober activities and have your summer fun there!
Health-related activities like hitting the gym, going on a hike, or biking around your town can be a great way to socialize while staying sober. It’s also wise to check your local 12-step group or another outpatient program, as many of them put on sober cookouts and other activities during the summer. These events can be fun and help you connect with other people in recovery.
Tip #3: Help Out to Stay Busy
Here’s one of our favorite tips for staying sober: help others. Research shows that people in recovery who dedicate some of their time to helping others stay sober longer than those who don’t1! This is great advice for your recovery journey, but it’s especially useful when you’re at a party with drugs or alcohol present.
Keep yourself busy and away from any temptations by offering to help out your host. Lend a hand in the kitchen, keep the pets entertained, or ask your host how you can help them keep the party running smoothly. This can be a great way to engage with folks at a party without focusing on drugs or alcohol.
Tip #4: Be the Host
What’s better than helping the host at a party? Being the host! When it’s your party, you get to make the rules — and that means you can avoid drugs, alcohol, or any other potential triggers. Find a few mocktail recipes, invite your friends over, and get ready for a sober summer bash!
Of course, if you’re planning to host a dry party, it’s important to let your guests know. This establishes everyone’s expectations for the event and prevents them from bringing a “party gift” that’s a risk to your recovery journey.
Tip #5: BYOB: Bring Your Own Beverage
If you’re wondering how to stay sober from alcohol, here’s a quick tip: bring your own drink to the party! Bring something non-alcoholic that you enjoy so you can drink it throughout the evening.
This tip is helpful for two main reasons: firstly, it keeps you away from the drink options at your event, which removes any temptation. Secondly, bringing your own drink ensures you don’t mix up your beverage with someone else’s.
Tip #6: Have an Accountability Partner
Support is essential for a successful recovery. That’s why so much of addiction treatment focuses on forging relationships with sponsors and other recovery-minded individuals. As you start your new, sober life, it’s important to lean on those relationships — and in some cases, that means bringing a sober friend to the party with you.
A sober friend can help you focus on your recovery and manage your triggers in the face of temptation. Make sure you ask someone you trust, who both understands your situation and knows how to handle your triggers.
Tip #7: Practice Saying “No”
Let’s say you’re at a concert or BBQ and someone offers you a beer. What do you do? Tell them no! Say something like, “I’m driving tonight,” or simply tell them that you’re in recovery. Once someone understands why you’re not drinking, they’re not likely to offer again.
Not comfortable explaining WHY you’re not drinking to another partygoer? You don’t have to! Remember, “No” is a complete sentence (or “No, thank you” if you want to be polite). You don’t owe others an explanation for staying sober, so don’t be afraid to decline anything you don’t want.
Tip #8: Leave When You Need To
Sometimes, it is just too difficult to be around people who are drinking when you’re in recovery. That’s ok! No two recovery journeys are exactly alike, and something that’s fine for one person might be too much for another to handle. Your job is to protect your sobriety and pay attention to your emotional needs — even if that means leaving the event early.
Whenever you feel like it’s time to head home, go. Don’t worry about what others will think or feel. The people who love you want to see you happy, healthy, and sober, and they’ll certainly respect your boundaries to make sure you stick with your recovery.
Tip #9: Make a Relapse Plan
What happens if you go to a party, concert, or other summer event and relapse? Firstly, forgive yourself. Learning how to stay sober is no small feat, and 40-60% of people who go through rehab relapse at least once2. You might be disappointed that you relapsed, but the most important thing to do is get back on track.
If you think there will be drugs or alcohol at an event you are attending, talk with people you trust (your sponsor, family members, friends, etc.) about what to do if you relapse. Decide early on how you’d like to handle the situation, whether that means enrolling in another inpatient program, finding a sober living facility, or visiting a detox center to help you sober up again. When you have a plan in place, you can quickly and more safely resume your recovery journey.
Tip #10: Consider Outpatient Treatment
Outpatient treatment is a great tool for anyone who wants continued care and support while they transition out of an inpatient program. These programs allow you to continue counseling, get (and give) peer support, and strengthen your resolve and commitment to sobriety.
This is why outpatient care can be beneficial before attending a summer event. The support, encouragement, and advice you receive at a 12-step meeting or other addiction support program can be invaluable when you’re faced with a scenario where drugs or alcohol might be present.
Tip #11: Focus on the Fun
When you’re newly in recovery, it can be very easy to focus on nothing else. After all, your sobriety is a big deal — but it also seems fragile and hard to maintain. Remember that you deserve to have fun, so don’t be afraid to relax a little!
Sobriety doesn’t mean you have to be sullen and serious all the time. Just the opposite! By embracing your recovery and staying sober, you can be truly alert and present in the moment. This allows you to really enjoy everything that’s great about a summer day with friends, so make sure you take time to acknowledge everything you love about the event.
Tip #12: Give Yourself Grace
Finally, one of the most critical tips for staying sober is simply to give yourself a little grace. Recovery is a difficult challenge, but every day you make it through, you prove you’re worthy of it! You deserve to enjoy your friends and loved ones in this new, sober, life, so feel free to enjoy yourself without any shame or guilt!
Start Your Recovery Journey with Better Addiction Care
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, it is so important that they get the help they need. At Better Addiction Care, we can help you find the right rehab center near you, whether you’re looking for a private facility or a free/state-funded rehab. Our team will work with you to find the program that meets your medical needs, financial needs, and recovery goals, so you or your loved one has the greatest chance of success.
Our treatment advisors are available to take your call 24/7, and calls are always free and confidential. Contact us today at (800) 429-7690. One call to Better Addiction Care might change your life for the better!
- Pagano, M. Ph.D et al. (2013, January). “The 10 Year Course of AA Participation and Long-Term Outcomes: A Follow-up Study of Outpatient Subjects in Project MATCH.” Substance Abuse. Retrieved June 26, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3558837/
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, July). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved June 27, 2022 from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
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