Sober Partying: Enjoying a Party and Staying Safe
The idea of sober partying may sound like a misnomer. It feels like it should be a contradiction in terms. Whenever we think of partying, we think of alcohol, right? Well, this needn’t be the case.
If you have given up alcohol, you can still go out and enjoy all the things you used to do. The only difference is that now you will be doing it as somebody who doesn’t drink.
There are some significant psychological and practical barriers to overcome, however. Staying sober as you go out partying can be a problem. You may fear that you will be judged. You may think you won’t have any fun.
This need not be the case. There are certain things you can put in place to remove any awkwardness, stigma, or temptation to booze. Using them, you can ensure that you can go to any social occasion you want without having to be afraid.
A Guide to sober partying
Be upfront with your host
If you feel close enough with your host or the event organiser, and/or if you’re comfortable sharing, you can let them know that you won’t be drinking. You can tell them why, but you don’t have to. Phone ahead, write it on your RSVP, take them aside when you get there… however you do it, just give them a heads up.
You might be surprised by how accommodating people can be when you’re looking to stay sober whilst partying with them.
Take a backup drink
If it’s a catered event, is at a bar or similar, you will be able to order soft drinks with no problem. If it’s at a host’s house, this may be a problem. Depending on the event, hosts will generally provide plenty of alcohol. They may not consider teetotal options.
This is fair enough. However, it can leave you sipping mixers all night long rather than enjoying yourself. Take your own alcohol-free drink. A good sparkling water, a nice tonic, a smoothie or juice concoction – it will all go down well, giving you some sober excitement in your partying.
Do take a few spares, though. You may find others reaching for the non-alcoholic options, so you’ll want to make sure you have spares.
Keep your sponsor on speed dial
Going sober while everyone else is drunkenly partying can be isolating. It is also a source of temptation. If you’re struggling to stay sober and you see everyone else partaking, it will take an effort of will to abstain.
You needn’t feel isolated, however. Arrange it with your sponsor, or even just a close friend, so that you can call them during the party. This can be a prearranged time, or simply an option for as and when you need it. It will allow you to stay safe and in control without feeling like you’re all alone.
If you can, it’s always a good idea to take a sober companion with you. This can be your sponsor or it can be any friend or family member there to support you. It will be far easier and less isolating to not drink with another sober person by your side.
You will probably also find that tee-totalling is quite common. Sober is the new black and more and more people are electing not to drink. There will likely be others at any given party who don’t drink for whatever reason. Find them, party with them, make sober friends.
Know that sober partying may leave you out of pocket
Going teetotal and staying sober as you go out partying can be pricier than you might think.
Plenty of events will give out vouchers for free drinks. It’s quite common to be given two or three coupons that can be exchanged for set drinks. These drinks are often alcoholic. You may not be able to get non-alcoholic options with them, which will mean paying for your drinks.
It’s also quite common to split bills and tabs evenly. You may end up having to pay for that expensive wine and aperitif and digestif selection that you didn’t touch.
You can explain that you only want to pay for what you have, as you won’t be drinking and so your bill will be smaller. However, this isn’t always practical or appropriate. Sometimes you will simply be out of pocket.
Deflect attention with extras
It can be awkward to spend the whole night explaining to people why you aren’t drinking. Unfortunately, though it’s rude and invasive, people do ask – especially as they get steadily drunker.
If you want to avoid this situation, you can always use garnishes and extras to deflect attention. Add a lemon or lime garnish to your soda water. Use a cocktail umbrella in your cola or juice. It will make you look like everyone else, allowing you to just get on and be yourself.
Don’t take responsibility for others
Just because you’re staying sober whilst everyone else is drunkenly partying, it doesn’t put you in charge. It doesn’t mean you’re the designated driver or babysitter. You are there to have a good time, the same as everyone else. Don’t allow yourself to be used as the responsible one. Everyone there should be consenting adults making their own choices.
If you do find yourself getting uncomfortable or being given the responsibility or propping up drunken friends, always feel free to excuse yourself. Leave them alone and go to chat to another group of people.
Try to arrange a get-out plan ahead of time. Only stay at a party or in any conversation for as long as you are comfortable, then leave. Always put your sobriety first – if you find the atmosphere getting uncomfortable, leave.
Eat to reduce cravings
If there are hoeur d'oeuvres or canapes doing the rounds, make the most of them. If the event includes a meal, so much the better. Eating can help to reduce cravings.
If you don’t know whether an event is catered or not – or if you know for sure it isn’t – make sure you have a good meal before going. Again, this will help to reduce cravings. It will help to fortify your willpower. Always feel free to phone the organiser or host ahead of time to ask about food arrangements.
Sober partying can also be a lot more entertaining with some good quality food on offer. After all, who doesn’t like a chef-prepared platter to set the mood and get you enjoying yourself?
You don’t have to go
Avoid the party if you don’t feel on firm ground with your own sobriety. This has to be an iron-clad rule. If you know that you are feeling open to temptation, or low, or anxious, and you are in recovery, you should not be around alcohol.
If you know that a particular crowd, or anyone in that crowd, is likely to try to pressure you into giving up your sobriety for the sake of partying, avoid it. You will be far likelier to crumble and have a drink under this kind of influence.
Always feel comfortable declining an invitation or cancelling last minute. As above, you should always put your sobriety first. Furthermore, you don't need to justify your decline to anyone, nor do you have to feel bad. The reality is that the party will go ahead just fine with, or without you.
Sober partying: keeping yourself right
You are the most important element of your recovery journey. You need to ensure your safety, your well-being, and your ongoing commitment to staying sober; partying is not worth breaking this for if it leads to temptation.
However, you needn’t say goodbye to partying. As we have seen, you can have a great time and stay safe and positive in any event. Just prepare ahead of time, follow the advice above, and keep checking in with yourself and your own feelings throughout.
And, importantly, enjoy yourself. There is no reason not to.
Arranging your own sober partying
If partying and dancing is your thing, something you really do not want to give up, then the good news is you don't have to. There are plenty of sober events available to attend these days, with others that are also in recovery, or who just prefer not to drink.
You can also arrange your own events with like-minded others on our platform. Head over to our Community section and create your own circle of people who are interested in getting together for a night of dancing, entertainment and fun.