How to Party Without Jeopardizing Your Recovery

Are you recovering from drug addiction and wonder if you will ever have fun again? The answer is YES. There are ways you can have fun without endangering your recovery. Read further to find out.

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ARTICLE SUMMARY: You can learn to have fun in addiction recovery. The trick is knowing how to shift your perspective. Ideas on how to be prepared for a new type of fun here, with a section at the end for your questions.



Yes, Partying Can Be Hard

If you’re used to partying and used drugs and alcohol in the past, it can be difficult to go out. A party might just not seem the same, especially if you are committed to recovery. Parties where alcohol and drugs are offered can easily jeopardize the effort and progress you’ve made in sobriety, leading you to a relapse. And a relapse can sometimes feel worse than anything.

Can life be fun without drugs? How do you party when in recovery? How do you turn down drugs and alcohol at parties? We review all of the following questions, plus we provide you with options for sober fun. In case of any questions, comments or experiences on having fun without jeopardizing your recovery use the end section for questions.

Why Do I Feel So Bad?

There can be a chemical reason that you feel bad.

Many addicts in recovery fear they will never have fun, once they go through detox and remove all the traces of drugs and alcohol in their system. If you’re new to recovery, you may have come across the same fears. Once you enroll in a treatment program you will be challenged to stop relying on drugs as an escape plan every time there is a problem waiting around the corner. And in some cases, dysphoria can be present.

What’s dysphoria?

Basically, it’s the inability to feel pleasure. According to this 2009 article published in the Journal on Drug Issues, all major drugs of abuse produce dysphoria during withdrawal. The effects of a general feeling of being unwell have been observed with amphetamines, cocaine, opiates, alcohol, nicotine, and THC. The article explains why:

“A logical explanation for the neuroadaptative mechanisms responsible for the negative motivational effects of drug withdrawal (the “dark side”) may involve disruption of the same neural systems implicated in the positive reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse.” 

In other words, brain changes caused by drug make it nearly impossible to feel well…until you give it some time. In fact, most symptoms related to bad feeling pass within a few months. Some can linger, and in these cases short-term use of antidepressants might be helpful. Talk with your addiction counselor, family doctor, or supervising clinician if you really feel bad, even if it’s right after detox. Solutions can only present themselves when you ask for help.

Refusal Strategies

So, let’s say that you’re starting to feel better. You have some time under your belt. And there’s a show or concert coming up. What can you do? Should you go, or not?

Being prepared and knowing how to deal with difficult situations before they happen is key! Self-awareness and self-control are the two most important skills that will help you maintain sober. Addiction recovery programs teach addicts how to build refusal skills when they get in triggering situations.

However, saying NO to old habits might just take a little practice before it becomes easy. These 6 (six) refusal techniques can help you turn down anything which you feel jeopardizing to your recovery.

1. Use the, “No, thanks” line.

This is the most common refusal line used by people in recovery. It works! It’s simple. And you don’t need to explain the how or why of it to old friends who are trying to talk you through into using again for experiencing pleasure. Practice it first to put up your guard and avoid negative peer pressure.

2. State your reasons clearly.

When others are pushy, give them a reason why you do not want drugs/alcohol. Prepare an excuse in advance and give it as an immediate answer. The following excuses might come handy:

  • “I’m the designated driver tonight.”
  • “My colleagues just called. Sorry, I have to go. They are waiting for me.”
  • “I forgot I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning.”

3. Walk away.

Sometimes explanation aren’t needed. If the person offering drugs/alcohol is too pushy just say no and walk away while saying it.

4. Offer a diversion.

Instead of accepting alcohol or drugs when they are offered, you can easily change the subject of the conversation and offer an alternative activity instead.

  • No. Let’s go to the movies instead.
  • Let’s go and play football/tennis/swimming instead.

5. Keep saying “NO” over and over again.

If other are trying to force you into using or drinking it’s best to repeat NO several times until they understand you’re really not interested.

6. Ignore the offer.

Avoid speaking directly to the person who’s offering. This is indirect way of saying I don’t want to. In case they do not leave you alone turn your shoulder and talk to someone else.

When to Stay Home

Q: Who should avoid parties where alcohol and drugs are offered?
A: If going to a party ever triggers cravings, then you shouldn’t go.

Almost all substance abusive behaviors start as casual habits. As you chase the next high and continue to engage in unhealthy behavior it’s likely that you’ll develop a compulsion that will keep forcing you to continue your addictive behaviors. The urges for repeated drug/alcohol abuse are associated with certain stimuli—something environmental, social or personal that acts as a trigger to substance abuse.

Triggers are internal and external stimulus that make the urges for substance abuse to become stronger. Triggers are impulses that initiates the desire to repeatedly engage in addictive behavior. During the course of your recovery program, triggers may prompt you to slip-up and reach out for alcohol and drugs again putting you in a situation that might jeopardize your recovery.

Triggers can come up in the form of memories, situations, people, places, sounds, emotions and other impulses that somehow relate to your prior addictive behavior. If you struggle with addiction issues, you need to avoid all the people, places and situations which are strongly associated with your addictive behavior.

Alternative Fun

Becoming sober doesn’t mean you’ll have to live with boredom and misery. After all, the reason it’s called “recovery” is to signify a state of transformation from hard times to joy, happiness, and health.

In fact, there are literally millions of fun activities that can easily take the place of your former drug/alcohol abuse practice. Do you know what’s the most beautiful thing when looking for fun activities that don’t support substance abuse? You’ll have to discover what brings you fun and joy the most by yourself!

You can have all this only if you choose to. It’s likely that you’ll occasionally feel nostalgic the wild excitement of letting loose while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. But when those moments come, remind yourself where they brought you. Recovery is a learning process, and during this process you’ll learn dozens of sober fun activities.

Need some ideas for alternative fun?

  • Find a hobby. Explore something that you are good at and make it a daily regimen.
  • Host of a sober party yourself. This can lift up your confidence and good spirit.
  • Look for places where sober parties are being hosted.
  • See a movie or enroll yourself in other daily pleasurable activities such as listening to music, painting, swimming, hiking, bowling, playing cards … etc.
  • Seek friends that do not drink and/or use drugs. They can help you maintain sober by their personal example and by holding you accountable.
  • Start doing sports. Exercise can help boost your mood.

Your Questions

Please let us know if you have any additional questions about partying. You can post them in the designated section at the bottom of the page. We are happy to answer all legitimate inquiries in a personalized and prompt manner. In case we don’t know the answer to a question, we will gladly refer you to professionals who can help.

Reference sources: Summit Behavioral Health: Identifying and Managing Addiction Triggers
Palm Partners: How to Have Fun without Drinking Alcohol
Gabel Law: How to Say NO to Drugs!
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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