6 Ways to Stay Sober at Social Events

Guest post by Ed Rodgers

Dana Leigh Lyons
Sober.com Newsletter
4 min readJun 5, 2024

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“Be kind to your future self” is a powerful mantra with wide application, including in sobriety. One way to be kind to your future self is to choose delayed over immediate gratification.

Seeking immediate gratification is a human tendency driven by the brain’s reward system — specifically the release of dopamine (the hormone that makes you feel pleasure and satisfaction). When we engage in activities that provide immediate gratification — such as eating a delicious meal — our brain releases dopamine and we feel a sense of pleasure (immediate reward).

This reward system can cause problems when abused. Addictive substances and behaviors — drugs, alcohol, gambling, or excessive use of social media, for example — trigger surges of dopamine far greater than what is naturally produced. This intense pleasure reinforces the behavior, leading to a cycle of addiction.

But you’re a cycle breaker.

If you’re reading this, you’ve already demonstrated the capacity to be a cycle breaker. Break your cycles of bad habits, break your hedonic treadmills, break your chronic stresses, break your avoidance of facing past demons, break from the things that have held you in pain.

How to be kind to your future self

Here are six ways to “be kind to your future self” when preparing for social events in sobriety — especially when addictive substances will likely be present.

  • Non-Alcoholic Beverages. When possible, bring your own preferred beverages: sparkling water, tea, non-alcoholic beer, etc. You’ll have a beverage in your hand so that social interactions feel more natural.

Keep beverages at home that can be grab-and-go, especially around the holidays.

  • Practice Responses. Prepare and practice responses for when you’re offered a potentially addictive substance. Politely declining doesn’t have to be awkward or complicated.

Have a standard reply that you’re comfortable delivering and practice saying it. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your choices. For example:

“I’m actually on a health kick at the moment, so I’ll pass.”
“I appreciate the offer, but I’m not drinking tonight.”
“No thanks, I’m driving tonight.”
“I’m actually more of a tea/coffee/sparkling water person.”
“I’m taking a break from alcohol, but I’d love a soda if you have one.”

  • Exit Strategy. While you shouldn’t plan to have a poor experience, you should always preemptively give yourself permission to leave the event if you start to feel uncomfortable or triggered.

Adopt an acceptance mindset to be present and check in with yourself at pause points (such as when you use the bathroom). If you’ve reached the point of discomfort, excuse yourself from the event (or do the “Irish goodbye”).

  • Self-Care Rituals. Establish self-care rituals that you can do before events.

Give yourself time before the event for self-care. Take a shower, do yoga, listen to your favorite music, recite a positive affirmation, meditate, take a nature walk, employ relaxation techniques or breathing strategies, etc.

  • Mindful Participation. Treat yourself to mindful eating, indulging in delicious and healthy food as self-care and a distraction from alcohol. Engage in activities available at the event, whether dancing, games, a photo booth, etc. Staying active keeps your mind off drinking.

Similar to self-care rituals and practicing responses, think about how you lean into activities or how you plan to approach food options.

  • Support Buddy. Have a friend, partner, or family member accompany you to an event. They can be a “security blanket” in challenging situations. They should be someone who will support your mindful decisions.

Before an event (to the extent that you’re comfortable), tell your buddy about your boundaries, challenges, and potential risks. Ask and give them permission to support you, perhaps sharing your social engagement strategy.

Simple practices with big results

While such practices may seem simple, they can have a major impact on your comfort level, happiness, and quality of life in sobriety.

Practicing deferred gratification also improves patience! Improved patience leads to less stress, better decisions, deeper relationships, and a better environment for creating and sustaining supportive habits.

As for me? Well, another way I’m kind to my future self is by cleaning out the kitchen sink and starting the dishwasher every night before bed. My morning self appreciates having one less task before starting the day!

Your turn!

We’d love for you to share in the comments:

  • How are you kind to your future self in sobriety?
  • Has your relationship with immediate and delayed gratification shifted since getting sober?

And if you found this article helpful, please leave a clap or 50. It lets others know there’s something useful here and will help us grow this community.

Ed Rodgers is a visionary healthcare leader who has worked in oncology information technology for more than twenty years. His current focus is creating Toward Wellth, a social wellness facility addressing unmet mental health and wellness education needs in trauma and addiction recovery. His newsletter is Toward Wellth, and the physical space for Toward Wellth is scheduled to open in 2025.

Want to be published on Sober.com? If you’re a sober writer, we invite you to contribute! Reach out to hello@danaleighlyons.com for details.

Note

I first encountered the phrase “be kind to your future self” in How to Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing, by KC Davis, LPC. I recommend it to help juggle competing life interests in general!

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