It’s summertime and that means a whole new challenge for those in recovery – navigating the summer party. What summer wouldn’t be complete without at least one invitation for a barbecue on the beach, or drinks on a sunny patio? And unless you want to stay home huddled under a blanket until the fall, working out a strategy to get through these events without letting your recovery fall by the wayside is the key to creating a new relationship with summer events.
It is possible with a bit of planning and an open mind. Here are a few tips to get you started before you head to the beach or the neighbour’s backyard.
Be sure to check in with your hosts if there will be alcohol at the party. If so, decide what non-alcoholic beverage you’ll be satisfied drinking for the length of the event, so you don’t feel tempted by your friends’ beverages. Pack yourself a couple of options so you can switch it up throughout the night. Most non-alcoholic drinks tend to be heavy in sugar (ie. pop, juice, etc.) so bring some extra cans of club soda to help balance things out. Have an early exit plan if you feel uncomfortable at the party, and plan to meet with other friends in recovery the following morning for a hike or breakfast. Not only does it give you a reason to leave early if things don’t feel right, but you’ll be set to reconnect with your community the next day.
Before you head out the door, take a minute to visualize yourself at the party, chatting with people in the kitchen, on the deck, on the lawn. Imagine yourself there with your non-alcoholic beverage in hand, relaxed, having fun, and feeling confident in your sobriety among others drinking. This little mental exercise will help rewire your brain and give you more inner strength in those tough moments.
Find your allies
Once you’re at the party, see if you can find anyone else who’s not drinking – other folks in recovery, pregnant women, or others who simply choose not to drink. If it’s the type of party that has kids there, remember that chatting with kids helps their parents, the hosts, and can be very entertaining.
Don’t be shy to ask your host for the lowdown on other guests. Creating a quick connection with these guests at the beginning of the evening can help you find a community of support if you feel yourself weakening throughout the night. Check-in with them throughout the party to offer and/or receive a quick word of support.
Organize an activity
Sometimes indulging is more easily forgotten if the focus is on something else. Consider asking the host if they have many activities planned for the party, and if not, maybe you could organize one? It could be as simple as putting together a few playlists and playing the DJ. Or if you like sports, how about getting a few people to play a round of bocce ball, badminton, or volleyball?
Perhaps the activity could simply be offering to be the designated driver and making a point of introducing yourself to everyone who needs a ride at the end of the night. Not only will this take the focus off standing around and drinking, but it will also help you engage with people more deeply and take the entertainment to the next level. Your hosts will likely thank you for your efforts!
Observe, reflect, and acknowledge
It might seem like a party is the last place to get philosophical, but it’s actually a great time to take a few deep breaths and reflect on your behaviour and everyone else’s. There’s nothing like being sober at a social gathering to watch the effect drinking has on others behaviours. Watch how people change under the influence of alcohol and ask yourself what you find appealing or disagreeable about those changes. Are they louder, more honest, more silly, blunter? What are a few ways you could adopt the appealing behaviours without using alcohol as an instigator? Give yourself credit for pushing your boundaries and acknowledge your inner strength. It will help build up your stamina for future gatherings.
Hopefully, these tips will help prepare you for a fun and successfully sober summer! Have fun out there.