When you are in recovery from a substance use disorder centered on alcohol (and staying sober), it can seem like everyone in the world is drinking nearly all of the time.
- You head out to catch a game, and your friends all buy beers before you even try to find your seats.
- You get a dinner invitation, and you feel like your hosts expect you to bring a bottle of wine.
- You volunteer for an organization that is doing good work in the community, and then you discover committee meetings are regularly held in a bar.
- You attend an anniversary, birthday, graduation, wedding, holiday, or other sort of celebration, and you can’t help but notice that the alcohol is freely flowing—and seems to be contributing to the good time everyone is having.
We could list example after example, of course. Alcohol is a significant part of many of the social activities and rituals that make up our daily lives. And when you are unable to partake due to your substance use disorder, it can feel as though you are being excluded or as though happy times are just a little less happy for you.
It might feel as though your only option is to avoid all of these sorts of situations. But neither boredom or loneliness are good for your efforts to stay sober, so you are going to need a plan for turning down alcohol in social situations.
We have some suggestions.
Get Yourself a Go-To Alternative
This might seem obvious, but it can be helpful to know what your favorite non-alcoholic drink is so that you can order it reflexively in social situations. For example, do you like cola? Lemonade? Arnold Palmers? Ice cold water? Knowing what you enjoy drinking keeps you from having to consider the question each time—and makes it less likely that your thoughts will linger on something alcoholic.
Whatever you choose, it is a good idea to have it available for bring-your-own-beverage occasions and other casual get-togethers during which folks are likely to offer you an alcoholic beverage if you don’t have an alternative in your hand. A tumbler filled with water will do the trick (though beware of those who will try to offer you something “more fun” to drink) as will a can or bottle of soda or a cup from your favorite coffee shop.
You Could Agree to be the Designated Driver
We offer this suggestion along with a word of caution. Being the designated driver might seem as though it offers a lot of upsides. You get to be with your friends, many places will provide the designated driver with free non-alcoholic beverages, and you get to help make sure your friends make it safely home. So in some cases, this might be a workable option.
However, we would not necessarily recommend becoming the designated driver for a gathering you know is going to get rowdy or out of hand. Instead, small, calm gatherings are probably best. That said, you should also be prepared to discover that spending time with people who are drinking while waiting to drive them home is not the best move for you.
Simply Be Up Front and Honest
We firmly believe that your recovery is your business and that you should decide how much to share and with whom. Still, if you are up for it, honesty is often the best policy. At the ballgame with some new friends who don’t know your situation? When one of them offers you a beer, you can tell them you don’t drink because you are in recovery.
Or you can just tell them you don’t drink. You are not obligated to tell anyone why. Tell your new buddy that you’d love a lemonade and leave it at that.
That said, sometimes the most comfortable social situation you can find yourself in is one in which your close friends and family—those who know about your situation—gather together and you don’t have to answer a single question. Spending time with these supportive folks can be wonderfully relaxing.
The First Step Toward Being Social While Sober is to Get Sober
If your drinking has led to the development of a substance use disorder, it is time to get help. You can find that help at Wooded Glen Recovery Center in Indiana. We offer personalized care as we see you through detoxification and rehabilitation. And our support continues with our commitment to a continuum of care that provides you with the support and resources you need to start confidently on your recovery journey.