Eating at Restaurants While Sober

May 18, 2020

For those in early recovery, eating at restaurants while sober can be challenging. While the actual eating part should be easy, you may be faced with old temptations, especially if the restaurant serves alcohol. Eating out with friends and family who drink can also place social pressures on you to break sobriety and drink. And this isn’t mentioning the hidden restaurant dishes that may contain alcohol.

Luckily, you don’t need to sacrifice eating at restaurants while sober in order to maintain recovery. There are ways to have fun and keep sobriety while enjoying a meal with your loved ones.

Be Prepared to See Others Drinking

While you can and should do your best to frequent restaurants that don’t serve alcohol, eventually you may end up at one. What may surprise you is how little thought is given to drinking during meals. Indeed, some restaurants will recommend wine pairings for certain dishes. Alcohol may be present at nearly every table.

It is good practice to be prepared to say no to booze. This is something that those who are veterans in recovery may be accustomed to, but those new to recovery may not be as well versed. Remember that there’s no shame in saying “no.” While it may be strange, or even possibly rude, to reject a server’s suggestion for a drink pairing with a meal, it ultimately is the right choice for your sobriety. Saying no to alcohol at restaurants will gradually become easier the more you do so. It may also be worthwhile to pair your meals with non-alcoholic drinks, such as sparkling waters.

Lean on Loved Ones for Support

When eating at restaurants alone, it can be easy to avoid alcohol: just eat at a restaurant that doesn’t have a liquor license. However, when you are eating with friends, family, or loved ones, things may become complicated. If you’re going out for an occasion, like a holiday or birthday party, your choice of restaurant may be more limited. Additionally, others may want to partake in moderate drinking if the occasion is celebratory. It’s important to recognize that others drinking doesn’t mean that you have to drink. Sometimes, if you feel the pressure is too great, you can excuse yourself from the meal.

If your loved ones are supportive of your recovery, they may opt to not drink while eating with you. If they do drink, they may still be able to help you stay sober. Loved ones and members of your support network are a great safety net. They can see your discomfort around alcohol and can provide encouragement and help ward you away from drinking. In this area, honesty can be the best remedy.

Beware of Foods that Contain Alcohol

Another concern might be whether or not certain foods contain alcohol. Luckily, most hot dishes that use alcohol as an ingredient retain the flavor while the actual alcohol is burned off in the cooking process. However, cold dishes and foods that haven’t been cooked may still have an alcohol content, even if it is small. Desserts, especially cold or uncooked deserts, tend to be the big culprits here. Tiramisu, mousses, and desserts that uses extracts can have trace alcohol contents, and should be avoided.

It can be difficult to tell which foods contain alcohol while on the spot. Remember that you can always ask your waiter or waitress which foods have alcohol in them. Servers have likely encountered these types of questions before, and can help you choose menu items that keep sobriety and provide you with a good meal.

Final Thoughts on Eating at Restaurants While Sober

Eating at restaurants while sober doesn’t have to be a challenge. Remember that going out with loved ones while in recovery should be fun. By taking a few precautions and time to familiarize yourself with potential triggers, you can enjoy restaurants as much as anybody else.

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