After all, nearly every event, whether a party or a family meeting or even a work event, has alcohol. How do you resist the temptation, both when everyone else is drinking and when people are constantly handing you alcohol?
While you’ve hopefully been to rehab and have learned coping mechanisms you can use to manage cravings, it’s always a good idea to have a strategy for attending social events. That should include good coping mechanisms, a sober buddy, a way to communicate not drinking alcohol, and alcohol-free beverages.
If you don’t know whether the location or host will have non-alcoholic beverages, bring your own. Here, it’s often a great idea to bring things that are more interesting than a can of Coke or similar. That might be more artisanal soda, you might bring things to make mocktails, or you might bring yourself another beverage you like. The idea is that you have something fun and delicious to drink, so you don’t have to feel bad while other people are having fun-looking drinks.
It’s important that you understand what triggers you to drink. For example, if it’s simply the sight or smell of alcohol, you should probably avoid going altogether. In this case, you can either simply cancel or call in sick if you’re not up for an explanation. Otherwise, keep in mind how you react when people offer you alcohol.
Other common social triggers to drink include:
Both positive and negative emotions can be triggers. For example, people are as much likely to relapse after a wedding or a promotion as they are after something tragic like a car accident or a breakup. If you understand when you feel cravings and why, you can work to ensure you’re prepared, that you know how to cope, and that you have support.
It’s important that you have a sober buddy either at the party or that you can call for help. If you go to 12-step groups like AA or an alternative like SMART or RING, you should probably designate someone from there. Otherwise, ask a family member, a close friend, or one of your peers from rehab. Why should you have someone to call? If you can get yourself to pick up the phone and call someone when you think you otherwise can’t avoid drinking, you give yourself time for the craving to go away, you create social accountability, and you ensure that you can have someone talk you through it.
Good coping mechanisms allow you to step away from alcohol, take some time, and deal with cravings. That may be stopping and playing a round of a game on your phone. It might be taking a walk outside. Or, it might be reciting your motivations to stay sober to yourself. The important thing is that it distracts, it keeps you busy, and you can focus on something with a clearly defined start and end – because that makes it easier to focus and do the thing. Often, the best coping mechanisms requite doing something with your hands that require physical coordination, because those types of activities are more distracting. E.g., washing the dishes or playing a game that requires hand-eye coordination is going to be more distracting from a craving for most people than reciting a list. However, you can combine the two.
Eventually, a good coping mechanism is one that works for you. But, it is important to understand what you can use and rely on in a space at an event. E.g., “I can’t sit down and play my guitar for 15 minutes, but I can go to the bathroom and play a game on my phone”. Understand how going to the event changes what you normally use to cope and plan what you can do instead and why.
If you’re at a small event or party rather than a festival or something held at a bar or a restaurant, you can probably just talk to your hosts upfront. You may not want to disclose a history of substance use disorder; you also don’t have to. However, letting your hosts know that you can’t have alcohol and why can be extremely helpful in reducing the risk of having it over the night. For example, they’ll be more mindful when they pass out drinks that there are options without alcohol, they might announce when alcohol is in something, and they won’t keep offering you drinks.
It’s understandably more difficult to do so if you’re going to an event hosted by your employer. However, unless they can prove you drank or used on the job, they can’t legally fire you because of alcohol use disorder, especially if you’ve already gotten treatment.
It’s important to manage your emotional levels, your energy, and your attitude while at a social event. If you start to struggle, it may be a good idea to go home. If you recognize signs that you’re gearing up for a drink, e.g., telling yourself just one wouldn’t hurt, no one will know, etc., it may be a good sign to go home. It’s important to build up trust in yourself and personal accountability, and part of that is recognizing when you’re struggling and taking steps to get yourself out of harm’s way.
Eventually, going to social events should be a fun thing. If you spend too much time stressing or worrying about drinking, it may be better to skip going to normal events for now. Instead, you can look for sober events and parties, where you can have a good time, meet others, and participate in social gatherings without alcohol being present. Of course, that’s not always possible, but it is a good idea if you are struggling.
Good luck and have fun at your party without using alcohol.
If you or a loved one is struggling, there is help. Asana Recovery provides a full continuum of highly effective drug rehab and alcohol rehab programs. If you have questions for yourself, or your loved one, contact us today to speak in complete confidence with one of our experienced and caring addiction treatment team.