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How to Host a Sober Party After Recovery

Early in their addiction recovery, people often mistakenly believe that quitting drugs or alcohol means leaving the fun and enjoyment of parties behind. But this couldn’t be further from the truth, and hosting a sober party is the perfect way to rid yourself of this notion.

It’s understandable why people believe that being sober and having a party are in direct contradiction. When you have lived with a substance use disorder, parties and substance use often go hand in hand. But the fact is that the true enjoyment and pleasure of a party is in the gathering of friends and the enjoyment of shared activities.

Still, hosting your first sober party can be a nerve-racking experience. Following a few simple tips can make sure that your sober party is fun for everyone involved and that you have a great experience as a host.

Plan Ahead

The first stage for any sober party is the planning process. If you’ve hosted parties before, many of the elements of a sober party are no different. You need to plan and decide:

  • Where to host the party
  • Who to invite
  • When the party will happen
  • How to spread the word
  • What activities to have for your guests
  • Whether to provide food

Of course, not everything is the same when you host a sober party. It’s important to set clear intentions and expectations for your guests to maintain a sober atmosphere and ensure that no one thinks it would be okay to bring drugs or alcohol.

If you are making invitations, make sure to announce the party as a sober party. Include terms such as “alcohol-free” or “sober event” to make sure people don’t bring alcohol with them.

Similarly, you want to plan a location where alcohol isn’t available. This typically rules out the pub but can even mean that hosting a party at your friend’s house might not be the best plan. If alcohol is available, people who aren’t sober may gravitate toward it, and those who are sober might feel triggered or uncomfortable.

Finally, deciding on who to invite plays a similar role. If you have a friend who always brings drugs or alcohol to events, it’s sometimes better to simply not invite them rather than hope they listen to your rules.

Focus on Sober Activities

Perhaps the most important part of a sober party is finding fun and enjoyable activities for your guests. This component is critical, as at a non-sober event, drinking alcohol is often seen as the main activity of the night.

There are any number of sober activities you can choose from for your party. You could host an entire sober party based around a single activity, such as watching a football match or going to a theme park, or you could build activities into your party so that your guests have something to occupy themselves.

Some common examples of fun sober activities include:

  • Board games
  • Movie nights
  • Charades
  • Photo booths
  • Dance floors

As a host, it often falls to you to get your partygoers started with activities. If your guests have all arrived and seem to be milling about without much to do, tell them it’s time to play some board games and be the first to get started!

Activities are essential because they give you and your guests something to do. While the focus of any sober party is typically social connection, which has repeatedly been found to be one of the most important components of recovery, activities provide a space for people to gather, a light distraction, and a goal to work toward together.

Supply Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Being sober means not drinking alcohol. But it doesn’t mean you don’t get to enjoy the occasional decadent beverage, and having a variety of non-alcoholic drinks available for yourself and your guests is a critical component of a successful sober party.

The variety of drinks you can have on hand is nearly endless. Common examples include:

  • Fizzy drinks
  • Tea
  • Kombucha
  • Freshly squeezed juice

If you want to get a little fancier, consider making a large batch of mocktails or speciality drinks beforehand. Mocktails can be a great way of bringing a unique drink to a sober party and can highlight your creativity and personal taste.

Invite Sober Friends

Who you invite to your sober party will have a dramatic impact on how enjoyable your party is. The best rule of thumb for a sober party is to invite sober friends — those who already know how to have a good time without turning to drugs and alcohol.

This doesn’t mean you have to invite only sober people — anyone can be welcome, so long as they appreciate the sanctity of a sober space! But if you invite all your drinking friends to a sober party, they may feel like the lack of alcohol is detracting from the fun. Worse still, they may try to bring alcohol or encourage you to drink with them.

By inviting several sober friends, you have a solid base of support for your own recovery. Additionally, sober people tend to enjoy sober parties more, if only because they understand how the rules of a party change after entering recovery.

Your sober friends will likely be the most enthusiastic about playing a board game, taking photos in the photo booth, or getting on the dance floor without needing alcohol as encouragement.

This positive, sober energy can quickly spread throughout the entire party and ensure that everyone — even those who aren’t in recovery themselves — has a great time.

Of course, a prerequisite to inviting sober friends is having them in the first place. There are a number of places where you can find friends who share your experience of recovery, including:

If you have made sober acquaintances but feel like you’re still struggling to call them sober friends, inviting them to your sober party might be a great way to bridge that gap.

Focus on the Guest Experience

As a host of any party, your focus should always be on the guest experience. You will want to make sure your guests have a good time with fun activities to occupy them, beverages to drink, and food to eat. These make up the essential components of a successful sober party.

While this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s important to keep the guest experience at the forefront of your planning and preparation. Too often, when people host their first sober party, they fall into a pattern of focusing primarily on the “sober” aspect and not enough on the “party” aspect. It should still be fun for all attending!

When you only focus on how to keep your party drug and alcohol-free, it can be easy to push the essential elements to the side. What could wind up happening is you have a completely sober gathering but no party atmosphere.

Make sure to include several elements your guests would enjoy. Play the music your guests like. Offer activities they enjoy. Think about what you enjoy as a party guest, and try to bring those elements into your sober party event.

Prepare for Triggers or Challenges

Your first sober party may bring several triggers or challenges for your recovery. By preparing yourself for these ahead of time, you can prevent them from leading to cravings, distress, or relapse.

Ask yourself what may be triggering when you host a sober party for the first time. Does certain music spark a trigger for substance use? Would having an unmarked drink pitcher give you pause? What about if someone didn’t read the invitation and asks where all the alcohol is?

Think about anything that may lead to a craving for drugs or alcohol so you can prepare yourself with coping strategies ahead of time. A few useful tools for a variety of triggering situations include:

  • Talking it through with a sober friend
  • Taking some time away from everyone to clear your head
  • Practising mindfulness techniques
  • Checking in with your therapist ahead of time

When living a life in recovery, activities like hosting a sober party will often bring challenges or triggers, no matter how much you try to prepare for or prevent them. But staying sober and on the path to recovery despite these challenges is how you will learn to make your recovery last a lifetime.

Remember To Enjoy Yourself

Hosting a sober party can seem overwhelming at times. As the host, you’re responsible for the planning, preparation, coordination, and seemingly every other aspect of the party. If you carry this frantic energy into the event itself, it can quickly become an unenjoyable experience where you feel more like a manager than a partygoer.

Take a breath. When the party comes, it’s time to set down most of the responsibilities and simply have a good time with your friends, family, and loved ones. Remember that the point of any party is to have a good time, and when the host is having fun, chances are your friends and family members will be having a great time as well.

Recognise If You Aren’t Ready

If you have thought through all the tips outlined above and simply don’t feel as though you’re prepared to host a sober event without immense stress or potential relapse, honour that intuition and don’t feel obligated to host an event.

Certain activities can be simply too triggering, too challenging, or too reminiscent of old times to be worth risking, particularly early in recovery.

This is particularly true if you have never been to a sober party yourself. Attending a sober party is often the best way to understand the dynamics of one before hosting — and realising that it might not be as bad as it seems on paper.

Need Help? Reach Out to APN London

If you feel like you are struggling to host the activities you want to host, live the life you want to live, or do the things you want to do in recovery, reaching out for professional help can provide you with evidence-based tools and services to help you achieve your goals.

Recovery should never feel like it is limiting you. It should be a liberation — like achieving freedom from the shackles that substance use disorders have placed on you in the past.

However, when you’re stressed about staying sober, unconfident in your ability to resist relapse, or simply feeling overwhelmed, professional mental health services can help.

At APN London, our multidisciplinary team of mental and medical health professionals has all the tools you need to build a lasting and worthwhile recovery. Reach out to APN London today by using the live chat function on our website, calling us directly at 0207 193 1128, or filling out our confidential online contact form for more information.

References

  • Pettersen, Henning, et al. “How Social Relationships Influence Substance Use Disorder Recovery: A Collaborative Narrative Study.” Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1177/1178221819833379. Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.