Recovery presents a number of challenges, including reviving a social life that was once centered around drugs or alcohol. Even if you have a new group of friends, chances are that parties will involve some adult beverages or recreational drugs. In order to stay on your path to recovery and still enjoy a healthy social life, you will need to develop the skills to say “No” to temptations at parties. We have some ideas for how to do that gracefully.
#1: Say “No” to the Party
If you know that the party and the people at it are just going to be too much temptation, don’t put yourself on the fast-track to relapse. Opt out completely. Saying “no” is a choice to stay on your recovery path.
#2: Bring your own beverage
Sometimes the invitation to drink is not a sign that the person offering disregards your recovery efforts; it’s because they’re just trying to play the role of good host/hostess. You can put them at ease and eliminate a lot of invitations to drink by having your own alcohol-free beverage in hand.
#3: Bring a friend
At home or at a party, sobriety can be hard to maintain without support. So, bring a support system with you. If you can invite someone along, ask a reliable friend who will help you stay away from problem substances and help you recognize when you may need to leave if the environment is just too much to handle.
#4: Set limits
If you are going to a party with acquaintances and friends who still use the substances you are trying to avoid, they’re going to have questions. It’s only natural. But you do not have to subject yourself to a barrage of invitations all night. Set a limit—a firm number—of invitations to drink or (ab)use that you will hear and can say no to. After that, call it a night and leave the party.
#5: Be prepared to be the life of the party
Sometimes people drink or have drugs at a party because they have no idea how else to make it a party. You can be and bring the better alternatives by being equipped with:
- Interesting conversation starters
- Games—board games, role-playing games, video games, party games
If no one else is interested in the excitement you have to offer, maybe that’s a clear signal that the party’s a dud anyway.
#6: Have an explanation ready
If you are with people who knew you when you drank or used, they will be curious as to why you do not want to do so anymore. You can avoid awkward silences or feeling increased pressure to fit in by having an explanation ready. Of course, you do not owe anyone an explanation. But, if you can tell them briefly why you’re choosing sobriety, that may be all they need to get on board and support your new choices.
If you really do not want to delve into your backstory, then don’t. If you need to oversimplify or “fudge” a little bit—say, for instance, you tell someone you don’t want a drink because you’ve got a job interview coming up or you’re trying a strict Atkins diet (even if you’re not)—who’s going to know? The important thing is that what you have to say puts you more at ease.
#7: Give yourself an exit strategy
If the “Irish goodbye” (just leaving a party without any farewells) is not your strong suit, then have an exit strategy ready in case you feel like you need to leave. Have a code you can text to a friend so that someone calls or texts you to prompt your exit or have a ready-made reason (kind of like the explanation in #6) that helps you feel like you’re leaving with the necessary social graces intact.
#8: Have a backup plan
If you leave because the party scene is not conducive to your recovery efforts, have a backup plan that gives you a healthy alternative to fill your time. You do not want to set yourself up for drinking alone or coping in other unhealthy ways because you suddenly have an evening free. Check movie times, bowling alley hours, stand-up comedy schedules, etc. so that you have a fun Plan B to fall back on.