“Fun, sober party” need not be an oxymoron. It’s very possible to throw a shindig without alcohol or drugs — and it can be a blast. Life in recovery — especially in early recovery — is full of sober firsts: dates, dinners, events, holidays, relationships, just to name a handful. Having fun at parties without drugs and alcohol is a big one on the list of firsts.
If you’ve been in alcohol or drug addiction treatment, you’ve likely learned tips for staying sober in social situations. Those may include things like attending parties where people will be drinking or using drugs with a sober friend; only staying for a brief amount of time, and having an exit plan if things start going south. Though any type of party — sober or not– may bring up triggers, skirting substances all together and throwing your own sober party is a wonderful way to nix the most triggering component of all as you start socializing in recovery.
Here are some tips for hosting sober parties:
1. Invite People Who Don’t Drink
This is an important one if you’re newly sober. Having friends around who would normally drink or use drugs can be triggering and may make you feel self-conscious about your party being “fun enough” for them without substances. It’s perfectly fine to limit your guest list to people who are in recovery or who don’t drink for other reasons.
2. Let Your Inner Foodie Shine
Before recovery, drugs and alcohol would have taken center stage at your party. Channel that energy and effort into creating some tasty treats. Try out some new recipes or have guests all bring a dish. Make the focus on food, not alcohol.
Of course, you will need to provide a selection of nonalcoholic drinks. These can be fun too. Choose colorful drinks, fancy teas, or make a smoothie bar. Stay away from mocktails or non-alcoholic beer though. These can shine a spotlight back on alcohol and be triggering for some people in addiction recovery.
3. Switch Up the Timing
Consider throwing a morning or afternoon party. Having your sober party at a nontypical time can help lessen the expectation of alcohol and be less triggering for people in recovery.
Perhaps have a brunch gathering. Make it buffet style and have everyone bring their favorite breakfast or lunch dish. Declare a pajama party or a spa day theme complete with manicures, massages, and other forms of self-care. Take part in a daybreaker event — the sober morning dance party phenomenon– even if you must do it virtually. There are lots of ways to get creative outside of typical party hours.
4. Have a Destination Party
When people think of a house party, alcohol usually comes to mind, so switching up the environment may help downplay the “sober” aspect of the party for people who are triggered by the setting.
Mix up the party backdrop by having it at an unexpected place. A beach BBQ or picnic at the park can be fun, and the entertainment is built into the setting. Go to an amusement park or arcade. A few weeks before the party, have attendees submit ideas for the destination and then have everyone vote.
5. Include Icebreakers and Party Games
Attending a party without drinking can bring up anxiety in recovery. Alcohol and drugs were likely social lubricants that made you feel more comfortable talking to people. Have healthy activities that can serve as the social lubricant, instead of substance abuse to help people feel comfortable.
There are endless icebreaker activities and games. Have guests tell two truths and one lie about themselves and have their partner or group guess which one is a lie. Provide a selection of “would you rather” questions and have guests answer three of them for each person at the party. Have everyone write a fun fact about themselves on a piece of paper and then draw them from a bowl and read them aloud. Everyone guesses who wrote each entry. These are just a few ideas to get those creative juices flowing.
6. Have a Talent Show
This is a great one that encourages people to celebrate their authentic selves, which is a key recovery concept. Set up an area as the stage. You can make it a silly theme, like unusual talents or tricks, or go “full-blown talent show” where attendees showcase a legitimate talent like playing an instrument, performing a skit, or singing. A talent show can help people feel seen and also get them excited thinking about the party. They’ll be focusing on their act, not the fact that they’ll stay sober.
7. Don’t Forget Dancing
Many people rely on alcohol or drugs to loosen them up and help them feel comfortable on the dance floor. No need to nix dancing at a sober party, just rethink the approach. Bring someone in to teach dance moves or sequences. This way, everyone is learning — and messing up – together, and no one feels pressure to come up with their own moves. Keep the lights low in the dance area so people don’t feel like they’ve got the spotlight on them.
8. Amp Up the Laughter
Laughter is a natural social lubricant. It’s proven to release endorphins and lower stress. Bring in a comedian to do some stand up or tell guests to come prepared with their favorite joke or funny story. Go around the room and have everyone share.
Addiction recovery is hard work. It takes practice to get comfortable in sobriety. If you’re feeling triggered or unsteady in recovery, or if you’ve relapsed, give us a call. At Footprints to Recovery, we view these situations as valuable teachers, and we treat them as such. They are opportunities to help you learn and strengthen your recovery.
Footprints to Recovery offers both inpatient and outpatient programs as well as drug and alcohol detox. We provide evidence-based dual diagnosis treatment and tailor care to your specific needs and place in your recovery journey. Call us today to learn more and verify insurance coverage.