Just because you practice abstinence based recovery doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an active social life. In fact, you’ll be in good company, because 33 percent of the population does not drink, and 91 percent does not use drugs. Call it a new trend or just heightened awareness, but the movement toward abstinence is quickly gaining strength. For proof, just look around you.
Some people are health-conscious: they want to lose weight or avoid future medical problems. Some people are actually allergic to alcohol. Others abstain because they want to save money or be able to drive themselves home. Still others say they want to maintain mental clarity and not embarrass themselves by acting foolishly.
Now you’re a part of the trend. You fit right in. So join the party—on your own terms. You just have to know a few tricks to help yourself feel comfortable when you’re in recovery, so you can still have fun going out with friends. Remember, an active social life is part of what makes for a successful recovery.
Keep your hands engaged. Hold a drink, just like everyone else, but make it non-alcoholic. There are lots of options, including soda, coffee or flavored water. As long as you are comfortable and it’s not a trigger for you, ginger ale looks festive in a wine glass. If it makes you feel better, add a slice of lime, a cherry or a straw. Sipping on a drink gives you something to do with your hands at a party, and most people pay no attention to what’s actually in your glass.
Schedule something to do the next morning. Most parties are at night, and you’re less likely to overstay if you have something planned for early the next morning. Ask a friend to walk with you, join a yoga class, or simply show up at the gym. Better yet, seek out a Daybreaker party. This wholesome version of dance culture was launched in New York City in 2013 and is fast spreading across the globe. Daybreaker Sober Dance Parties run from 7-9 a.m., allowing people to let loose and dance before heading to work or school. Daybreaker co-founder Matthew Brimer wanted to reinvent the nightclub by emphasizing that you don’t need alcohol or drugs to enjoy dance culture and music.
Find different ways to enjoy the same activities. There’s no reason to stop going to events you have always enjoyed. Now that you’re clear-headed, take a look around. You’ll notice there’s usually a designated “family zone” at the racetrack, where drinking is not allowed. And if you’re a fan of live music, check to see if there are substance-free zones at your favorite band’s concerts. Increasingly, there are, and they are filled with people enjoying the vibe.
Find new friends and new activities. You may need to cultivate a new social network in order to surround yourself with friends who support your decision to embrace abstinence. Old behaviors can be difficult to shake, so shore up your willpower and search out friends who are either abstinent or in recovery themselves. You’ll have a lot in common already. And once you’ve found some buddies, you may want to take a class together. Study a foreign language. Pick up a new skill. Engage your brain. You’ll be so busy focusing on learning something new, you’ll find it easier to leave your old lifestyle behind.
In short, if you have a social strategy, you can have an active social life. Embracing your recovery with others is not only possible, it’s fun. Follow these suggestions, and you’ll see a positive change in your life. Better yet, you’ll not only be a part of the new trend toward abstinence, you’ll become a trend-setter in your own right.
Patricia L. Ryding, Psy.D is Executive Director of Beach House Center for Recovery, a drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation center in Juno Beach, Florida. She is a licensed clinical psychologist who brings over 30 years of experience as both a clinician and an administrator in the behavioral healthcare field to her writing.