It's time to start a new party tradition.
The road to addiction recovery is not an easy one. Challenging situations seem to pop up in the most normal of circumstances, such as when you are hosting a party or get together with your friends and family. Most likely, if you are in addiction recovery the idea of a party instantly can trigger fond memories of alcohol or other drugs. However, things have changed and it can be difficult to conceptualize how to host an equally amazing memorable time without alcohol. But it is easy to do and people do have amazing parties without alcohol all the time.
A good place to start your planning is with recovery’s Gold Standard tool HALT. Don't let yourself or your guests get “too lonely, too hungry, or too bored” and no one will even notice that the party is "dry".
Here are some tips that will let you and your friends have fun without jeopardizing anyone’s efforts at recovery:
Make Sure That the Invitations Are Clear
- Set the ground rules early, whether the invitations are written and mailed, texted, or sent in a tweet. Let people know that you are hosting a “Sober Party” and that BYOB is definitely not an option, however, a favorite non -alcoholic drink option is welcomed. You could even turn it into some sort of taste test challenge to bring out the competitive, fun element that many in recovery crave. Offer a prize for the drink chosen to be the most refreshing, or the absolute worst tasting drink. Have fun with a contest!
- Prepare yourself for some decline invitations – if you have friends who are in recovery, some of them may not yet feel comfortable in a party setting. Don’t take it personally and remember you were once in the same place.
- You will have some friends who drink who think that it just isn’t a party without booze. Respect their choices as well, but prove them wrong.
Throw the party earlier in the day
- Most parties associated with alcohol happen on the weekend late afternoon or evening. That time of day can be a trigger for many.
- Hosting a party in the later morning or early afternoon might help reduce these triggers. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 31% of fatal drunk-driving accidents occur on the weekend, and the highest number of drunk drivers is on the road between midnight and 3 a.m. Fatal crashes are also four times higher at night than during the day.
- Changing the time of day is a switch in a drinking pattern for most, which hopefully will reduce triggers and cravings.
Change The SCENE!
Environmental cues like your home may be a trigger for you and your guests. Remove the association by having the party somewhere else – the beach or a nearby park, for example. This has several unexpected benefits:
- Built-in activities – swimming, hiking, outdoors games, barbecuing, lawn darts, softball, yoga, paddle boarding.
- Nature can serve as the perfect back drop – enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine, and later – the sunset
- If you or your guests have children, they can run around and play and learn healthy party strategies early.
Make Sure That There Are Plenty of Non-Alcoholic Choices
People tend to associate parties with food and refreshments, so make sure that they have plenty to choose from, including:
- A variety of colors and other sodas, both regular and diet
- Bottled and flavored waters
- Exotic teas and coffees
- Several juices
The more color and variety you have, the more festive the atmosphere will seem.
It is not a good idea to offer any non-alcoholic beers or sparkling ciders or prepare any virgin “mocktails”. They are extremely close to the real thing and even its presentation in a glass may be enough to insight a trigger or craving.
Check out some exciting non-alcoholic drink recipes.
Focus on the FOOD
This is where you will have a chance to really shine. Food can take the focus away from drinks with plenty of tasty food choices.
- Finger foods—tapas, hot wings, sliders, mini tacos, etc.
- Snacks– chips, pretzels, nuts, trail mix, a meat and cheese tray, etc.
- Vegan/vegetarian options – fresh fruit and vegetable sticks
- Make it easy on yourself – throw a potluck party where everyone brings their favorite dish.
- Perhaps giving prizes for the worst and best dish with stimulate some with a competitive edge in a healthy way.
- Don’t cook anything with alcohol; even a marinade. A small hint in the air of alcohol can be enough to trigger some to want to drink.
Be Ready with Fun Activities
No matter what people may say, you don’t need to serve alcohol to have fun. If you want your guests to enjoy themselves, all you need is a little creativity and imagination:
- Party games that keep people moving and engaged are key to a healthy, happy time –team up and play Twister, Pictionary, Outburst, dominos, limbo, etc.
- Move it outdoors if possible– horseshoes, volleyball, flashlight tag will keep people free from boredom.
- Dancing – create your own upbeat playlist or go “old-school” and put on some vinyl records.
- Involve the kids – if children are at your party, include activities for them.
Don’t engage or initiate conversations about the old days!
Don’t make the lack of alcohol the focus of the celebration and pine over the days of the past. This is a time to start new traditions, and make new memories filled with the joy of a life free of alcohol. With enough planning, you can throw the party of a lifetime, and for some a party without alcohol is one necessary for life.
For more sober party ideas:
Please know that if you are struggling with a substance use disorder and are having difficulty reengaging in life pleasures, you need to take the first step and make the call today. You can restore sanity and stability to your life! You are worth it and life on the other side of addiction is a beautiful joyful place to be. Don’t give up before the miracle happens.