Just because you are sober doesn’t mean your life should be dull and lonely. You can still get out there and partake in social functions of all kinds – tailgating, parties, barbecues, even after work happy hours – the only difference is that you need to approach them differently and in an eyes-wide-open sort of way.

Throughout treatment you have received an arsenal of weapons to use when you need help staying on the sober path. Put these tools to work for you as you venture out into the social realm. Be ready to face others, to answer questions, and to have a backup plan – just in case.

Have someone on your side

Jumping into social situations may be easier if you have someone on your side. Yes, they are your friends/family/colleagues, but that doesn’t mean they are truly on your side. Just because you are related or are friends doesn’t mean that person truly understands the importance of you or your sobriety.

Find a sober buddy that understands what you are going through, knows you and your situation, and agrees to remain sober with you to be a means of support. This is someone you will be able to count on should you find yourself having a challenging time.

Find a mocktail that works for you

Mocktails are fake cocktails. They look pretty and they look like the adult beverages that everyone else has in hand. However, they are completely void of alcohol. To make matters easier for you at your social engagement you are going to want to have one of these in your hand – always. Think about it – if you have a drink in your hand, no one is going to hound you about getting a drink! They don’t have to know what you are drinking. Many people find that this trick makes social interactions less awkward and less stressful.

A few of the most popular (easy) mocktails are:

  • A Shirley Temple – Orange juice, lemon-lime soda, and Grenadine. Garnish with cherries.
  • Club soda or tonic water over ice. Garnish with lime.
  • Cherry Bomb – Lemon lime soda mixed with Grenadine. Squeeze of lime. Garnish with cherries
  • Roy Rogers – Coke or Pepsi mixed with Grenadine. Garnish with cherries.
  • Coconut water garnished with pineapple.

Tip: Anything that you drink can look as though it is an adult beverage if served over ice and with a garnish.

If carrying a drink isn’t what you are looking to do, then don’t. You need to feel comfortable. The drink is only a means of putting up a barrier for yourself from conniving social buddies or those individuals that may try to test your sobriety.

Find yourself a responsibility to stay occupied

If you have something to do then you won’t need to worry about the social pressures that come along with social activities. You could call ahead and offer to help do the setting up or cleaning up of the event. Perhaps someone is needed to help in the kitchen or at the grill? Who is going to handle the music? And, last but not least, someone – many people – will always be looking for a designated driver. Agree to be that DD.

Having a responsibility can cut down on the social interaction, but will still help you feel as though you are being social and included. In a sense, it is a terrific way to get your feet wet socially.

Avoid awkward conversations by preparing in advance

When you go to a party and don’t drink, people are going to be curious about you. They will ask you questions about why you aren’t drinking, what treatment was like, how you are managing staying sober, etc.

People can be cruel and may try to crack jokes about your decisions. There may also be those with ill intent, trying to convince you that you to have just one drink. Maybe they are envious of your accomplishments. However, you are not in the business to help others with their insecurities.

You are your primary focus.

Before you head out, know the possible things you may encounter. Be prepared with how you will answer the curious questions (how much you want to reveal) and how not to get defensive when others try to pipe up with so-called jokes. Focus on yourself and your own sobriety. Remember – those who try to harm you are likely dealing with their own demons.

Don’t feel like you must stay

There is nothing physically holding you at a location. Therefore, do not feel like you need to stay. If you arrive at a social event and your body and mind are giving you cue after cue that you should not be there, then leave. Follow your gut. Temptation can come on strong when you are surrounded in a situation you may not be ready for just yet. If you feel that the pressure is too much, then it is time for you to hit the road.

Another idea is to come early and leave early. Did your mother ever tell you, “no good goes on after midnight,” when you were younger and wanting to go out with your friends? Well, it is true. The later it gets, the crazier social situations can become. If you decide to arrive early, then you can sneak out a bit early. Sure, it may not be as exciting, but at least you got to be social without having to succumb to too much debauchery and temptation.

The important thing to remember is that just because you are sober does not mean that you cannot be social. You can still go out with friends, still go to parties and other events, and still have fun. You oversee your sobriety. Be prepared, have a backup plan, and use all the skills you have acquired. Be confident in your sobriety. You can do it – go have some fun!