6 Ways to Stay Sober When Alcohol Is Part of Social Functions


Returning to day-to-day life after receiving treatment at an inpatient alcohol rehab can be incredibly intimidating. Dealing with new independence and temptation can be difficult even without physically having alcohol present. However, at many work, friend, and family get-togethers, alcohol is indeed present. This brings a whole new set of challenges for those in recovery and navigating through those obstacles can be difficult.

Thankfully, there are a few things one can do to help maintain their sobriety after inpatient alcohol rehab despite the fact that alcohol is part of many social functions. Thinking ahead and doing the best to prepare oneself, as well as coming up with an emergency worst-case-scenario plan beforehand can make a big difference. Remaining positive, surrounding oneself with support, and trying to find the root cause of one’s drinking can help lessen the temptation to partake. Lastly, mindfulness, as practiced at many holistic recovery centers, can help keep one’s head clear in stressful times.

Think Ahead and Be Prepared

One of the best ways to remain sober while alcohol remains a part of social functions is to try to think ahead and prepare oneself for any possible scenario.

Many alcohol rehab centers will encourage patients to either choose a go-to drink when going out or to check the menu to see what non-alcoholic drink they wish to order. Deciding on a non-alcoholic drink to order before arriving at the function is a great way to ease the mind. Having a drink decision prepared removes any chance at getting caught off guard when being asked what to drink. In this way,

Spontaneous trips to restaurants or other social functions may not be a good idea early on in sobriety. It’s always a good idea for those early in their recovery to know what they are walking into when attending some type of social function. In inpatient alcohol rehab, patients are unable to leave spontaneously to go to gatherings, helping to prevent them from getting caught off guard by anything that may be tempting to them. In the same way, it is sometimes best for those in recovery not to let themselves be caught off guard at unexpected social gatherings.

Knowing how to respond to an offered drink is also a great way to prepare oneself for a social situation involving alcohol. Some people are open about their recovery and have no problem sharing with others why they don’t drink. Other people, however, prefer to keep their recovery or stay at an inpatient alcohol rehab more private, or perhaps they are in a situation with people they do not know well. If this is the case, knowing how to decline an offered drink is a great way to prepare for any situation. Mentioning that one is the designated driver for the night will usually dissuade any more prying from those curious as to why someone is refraining from drinking. It also prevents anyone from pressuring a person to drink as they are responsible for others.

If alcohol being present is not an option for attending an event being planned, a great idea is suggesting a change of venue. Perhaps a work dinner can be changed to a movie and time at an arcade, where alcohol is not present.


Be Surrounded by Support

At alcohol treatment facilities, patients are surrounded by support from their peers constantly. They visit and have peer time to talk to others going through the same thing they are. Also, they have therapists who are trained to speak with them and help them process through problems. Once patients leave holistic recovery centers, they may not have the same support available to them at any time. Because of this, it is important to supplement that support.

Family and friends can often be the basis of a great support system for those leaving alcohol withdrawal treatment centers. While some may not be able to identify with what the person leaving the alcohol rehab center has gone through, they can certainly still be there to support the person when involved in social situations. Situations only involving family and friends can often still be just as fun without involving alcohol, and families are often willing to abstain at events for their loved ones after they have undergone alcohol withdrawal treatment. If this is not possible, family and friends can often attend social functions to act as a support system for their loved ones, and to remind them to be accountable to their sobriety.

Support groups are also often available to those leaving alcohol treatment centers. These support groups will often provide resources or people to call when in a situation where alcohol is involved. If caught in a situation where a person is feeling tempted by alcohol, it is important for them to have someone to turn to speak about their feelings. These groups provide a person to listen and give advice/friendship to those navigating their own sobriety after staying at an alcohol treatment facility. Buddies can attend social functions with each other to act as support for friends. This takes some of the pressure off of being in a situation completely alone. These support groups also conduct various social functions where alcohol is not included. Those leaving alcohol recovery programs can attend these functions without having to worry about alcohol being on their mind or within their reach.

alcohol recovery programs

Stay Positive

When trying to navigate newly established sobriety after leaving a holistic recovery center, it can be difficult to remember to remain positive. However, keeping a positive perspective on sobriety can be key to maintaining it after staying at an alcohol treatment facility.

Not being able to drink because a person has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol can often be very discouraging when out and about. Having to think about the reason one is unable to drink can often be stressful and depressing. However, one way to combat this is to act as a designated driver for friends or family at social gatherings. By doing so, one is not only providing an additional reason why they are unable to drink, but it is a very positive reason, as they are also doing a service for others, and are unable to drink for the safety of others. Friends and family will greatly appreciate the designated driver at the function, as they will not have to worry about ordering a cab or finding a ride home. As well, no one is likely to pressure the designated driver to drink, as they are responsible for others, relieving one of the pressures of having to talk about their alcohol withdrawal treatment if they do not wish to.

Remaining positive throughout sobriety after a stay at an alcohol treatment center also means rewarding oneself for a job well done. After a stressful social event or gathering, when a person refrains from drinking, they should give themselves a small reward to reinforce that they succeeded in maintaining their sobriety. Whether it’s having a refreshing spa night the next day, ordering an ice cream cone after a social function or tucking away a few dollars for later, rewarding oneself is a great way to keep a positive mind for doing well.

Have an Emergency Plan

Another way to best prepare oneself for attending social functions where alcohol is served is by coming up with an emergency plan. The idea behind the emergency plan is that in case a person is just at the brink of deciding to take part in drinking again, even after having undergone alcohol withdrawal treatment, they have someone to call or some type of plan set in place to prevent themselves from doing so. This way they have somewhere to turn in the event that alcohol becomes tempting or makes a social function in any way too stressful to handle.

Emergency plans vary from person to person but usually list a place to go in case they need to leave a situation immediately, as well as a person for them to contact to speak to about their feelings.

Some people even go a step further and create their very own emergency sobriety kit after leaving an alcohol recovery program. These types of kits can contain anything a person can imagine. A basic kit may include a list of places to go if the situation becomes too overwhelming. When in a stressful situation, thinking of another place to escape to can be difficult, so having a list on hand is helpful. A list of supportive people to contact is advisable as well. Kits may include pictures of family members, letters to oneself, or lists of reasons to remain sober in an effort to bring those things to the forefront of the mind even when in a stressful situation.

Stay Mindful

One practice typically integrated into treatment at most holistic recovery centers is mindfulness. The practice of mindfulness encourages one to focus only on the moment at hand, being one-hundred percent present in the current time and place, not thinking of the past or future. The mind has a tendency to wander, and when it does it typically settles on points of anxiety that are not related at all to the current moment. Mindfulness aims to redirect the mind to what is happening in the present, in an effort to reduce worry and anxiety. Mindfulness is also being in the moment without being overwhelmed. Being present without judging the moment as good or bad in the mind is a large part of mindfulness.

From the perspective of someone dealing with addiction, going to a social function where alcohol would potentially cause considerable worry and anxiety. Mindfulness practices would instead redirect the mind only to the present. The person practicing their mindfulness would see the situation as neither good nor bad, only for what it was. In this way, they would remove the fear and anxiety that surrounds attending social functions with alcohol. Limiting these fearful and anxious feelings clears the mind significantly, allowing for calmer and more rational decisions to be made.

Mastering mindfulness takes time and a lot of practice, so it is best to pair this practice with other preventative measures listed in this article. However, once learned, mindfulness practices have the potential to help ease the mind and process many different situations in life.

Cause of Drinking

Determine the Root Cause of Drinking

If the situation arises where it seems like drinking is the only option, one thing a person can do to try and stop themselves is to identify what is making them want to drink. Is it because everyone is having a fun time? Is it to numb or block and emotion? While it may not help as much in the moment, understanding the motivation behind the decision to drink can go a long way in decreasing the desire to drink. Working through the issues that are causing the drinking problem can make the temptation to drink considerably lower. Whether doing this by oneself in a journal or audio diary or working through it with a therapist at an alcohol treatment center, decreasing one’s temptation to drink through discovering and processing through the root cause of the drinking problem can help in social situations where alcohol may be present.

To Sum It Up

After staying at an alcohol rehab center, the thought of going out to a gathering where alcohol is present can be intimidating. Alcohol recovery programs are designed to cut patients off from that temptation so they do not have a chance to relapse while at the facility. However, once patients are back at home there are no restrictions to keep them from drinking. While that can seem frightening, there are many great ways to maintain sobriety while still attending social functions where alcohol is present. Planning ahead and having an emergency plan are both great ways to maintain sobriety. Surrounding oneself with peers and family who support them and sorting through the reason for their drinking can help to remove temptation. Staying positive and mindful are also great ways to fully appreciate and value sobriety. Combining a few of these different strategies has the potential to help those facing social functions with alcohol present, possibly helping them maintain their sobriety for a very long time.


Tim Sinnott, MFT

With several advanced degrees from the University of San Francisco (Doctor of Education in Counseling and Educational Psychology and Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology, emphasis in Marital and Family Therapy), Rutgers University Center of Alcohol Studies (Certificate, Summer School of Alcohol Studies), and the University of California, Santa Cruz (Certificate in Alcohol Studies, Advanced Counselor Training Program), and a strong history of directing recovery facilities, Tim is a capable speaker and leader in addiction treatment services. Tim also has extensive marriage and family counseling knowledge and prides himself on his ability to connect with clients and professionals on an individual basis.

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