It’s something that every addict in recovery is going to have to deal with eventually: being tempted to use again. This is particularly problematic for people who struggle with alcohol addiction because their substance of choice is so readily available and socially consumed. It is almost impossible to stay away from it completely.

How do you stay sober? More importantly, how do you stay sober without feeling like your alcoholism has a stronger presence in the room than you do?

staying sober while everyone around you

Make Sure You Have Someone You Can Talk to

In addition to finding a good treatment program, it is important to find a good therapist–especially after you’ve graduated from rehab. It is especially important for people whose recovery involved an in-patient treatment program (1). Adjusting to a non-supervised life can be difficult!  Finding a good therapist for both you and your family members is very important for keeping everybody on track and helping you and those around you deal with your newfound sobriety and working through the damage your addiction may have caused.

You can talk to your therapist about how it feels to go to a party where everybody’s drinking–especially if they always expected you to match them shot for shot. You can talk about the temptation you feel around alcohol as well as how isolated you might feel when you simply avoid those social situations. Your therapist can help you come up with some solid tools for dealing with those feelings when they come up as well as helping you process them afterwards (2)

Why Do You Want to Drink?

One of the things that many people in recovery find useful is to ask themselves why they want to reach for a drink (3). Yes, a part of you probably simply wants to drink and misses the effects alcohol had on you. Nobody is going to pretend that isn’t true and there is no shame in admitting that you miss something you used to enjoy (even though you knew it was bad for you).

Still, there are other reasons you might be tempted to reach for a drink and there are simple (and sober!) ways to fill that need. For example, if you’re reaching for a drink out of habit, reach for a non-alcoholic drink. This also works if you’re feeling fidgety and miss having something to have in your hand. If you’re worried that people are staring or judging you for not drinking, make a point of keeping the conversation away from the topic of you and your newfound sobriety. It’s good to answer questions honestly, but if you’re tired of answering, simply start asking people questions yourself! People love to talk about themselves and it will take the pressure off of you.

Remember HALT

HALT is an integral part of twelve step recovery and can do a lot for someone who is afraid that the temptation to drink in social situations will be too much. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired (4) and they are the things you need to watch out for. The temptation to drink (or use) is strongest when you any of these emotions gets too intense.

Monitor yourself throughout the night. Eat food when you feel peckish. If you start to feel mad–even if the anger is directed at your own sobriety–take a few deep breaths to calm down and maybe find a place to have a few minutes of alone time. If you start to feel lonely or isolated, flag down a friend. Even light chit-chat and small talk can do a lot to help you feel more social. If you start to feel tired, it’s okay to go home a little early. Before you go, though, try to make plans with someone for a get together soon. That way you won’t be tempted to self-isolate once you leave.

Finally, try to be patient. It will take some time before staying sober in social situations feel less awkward and it will take time for your friends and loved ones to adjust to your new sobriety. Keep trying. You’ll get there!


  1. “How to Select an Alcohol Rehab Program – Axis Residential Treatment.” Axis Residential Treatment. Axis Residential Treatment. Web. 22 May 2015.
  2. “Health Moment: Childhood and Addiction Recovery.” Cleverly Changing. Cleverly Changing, 20 Jan. 2015. Web. 22 May 2015.
  3. Spencer, Ezzie. “How To Stay Sober When All Your Friends Drink.” MindBodyGreen. Mind Body Green, 7 Feb. 2014. Web. 22 May 2015.
  4. Moore, David. “Tough Room: How to Party While Sober.” NY Daily News., 23 Sept. 2011. Web. 22 May 2015.