How Do I Go to Social Functions Anymore Without Drinking?

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Social functions as a newly sober alcoholic can be a little tricky. So it’s important to utilize a number of the tools of the program to make sure you are successful. Just because you are sober doesn’t mean that you stop being social or stop living your life. However, it is important to acknowledge our own motives as we make decisions around attending social functions. Attending your sister’s wedding and staying sober is much different from watching the ball game at the bar with your friends and pounding seltzers all night. Early on it’s a good idea to run these decisions past a sponsor or other people with experience in the program.

So let’s say you have a function that you have decided, after consulting with your sponsor, you should probably attend. What tools can you use to make sure you stay sober while also supporting the event?

Here are some that we have found helpful:

  1. Take your own transportation. It’s all well and good to save on gas and carpool with some friends. However, there is nothing worse for a newly recovering alcoholic than being stuck at a function where the drinking has really started with no escape route. So, take your own car. Bonus points here because you don’t have to worry about a designated driver. You are one now! And if you don’t have a car, make sure that public transportation, taxi, or ride share services are available.
  2. Arrive late and leave early. Similar to how we often think that everyone is noticing that we are not drinking, we also tend to overestimate whether people realize we’re even at the party. The middle of social events tends to be a time when most people are present. So shoot for the middle. You won’t have to deal with the early awkward stage when no one has arrived yet. You won’t be there when everyone is getting a little tipsy. It will be just right.
  3. Get your own drink quickly. Get yourself one of your favorite non-alcoholic beverages as soon as you arrive. Whether it’s iced tea, soda, or a cranberry and club, it’s important to get your own beverage and keep it with you. There are a couple of benefits here. If you already have a beverage it will be less tempting to think about getting another one. If you’re holding a drink someone won’t offer you one and then implore you to explain why you’re not drinking. And lastly, if you keep close tabs on your own you’re less likely to pick up someone else’s by accident that might have alcohol in it.
  4. Inform Key People. Letting a few trusted friends who are present and even the bartender is probably a good idea. Friends can be on the lookout for your well being and even help diffuse any uncomfortable situations. Letting the bartender know is also not a bad idea. Bartenders are so used to mixing drinks all night that they may inadvertently pour you an alcoholic drink when you clearly told them something else. Better to let them know than end up with a mouthful of alcohol looking for a place to spit it out.
  5. Bookend. There’s a term in the program called “bookending” where we check in with our sponsor or another sober alcoholic prior to and directly after any challenging circumstances. Social functions, especially ones where drinking is involved, definitely fall into this category. Being accountable by checking in with someone else, sharing our plan, and then confirming that we successfully stuck to it helps build accountability and increase our own self-esteem. Another benefit of bookending is that it helps ground us in our connection to our new way of living and program. Rather than leaving the party feeling less than or different we immediately check in with someone in a similar boat and remind ourselves that we are connected to a group of people who are leading happy, productive, sober lives.
  6. Bring a buddy. Did they give you a plus one? Assuming you’re single, no reason that spot has to be reserved for a date. Think about bringing another member of the program who can help support you. Sponsors, members with time, and even other newcomers can be great companions in these situations. Just remember not to bring anyone you feel you might have potential for romantic intrigue with as this can complicate things.
  7. Use the phone. Just because we’re bookending doesn’t mean that we can’t use the phone during the event. Starting to feel a little uncomfortable? Call someone. Somebody made a remark about your not drinking that got under your skin? Call someone. You just saw your old crush and you’re feeling a little wobbly. Call someone. Support from other recovering alcoholics is one of the most important tools of the program. And remember you’re not being a bother. Getting outreach calls helps the people getting them too.
  8. Watch your energy and feelings. Make sure that you have adequate rest and enough to eat prior to attending the function. It might not even be a bad idea to keep a few pieces of candy in your pocket. If you’re feeling any sort of resentment or anger be sure to share that with your sponsor of another sober alcoholic.
  9. Bail. If for any reason you feel like your sobriety might in jeopardy, pull the ripcord and get out of there. No social function is worth giving up your hard-earned sobriety. While some people might be disappointed, those who really care about you will understand. Remember that your sobriety and health are the most important things to consider here. There will always be more social functions.
  10. Have fun! Remember that you are there to be around your friends and have fun. Social unctions don’t require drinking for you to have a great time. And if it’s a little uncomfortable at first it will get better with time. Enjoy yourself!