Addiction Recovery Blog

Alcohol Recovery: How to Not Drink at Social Events

[fa icon="calendar"] Aug 16, 2016 / by Russ Kallina

Russ Kallina

How to not drink at social eventsThroughout the course of an alcohol recovery journey, there will be situations that challenge even the most seasoned person in recovery. In the beginning stages, typically one immerses themself into a community void of alcohol and alcohol related activities. When surrounded with like-minded individuals, the likelihood of maintaining sobriety increases. The problem arises when you have to mingle outside the safety and security of the sobriety movement. Attending social events that involve alcohol can cause many triggers to emerge.

“Science has taught us that stress cues linked to the drug experience (such as people, places, things, and moods), and exposure to drugs are the most common triggers for relapse.” (

How to not drink at social events

One such example is a recovering alcoholic who went to a wedding after achieving six years of sobriety.  The wedding was a “reunion” of sorts for his old party crowd, full of drinking buddies and ex-girlfriends.  The wedding was also being held outside the US in a country that prides itself on a culture of food and alcohol.  Being back with the old gang in a festive setting, reminiscing about their old exploits is called euphoric recall by addiction specialists. 

This triad of people, location and feelings can be overwhelming for many in recovery.  For this six-year veteran, it was too much.  He left to go to the bathroom, and upon his return he discovered that the servers had poured him a glass of champagne for the toast.  The toast occurred almost immediately.  He raised the glass and paused…then started to lower the glass.  An old drinking buddy said, “You have to toast!  It is bad luck if you don’t.”  One sip turned into 3 gulps, which then turned into a full-blown relapse.

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The key to managing this situation is prior proper planning and accepting that urges will occur.

5 Tips to Avoid Drinking in Social Situations

  1. TAKE A WINGMAN: Bring a sober friend or date with you. Having someone with you who you are accountable to is a powerful motivator.
  2. KEEP YOUR HANDS FULL: Always have a non-alcoholic drink in your hand. Servers are less likely to offer you alcohol if you already have a beverage.
  3. LET KEY PEOPLE KNOW: Go to the bartender or server at the beginning of the evening and let them know you don’t drink. Ask them to give you a glass with soda and lime, which is a great cover.  Also, letting a key person know in your group that you are in recovery can help you stay accountable.
  4. HAVE AN ESCAPE PLAN: Have a premade excuse for why you have to leave the event early. If you find yourself in a difficult situation with cravings, have a reason to head for the exit.
  5. BE AT THE TOP OF YOUR GAME: Make sure that you are not tired or hungry.  Have your sponsor text or call you during the event.  Make sure you are thinking about sobriety before you go into the event. 

No one can avoid all social situations that involve alcohol or drugs.  This scenario will present itself to everyone in recovery.  Having a plan is the key. It is probably best to get help developing such a plan with a sponsor, peer support group or recovery professionals such as those at Aquila Recovery.  Remember that there is nothing more important than maintaining your sobriety.

Topics: Alcohol

Russ Kallina

Written by Russ Kallina

Russ Kallina is Aquila Recovery of Virginia's Program Director of Operations.

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