When you have a loved one recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction, you want them to be able to enjoy sober life as soon as possible. This is not made any easier by staying isolated from friends and normal situations like parties. A party may seem like the worst possible place to bring a recovering addict due to the possibility of heightened anxiety and temptation, but it’s not an impossible situation when there is enough support from you and other friends and loved ones.
Here are some tips for helping a friend stay sober at parties.
Talk to Your Friend Ahead of Time
Before the party, have an open and honest conversation with your friend about their worries and triggers. This is going to differ from person to person based on their addiction and experiences. Make sure to ask them what they need from you to feel supported and safe. Perhaps they need you to stay sober around them as well or to help them deflect offers of alcohol or drugs. By understanding their needs and boundaries, you can better support them in this transition.
Make a Plan
Following an important pre-party talk, make sure to help your friend plan ahead for the party by:
- offering to be their designated driver
- suggesting alcohol-free drinks they can enjoy
- helping them come up with excuses for why they’re not drinking
- having a predetermined escape plan in case they feel uncomfortable or triggered
A plan can help them go to the party with peace of mind and make it even easier to avoid potential triggers.
Don’t Abandon Them
During the party, be supportive. Check in with your loved one regularly, offer to engage in sober activities, and help them avoid difficult situations that could trigger cravings. If they need to step outside or take a break, offer to go with them and provide a listening ear. This phase of life won’t last forever, but being there for your loved one can make a huge impact on their transition from addiction to recovery.
Although helping a recovering loved one is a big undertaking, please remember that sobriety is a personal journey. It’s not your place to pressure them into making certain choices or judge them for their decisions. Don’t make a big deal out of their sobriety or draw attention to their not participating in triggering events. Simply be supportive and respectful of their choices.
Have Sober Fun/Offer Alternatives
Remember that parties can be fun without alcohol or drugs. Help your friend find sober activities to enjoy, such as dancing, playing games, or having deep conversations. Focus on building meaningful connections with others and enjoying the moment without the need for substances. Encourage certain behaviors by modeling them yourself. It makes abstaining from certain activities less awkward when you’re not doing it alone.
Know When to Leave a Situation
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your friend may still feel uncomfortable or triggered at the party. Sometimes it’s hard to come back to your old life while trying to maintain new habits. It’s okay to leave early if that’s what they need. Make sure they feel comfortable communicating their needs, and don’t hesitate to leave if necessary.
Helping a friend stay sober at parties is a huge undertaking that requires your will to be slightly swallowed up in theirs. It requires empathy, understanding, and a commitment to their well-being. Returning to regular social settings following a successful addiction recovery program is difficult but not impossible with supportive loved ones that are willing to help in a healthy and positive way. Their recovery is their personal journey, but your support can make all the difference in your loved one’s success.