Human beings are social people. We need to spend time with others. We need connection, relationship, and mutual respect among the people in our lives. When you’re in recovery, this need isn’t going to go away. Although it might be easy and even necessary to stay away from social gatherings in the beginning of your recovery, at some point, you might have to attend one.

For instance, you might be recognized at a work-related event. You might have to attend a family wedding. You might get invited to a school reunion. Despite your attempts to avoid being social, sooner or later the challenge is going to arise.

So, how do you do it?

Well, the best way to attend a social gathering without it challenging your sobriety is to have a thorough plan. You’ve got to know what you’re going to say, what you’re going to do, and when you’re going to leave and why. For instance, you might begin by asking someone you trust before the event happens the following questions:

–“Will there be non-alcoholic drinks provided?”
–“Who is going to be there?”
–“Will there be people there who aren’t drinking?”

Then, with this information you can create a way to be there with confidence. Although you might not yet feel confident about your sobriety – perhaps you still struggle with cravings – but having a detailed plan can help you feel confident about your ability to stay sober for at least that night.

For instance, the following can provide the basics for a plan that you create for yourself:

Choose a non-alcoholic drink and don’t take your hands off it all night. Let that be the drink that you hold, letting people know that you’re covered. In other words, there will be less of a chance that someone will buy a drink for you or coerce you into drinking if you’re empty-handed.

Be prepared to answer questions. You might get asked what you’re drinking, and if you answer honestly, you may or may not want to decide to let others know the reason why you’re no longer drinking alcohol. You might choose to say that it’s a health related concern. Or you might simply want to tell them the truth. However, if the topic of why you’re not drinking alcohol comes up, have a very clear answer prepared before you arrive. Also, you might want to practice your response until you feel 100% confident in it. Having a sense of confidence in the way you respond to others, especially if you generally feel unstable in your sobriety, can actually help you feel strong in staying sober that night.

Have a strategy for leaving if you need to. There might be a point at the gathering when you notice that drinking going on around you and the people who are becoming buzzed from their alcohol is beginning to have an effect. You might begin to feel the discomforts of the atmosphere, perhaps because it’s reminding you too much of a past you used to live. If and when you’re ready to leave, it’s best to have an already prepared strategy for leaving. With some social gatherings, you might not need this. You can simply pick up and leave. But with others, especially with those you know well, it may be more socially appropriate to have a reason for leaving. This is another answer you might need to have prepared before you arrive.

In addition to the above suggestions, there might be some details or particular circumstances unique to the event you’re attending. Of course, use the above tips as well as make adjustments as needed so that you feel entirely safe when you attend.

Also, if this is your first time at a social gathering in your recovery, the more preparation you do ahead of time will help you feel more confident. Over time, you’ll have a plan in place and you’ll already know what to say. As your recovery continues, social gatherings will no longer be a threat to your sobriety.

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