The days of summer are here and that means busy social calendars, out of town visitors, and weekend getaways. Your readiness to wade back into the social scene is entirely determined by you and there is no ‘right time’. Take recovery at your own pace. When you’re ready to start testing the waters with new people and parties beyond your support system, you may find them a little intimidating—but remember, there are plenty ways to stay sober and social. Follow these tips to stay connected to your journey and true to yourself, while still enjoying a night out with new opportunities.
1. Set aside time for self-care before you are surrounded with others. Before entering an environment that may feel overwhelming, connect with your mood, stress, and energy levels. Checking in with yourself will help cultivate an image of what you want your night to look like before you experience the influence of others who may not be on the same path as you. To feel mentally prepared, meditate on the evening ahead. Imagine the environment and potential triggers, run scenarios through your mind and choose how you would respond to them. This will help you put your health and happiness first when asked to make quick decisions. For an extra pep in your step, practice a self-care ritual to really stay centered: make a healthy meal, relax in a hot bath, practice yoga, or go for a quick run.
2. Go out with someone who knows your life goals.There is power in numbers! Head out for the night with a friend who has the same social strategy as you and knows your story. Whether you like to be the life of the party, talk with new people, or play the wallflower while watching the evening unfold, bringing along a buddy who shares your way of socializing will make the crowd feel smaller and bring familiarity to a foreign environment. Additionally, in the case that you find yourself feeling uncomfortable, a friend who knows your story can act as an important source of support and encouragement.
3. Talk about your sobriety! You are not obligated to tell others about your journey but it can be an incredible way to connect with a group of new people. While some may prefer small talk, there are many individuals who appreciate real conversation, even in a social setting. If given the opportunity, don’t feel ashamed to tell someone your story. Exchanging details about your life with others can be a huge source of encouragement, and you may walk away having made some strong connections and with a new sense of community.
Note: If you’re not quite ready for this step and someone asks why you’re not drinking, keep the conversation light and take the attention off of yourself by saying you’re taking the night off or are the designated driver. Remember: anyone who is drinking doesn’t actually care that you’re not. They are often trying to make conversation.
4. Bring something to share.What really determines the vibe of a party is the guests, not the substances. Share a bit about yourself and break the ice by queuing up a playlist, starting a party game, or presenting your thoughts on a new movie. Introducing others to your latest obsession is enough to get the conversation flowing! Even arriving with a food or non-alcoholic drink item to share may spark a new connection. No pressure—you don’t have to bake an elaborate dessert (although I’m sure no one would complain) but not arriving empty handed acts as a kind gesture and allows for something other than drugs and alcohol to be the highlight. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
An interesting snack to pick up on the way: Curry Popcorn, anyone? https://www.traderjoes.com/digin/post/bollywood-popcorn
A game that many people can join in: Cards Against Humanity is always a laugh. https://www.amazon.com
A non-alcoholic drink that tastes amazing: Blended Watermelon-Lime Slush. https://www.stupideasypaleo.com/2017/07/06/watermelon-slush-recipe/
A playlist with songs you’ve been digging: Reverberation Radio is truly unique.
5. Most of all, be gentle with yourself. Remember you are doing this for YOU. Not every night will be the best of your life but regardless of how it unfolds, making the decision to try new things and meet new people is an important step in your recovery and healing. Continually check in with yourself, stay centered, and let go of self-judgement. If at any time you start to feel uncomfortable or stop having fun, call it a night. There’s no need to stick around to see if it gets better. There will always be another party, event, or social gathering, so don’t feel like you are missing out. Above all, your health and happiness is the most important thing! Put that first and the rest will follow.
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