Sober Tailgating: Tips and Techniques for Staying Sober

By: Pine Rest Staff Authors

Football season is in full swing! Whether you are rooting for your all-time favorites or the underdog, tailgating can include triggers for those who are maintaining sobriety.

Successfully navigating through events traditionally associated with drinking requires planning to prevent relapse. The more safeguards you put in place, the more time you will have to distract, delay, and divert yourself from using. These can take many forms and even be a group effort, even though the entire group may not remain sober.

The following ideas can help you stay sober during tailgating season or at any social gathering where alcohol will be part of the celebration.

Bring your own non-alcoholic beverages

Often in gatherings where drinking is common, having a drink in your hand is habit. Take control by bringing your own non-alcoholic (NA) beverage of choice, removing the option to fill your glass with an alcohol-based drink. Do not rely on the host to provide NA options.

If you’re meeting up at a venue that doesn’t allow you to bring your own beverage, review their menu online or call ahead of time to plan what drinks will work for you. Many venues now include mocktail offerings that are fun, festive, and even seasonal.

Make your own entertainment

When in recovery, self-driven distraction can be beautiful. While there are likely to be activities and entertainment, prepare to have a sober activity for yourself or invite the group to participate in one such as paying cornhole or other game, decorating your game-day attire to show off your team spirit, or make a photo booth and take everyone’s picture. This helps to mentally focus on a chosen sober activity rather than fixating on the desire to drink or all the drinking taking place around you.

Shift the focus from drinks to food

Promoting food as a focal point can change the tone of the gathering as well as reduce the amount of alcohol. Hold a competition for the best dip, nachos, or chili. Vote for a winner and award a sober prize. This encourages your group to focus on food, and maybe fill up on food, as opposed to drinking.

Know your triggers and have support on standby

In the time leading up to the event, take time to look within yourself to identify your triggers. Understand how those triggers may arise throughout the tailgate and what, and whom, you may need to work through those.

Once those are identified, it can be helpful to have someone supportive and sober with you to rely on during those moments of temptation. They can help keep you from relapsing and effectively work through triggers as they arise.

If you feel ready and comfortable to share, it can be incredibly helpful to tell those around you and those hosting the tailgate that you are sober and gain their support and aid in eluding temptation. The more people you have around to hold you accountable, the more likely you are to avoid using. Additionally, it is likely that if the people around you are aware that you are in recovery, they may be willing to do what they can to support you through that journey, even call for an entirely sober tailgate.

Leave, if necessary

A significant part of recovery and maintaining sobriety is having a community and connection. Getting out and socializing is important, but only you know when you have maxed out. Plan for these situations by driving yourself to the event. This way you’ll have the means to leave at any time you deem necessary for yourself, for your safety, and for your sobriety.

Although socializing is important, nothing is more important than your recovery. Now is the time to be “selfish.” You need to do what is best for you and those who support you will understand when you need to leave “earlier than expected.”

Whether you are watching your team clinch the playoffs or they are having yet another winless season, sober tailgating is a sure way to celebrate the football season! Plus, holiday season is approaching. These tips and techniques can help you maintain your sobriety through those celebrations as well.

You are not alone! We can support you or your loved one at every step of recovery.

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