I’ll never forget my first sober holiday party. I spent about two weeks talking about it with my sponsor — I was terrified of drinking and had no idea how to handle questions about why I didn’t drink. But with a well-curated plan, I breezed through the party and was surprised by how I handled it. Had I not put together a strategy ahead of time, it could’ve been an altogether different story — one we’ve heard many times, of people going to a party and falling backwards.
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Challenges of Attending a Party Sober
It’s bizarre to me to think that our first thought about attending a party sober is often one of deprivation. But I can’t have a drink anymore, I’m missing out, we tell ourselves. Once you examine the reality of how you used to party, it certainly would not be described as fun. I would describe it as a disaster.
It was only once I got to my first party sober that I realized why I used to drink so much in the first place: I had terrible social anxiety! I used to get so loaded to feel comfortable enough to talk to people and even dance. Until I got too drunk to do either of those things — and then I’d sit slumped in a chair until I passed out, or caused trouble.
But for some of us, it was fun. Even in recovery, some find partying sober completely liberating.
Tips for Handling Your First Sober Party
Whether you enjoy socializing, or are attending out of a commitment to work or family, these tips can help you feel comfortable at your first sober party:
- Have an exit strategy. Park your car close by, or have a partner or friend ready to pick you up.
- Give yourself permission to leave at any time. Even if it is directly after you have walked in, you have the right to leave whenever you want. You have to feel comfortable, otherwise there is no point in being there.
- Have friends on standby to speak to. Tell them you’re going to your first party sober and that you may need to call them if you feel challenged.
- Make a list of reasons why you don’t drink. Keep this list in your wallet. If you feel tempted, take a moment to read the list and leave the party if you need to.
- Be prepared. If anyone asks you why you don’t drink, you can either tell them a reason that you have listed — I’m allergic, I am taking a break, I don’t drink — or decline to answer. At the end of the day, it’s no one else’s business. Do what makes you comfortable.
- Order your own drinks. If you don’t want to go to the bar, ask a trusted friend. But if you don’t feel comfortable being around a bar, that’s probably a sign you’re not ready to be there at all.
- It is okay to stay home. Know that it’s your right to decline the party invite if you don’t feel ready. Best you avoid the party than get stressed or worried about going. It is entirely acceptable to change your mind if you don’t feel up to it on the night of the event.
Perhaps most of all, be gentle with yourself. It can be challenging to do this sober for the first time. Everything can feel more challenging and uncomfortable without a drink to ease tension and provide some social lubrication. But it is entirely possible to get through it, and once you do, you’ll have a new experience in sobriety. Over time, you’ll realize you can do anything sober, and you’ll even wonder why you’d even want to drink at a party in the first place!
If you’re struggling to navigate the complex social world of substances, help is closer than you think. If your holiday party serves as a wake-up call for needed sobriety, call 352.771.2700 The Recovery Village to speak with a caring representative who can help you find treatment.
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