‘Tis nearly the season for boozy holiday parties. And you don’t have to miss out on the fun just because you’re not pounding back Pinot Grigio and passing out in the coatroom. But for sober alcoholics and addicts, especially those of us in early recovery, a cocktail party can feel like a swim though shark-infested waters.
Though it’s gotten easier with time, even at six years sober I sometimes feel uncomfortable around free-flowing alcohol. Fortunately, I’ve learned a few tricks along the way.
- The Buddy System: Power in numbers! If you’re feeling nervous to go to a party where you know there will be lots of booze, you can always bring a friend—someone who is understanding and supportive of your sobriety. If your friend is sober, too, then you’ll have a buddy to sip club soda with you. Either way, you’ll have someone to talk to if you feel uncomfortable, and a lifeline just in case you find yourself drifting towards the bar.
- BYOBFB (Bring Your Own Booze-Free Beverages): A thoughtful host or hostess who knows you’re sober might assure you that they will have plenty of non-alcoholic offerings on hand. But those bottles of diet coke and sparkling water can disappear quickly, especially if there’s one—or more—sober people at the party. It’s always a good idea to bring a few bottles of your favorite non-alcoholic beverage, so you’ll be sure to have something to sip on all evening. Just because you don’t drink alcohol doesn’t mean you should go thirsty!
- Take Breaks: No matter how amusing and charming your fellow party guests are, being around people for hours on end can be exhausting. But there’s no rule that says you need to be socially engaged every minute of a party. If you feel overwhelmed or anxious, you can always step outside for a breath of fresh air, play a song on your phone, or text or call a friend. Taking a breather and having a few minutes of alone time can work magic on your mental and emotional state.
- Arrive Late(ish), Leave Early: When appropriate, arriving fashionably late to a party is a great way to jump in when things have already gotten going, minimizing that pre-party small-talk. And this sometimes means missing the cocktail hour and arriving when food is ready—bingo!
Leaving early is another trick I often employ. Even the most engaging party can seem to drag on long after you’ve used up all your charm and conversation topics. And there’s often a point in a boozy evening when those who’ve been drinking begin repeating stories…or even slurring words and walking into closed doors (we’ve all been there, right?). This may be your cue to leave. You’re unlikely to miss much. And, if you have a car, nothing beats driving home with the windows open, singing along to your favorite hits.
- Offer to Help Out: Feeling bored or awkward while those around you get soused on spiked eggnog? Why not make yourself useful? Most party hosts need a helping hand—whether it’s throwing out plastic cups, or passing around hors d’oeuvres. This trick keeps your hands and mind occupied. Plus, it’s a great way to meet people: Who isn’t happy to see somebody who’s carrying a platter of mini-quiches? Participating in the party is a great icebreaker and can help you take your mind off yourself. Plus, it means you’ll most likely get invited back! And by then, parties will be a breeze.
When appropriate, arriving fashionably late to a party is a great way to jump in when things have already gotten going, minimizing that pre-party small-talk.
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