Note: until it’s safe to party in-person, these tips apply to socially-distant, digital events.
Before the first party, I went sober, I hadn’t had a drink in five months and was starting to feel socially unfulfilled. A friend of mine was a drummer in an alt-rock band and posted his upcoming show on Instagram which I took as an invitation. Immediately, I knew I wanted to go, but my mind began racing.
I hadn’t been to a bar in over 150 days. The principle of staying away from people, places, and things associated with drinking are rational. How to stay sober from alcohol at a part was a big question for me. Why? It’s simple: I don’t F with fire.
In the first few months of sobriety, if something held the potential to destabilize my emotional wellness, I told myself to stay far, far away. And I think that was wise. What became clear over time, however, was that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for getting and staying sober. I once believed that dancing and drinking went hand-in-hand. Now, three years later, sober as ever, I’m a born-again partier.
Whether you’re attending a socially distanced soirée or a digital happy-hour, here’s my guide on how to stay sober from alcohol at a party.
Bring a buddy
I felt some shame prior to choosing to go to that alt-rock concert. With full transparency, I cried… hard. I worried about judgment from my sober peers — that going to a concert would be reckless and that I wasn’t serious about my sobriety. Don’t F with fire, Daisy.
Then, a dear sober friend of mine offered to go with me.
She assured me that we have no obligation to stay, whatever the reason. If we felt overwhelmed, uncomfortable, or of course, tempted to drink, we would leave. No questions asked and we’d leave together. She also promised me Red Bulls.
Without a buddy (sober stars and sober-allies alike!), attending parties can feel daunting. Assurance of safety, compassion, and understanding helped me walk through fear and not around it.
It also doesn’t hurt to have a friend from Philly who can dance to rock music like a pro.
Be open to new possibilities
I had tried to quit drinking numerous times before. Previously, one of my primary roadblocks was that I believed my world would get smaller. I thought that opportunities for friendships, romance, good times, dancing… partying would take a major hit.
The truth of the matter is, alcohol and drugs rarely brought me an abundance of anything other than shame, loneliness, brutal hangovers, guilt — the list goes on.
The short story is that once I got sober, gifts revealed themselves. Sure, they didn’t arrive right away, but eventually, with patience, they did. And the most unexpected gift I was given was a joy (and a lot of it).
Life doesn’t stop when you decide to change your relationship with alcohol. And that means all parts of life.
There is still sadness, anger, and loneliness. I’m human. I feel things. Only now I’m fully present for all of those feelings, including the joy which today feels infinite.
Freedom over fear
Fear of setbacks is real. And it’s not any less real for someone ten days sober or ten years sober. A skill I’ve learned over the years from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (thank you, Marsha Linehan), is that the path between the emotional mind and the rational mind is a wise mind.
Now, I wholeheartedly believe in honoring that voice inside of me that says I’m scared. That emotion is real. I can also recognize the importance of reasoning with myself: if I don’t feel ready to go to a venue where alcohol is going to be served, that too is real. My wise mind is in the middle of the two paths.
Oftentimes I pause before I commit to a plan, or even moments before I step out of the house (which is okay! You can change your mind about the partying thing, always).
I take a moment and decide how to hold the two truths at the same time: that with honoring the emotional mind and the rational mind, I can take action from a place of internal wisdom. I’ve worked for it and I’m still working on it.
Not all paths are linear, and perhaps whatever decision you come to may feel like it was the wrong call. That’s okay. Compassion, compassion, compassion: we’re all learning. If you hate the party, sob at the party, run out of the party (and I’ve done all three at the same time), take note. Tap into your wise mind: do alcohol-friendly venues make you feel unsafe today?
Halt and Eat
H.A.L.T (and Eat) because: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired = Not good for a night out. Ever.
And prior to any party, take a moment and HALT (quite literally). Are you hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? If any of the above, determine what you can control. If you’re hungry, eat feel-good food. If you’re tired, consider an alternative evening plan (might I suggest Reality TV).
If you’re angry or lonely, ask yourself what best serves your mental health. Maybe that is going dancing. Perhaps that means sitting with yourself and self-soothing through the discomfort. Establishing routine self-care check-ins like H.A.L.T. has been instrumental to my sobriety.
So, when the time comes to attend an alt-rock concert (and who really knows when that will be possible again) or a socially distanced gathering, know that maybe there’s no right answer. You have made an admirable decision to show up for yourself by changing your relationship with alcohol, and no matter how you facilitate joy — whether through red bull-induced dance moves or not — you deserve that. My greatest memories have been made throughout my sobriety.
Without alcohol, I have had more fun, made more fruitful connections, and have danced harder: completely and shamelessly myself.
Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.