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6 Tips for Navigating Summer Parties After Addiction Rehab

people drinking at party and one person being sober

It’s summer in a post-pandemic world. That means there will be celebrations, weddings, parties, and all kinds of other social events, most of which are likely to include alcohol. Whether you recently completed addiction rehab treatment or have been in recovery for a while, these tips are a helpful reminder of how to stay sober this summer.

1 – First and most important, consider the party you are invited to and your recovery status:

  • How much time do you have sober?
  • Consider who will be there. Is it going to be mostly friends and family who knew you when you were using? Will they pressure you to have “just” one drink?
  • What’s the reason for the party? How important is it that you be there?
  • What are the pros and cons of going?
  • What are you going to do if someone offers you a drink? What if a friend offers you your favorite drink? Will you say no? Are you going to take it? Walk around with it?
  • Having considered all of those questions, do you still think it’s a good idea to go?

Talk it over with a trusted friend or family member, your sponsor, your recovery coach, or therapist. Make them run through every scenario so you can justify why you still want to go and how you will deal with that scenario. Ask them to remind you why it’s not good for you to put yourself in danger.

2 – Set boundaries.

People love to push and if you have never set boundaries, it’s going to be hard to resist. Think through in advance how you will stay sober. What will you do if someone asks why you are not drinking/indulging? What will you do if they don’t take no for an answer? At what point will you decide you are too close to giving in and having that one drink? What will you do to get out of the situation?

3 – Consider how you are feeling.

How confident are you in your recovery and your ability to deal with pressure to drink? If you are feeling shaky, people may think you “need” a drink. If you are confident and prepared, they are less likely to ask more than once.

4 – Figure out your answers in advance to the questions that are likely to come up.

“Do you want a drink?” “Why not?” “Oh, come on, you can have just one, right? It won’t hurt.” If you want to say that you don’t drink because you are in recovery, that’s great. But you don’t have to provide details. Here are some possible answers to consider:

  • My doctor told me it’s not healthy for me to drink.
  • I’m on a strict diet and it includes not drinking.
  • I drove a friend and I agreed to be their designated driver.

If they push by saying something like: “Really? You can’t have just one?” figure out what you will say. Some possibilities are:

  • “No, not even one. I’d be so sorry.”
  • “No way. I promised to be the driver.”
  • “No thanks, I’m enjoying this seltzer and the party. I’ll stick with it.”

Then make an exit. “Oh, I see someone I really need to say hi to. Great seeing you!”

5 – Get a non-alcoholic drink and keep it full

To prevent too many questions about what you want to drink, head to the bar first to find out what your non-alcoholic options are and get something to have in your hand. Once you have a glass, find some way to identify it as yours if you set it down so you don’t pick someone else’s alcoholic drink by mistake. Keep your glass full so you have an easy reply if someone asks if you would like a drink. “I have one right here. Thanks though!”

6 – Have an exit plan

The best is to drive yourself or ask a trusted sober friend to come with you. Agree in advance that if either of you wants to leave, you will.

If you don’t drive yourself, make a back-up plan in case your driver doesn’t want to leave. Ask a trusted friend who will not be at the party to be your back up. Set up a code word so you can call them and let them know you need a ride home without having to explain. Your code word could be a person’s name: “I just saw Alice! She said to tell you hi.”

Sober Alternatives

There are plenty of fun sober events you can go to, sponsored by addiction rehab groups, if you are not ready yet for events where people are drinking. These websites offer events in the Northern Virginia area:

There’s also safety and confidence in numbers. If there’s a concert you want to go to or some other non-sober event, put together a group of sober friends/family members to go with you.

Encore Alumni Activities

Encore has an alumni support group that gets together for social events as well as a weekly group. Social events include outdoor activities like hiking and picnics as well as indoor activities like bowling and meet ups at coffee shops. We are also working on a volunteer program, which can provide a social outlet in addition to doing a service for others.

Yes, You Can Be Social and In Recovery

It is possible to be a social person in recovery. In fact, it’s likely that you will find yourself having more fun this summer than you ever did when you were drinking or doing drugs. Why? Because in recovery, you are truly yourself, without the need for substances to have fun. Put a few guidelines and supports in place, and you can enjoy all that summer socializing has to offer.

For Family Members/Friends of Someone in Recovery

You can support your loved one in navigating a summer social events by being a trusted resource. First, don’t tell your loved one in recovery not to go to a party or other event where alcohol/drugs will be present. It’s likely to push them into thinking they want or have to go. It’s better to talk it through. What are their reasons for going? How will they prepare themselves for questions about why they aren’t drinking? Are there other sober friends going? You can also suggest they talk it through with their sponsor, recovery coach, therapist, or a trusted friend.

If they do decide to go, ask how you can help. Maybe you can go with them or be their “escape” person who picks them up if they need to get out. If it’s a family event you are helping with, you can make sure to have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks or maybe even suggest a non-drinking event. Or, if your loved one decides they cannot go, you can attend a sober event with them or invite sober friends over.


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