7 Tips for Navigating Parties When Your Partner Is Sober
Whether it’s a workplace party or a backyard picnic with family and friends, where people gather, you often find alcohol. While the average person may not notice the prevalence of alcohol at social gatherings, those in recovery, and those who love them, must recognize and prepare for the risks involved.
Many people assume that if you have a sober spouse, you no longer go out or go to parties, but this doesn’t have to be the case. For some people, being in social situations where alcohol is present is too much of a trigger and not worth the risk. But for many, going to parties when your partner is sober is a normal and healthy part of their social life.
To help you find your way around the party scene, here are 7 ways you can have fun with friends and still support your loved one.
1. Be Aware of People, Places, and Things
In recovery, those with addiction are encouraged to avoid the people, places, and things that remind them of their drug abuse. And for many, this list includes alcohol and parties. If there’s a party at the house where your partner used to get high, maybe forgo it for a small get together of close and supportive friends instead.
2. Don’t Make Being the “Sober Partner” a Big Deal
Yes, there are risks involved, but when going to parties with a sober partner, don’t make it a big deal. Outwardly fretting about the situation can cause anxiety in your partner. And insisting on talking about their issue at the party can be humiliating. Instead, remind them (and yourself) that they’re in control and you’re there to support them and their recovery in every way possible.
3. Have a Plan
If it’s your partner’s first time going out sober, make sure they practice what they’re going to say when someone offers them a drink or drugs. Being prepared ensures they don’t freeze and end up with a red solo cup in their hand. If certain people are high-risk for your partner’s sobriety, discuss who they are and have a plan if they show up. If possible, talk to the party host before the celebration. That guarantees they know of your partner’s sobriety, can provide drinks for all their guests, and don’t end up in an unnecessary and all-around awkward conversation.
Bring your own beverage. Non-alcoholic that is. If you bring a cooler of soda, water, or Gatorade, it serves two purposes. First, your sober partner doesn’t need to worry if there will be something non-alcoholic available. Second, they’ll always be able to keep a beverage in hand, reducing the chance of people offering them drinks.
5. When It’s Time to Go, It’s Time to Go
Have a predetermined we-need-to-leave time, but also have an escape plan in case things go awry. Agree that if you go to the party together, you leave the party together. If at any time either you or your partner feels that staying longer would be risky, you leave. No questions asked.
6. What to Do When the Party’s at Home
If you’re hosting guests at your home and serving alcohol, make sure to keep the booze out of sight. It doesn’t need to sit on the counter, taunting your partner. Also, consider having a space that’s off-limits to your guests, preferably as far away from the party center as possible. This gives your partner a safe, alcohol-and-drug-free space they can retreat to if necessary.
7. It’s Okay to Go Out Alone
If your partner isn’t ready to go out or believes they’re at risk to go to a particular party, and you want to go, know that it’s okay to go out without them. Especially if you want to responsibly drink. After all, you are not the one suffering from addiction. Just don’t glorify your drinking the next day and be respectful of your partner’s sobriety.
With the right preparation and know-how, you don’t have to worry about going to parties when your partner is sober. It’s not only realistic, but it’s also easily doable!
Volkow, N. National Institute on Drug Abuse. New NIDA research reveals the power of social reinforcers.
Ackerman, K. American Addiction Centers. Loving an addict or alcoholic: How to help them and yourself.
American Addiction Centers. Guide to sober dating.