Socializing While Sober 101
“How do I socialize without drugs and alcohol?”
One of the big questions for most people who are new in sobriety is exactly that, how will I handle socializing without any form of drugs or alcohol?
For most of us, social events/friendships were directly intertwined with our drinking/drug use.
Simply locking yourself away in a dark room ala Howard Hughes or living off the grid in the wilderness are not feasible long-term solutions.
Luckily, people in recovery have been through these things before. Here are some strategies to help you socialize and maintain your sobriety.
Know What Specific Triggers/Situations To Avoid
This is especially useful to those who are new in sobriety, and it is straightforward.
- If you spent hours at nightclubs drinking/using, you may want to avoid going out to nightclubs.
- If you sit in the Timbers Army section at Providence Park and drink/pregame beforehand, try sitting in the family section of the stadium and have a sober friend there.
- If you would watch games in a bar and get drunk, maybe watch at home or with a sober friend.
- If you’re at the supermarket, stay away from the beer and wine section.
- If you’re thinking of entering a liquor store and staring longingly at bottles of alcohol, well, don’t do it.
There’s an adage that “if you sit in a barbershop for hours, eventually you are going to get a haircut”. At some point you may be able to do those things without temptation, but in early sobriety, engaging in these habits is truly playing with fire.
At the risk of including too many metaphors in a single paragraph, I’ll leave it at that.
Use The Fellowship Of The Program To Your Advantage
There’s a reason the topic of fellowship and sponsorship come up so often in these kinds of group sessions. When you have a solid group of sober friends, it gets easier to get through social situations while sober.
You can gain sober friends by coming to meetings a little early, staying a little after the meeting, and getting a service position, be it secretary, coffee maker, etc. If may not seem like much, but a service position is a great way to get into the rhythm of going to your group and forcing yourself to interact with other recovering alcoholics. Soon enough, it won’t feel like you’re forcing yourself.
On the note of fellowship, try going to sober events. For example, every summer (apart from 2020 obviously) my home group, usually in collaboration with another group, hosts a massive picnic, complete with free food, games, and great conversation.
When I got into AA, I would’ve immediately assumed this would be “lame and miserable” (never mind how lonely and miserable my life had become during my addiction), I can assure you these events are a lot of fun, and a brilliant way to fellowship.
In most regions of the country there are ample opportunities for sober fellowship. Here in the Portland Metro alone, there are sober gyms, sober hiking groups, sober running groups, sober futsal and several other sober fellowship opportunities not related to sports or exercise (you can probably see my bias towards athletic events).
Use Your Sponsor
Being honest with your sponsor about potential triggering events is also critical. A sponsor is not just someone who can take you through the steps. A sponsor is someone you can reach out to if you’re considering taking that first drink.
One of the other functions a sponsor serves is someone whose brain is wired the same way as yours that you can bounce ideas off. Not only do they know more about your story anyone but you, they’ve been through the same things you’ve been through and managed to get through it without drinking.
Have an exit strategy
Sometimes, there are events that you must go to, be it a work function, school function, or important family function.
At several of these events, alcohol may be present and depending on the situation, there may be temptations to get a drink. In these situations, if leaving early isn’t a possibly, and you are tempted towards the first drink, have a friend in the program you can reach out to and call. This is one of the many reasons phone lists get passed around at meetings.
People Aren’t Judging You For Not Drinking/Using
As alcoholics/addicts, we tend to guess what other people are thinking about us quite often or imagine they’re thinking about us at all.
Most people will not judge you for not drinking/using at events. On the contrary, many of them might think even more highly of you or at the very least be happy for you.
Honesty Is The Best Policy
You can be honest about not drinking or using at social functions without going into to the nitty gritty details. Simply tell at least one support person that you’re not drinking can be a good way to keep accountability.
If they know you aren’t drinking, they aren’t likely to push drinks too heavily on you.
Play The Tape Through
When you’re in recovery and all else fails, the tape can be your best friend. For people too young to remember what a VHS tape is, just think about a digital recording in your head. If you’re in AA or any other program or are even looking at this and considering coming to AA, it likely means you can’t drink like normal people.
As an alcoholic myself, simply having one drink and being happy sounds cool. My dog learning how to speak English and having full conversations with me also sounds cool, and that’s about as likely as me being satisfied with just one drink.
The fact is, none of us are in AA because we’re capable of having one drink and feeling happy. We’re here because when we have one drink, we immediately have an insatiable urge to have more and more drinks.
As a good friend of mine likes to say, “remember, alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful. What’s the most important word? Cunning? No. Baffling? No. Powerful? No. Remember”.
Practice Makes Perfect
As with anything, the more social situations you go through without drinking, the easier it gets. Speaking as someone with 6 and a half years in sobriety, it gets easier and easier to get through events without having the urge to drink or use.
Of course, the effectiveness of this advice can vary from person to person. When I got into sobriety I struggled in social situations. One of the crutches I used to help me get through social situations was taken away.
I’ve found that now, with years of sobriety, I have an easier time navigating these challenges. I should add, remembering everything I said and did the night before greatly helps with that.
Using these tools and the fellowship can help navigate social settings while in recovery. If you need help or are struggling, we at Oregon Trail Recovery, have a dedicated staff and a wide array of recovery programs to guide and support you in your journey. If you need help with any step in the process, we’re here and available 24/7. Contact us, today.