Sporting events are a way of life for many American adults, college students and everyone in between. Watching sports with friends and family is fun, entertaining and an energizing way to spend your time. Whether you’re attending a tailgate party for your favorite college football team, heading to the stadium or attending a buddy’s Super Bowl party, there’s plenty of fun to be had.
However, these events often center heavily on buying and consuming alcohol, especially beer and cocktails. Tailgate parties often provide countless different coolers and stands, which promote buying and consuming beer or other alcoholic beverages. Stadiums are full of alcohol advertisements, and people lined up to get a cold one. Not to mention the neighbors and fellow sports fans around you will all most likely be drinking. At parties, chances are people bombard you with questions about getting a beer or refilling your drink.
Nevertheless, just because you’re sober doesn’t mean you have to pass on tickets to the big game or the invite to your buddy’s house party. Moreover, it certainly doesn’t mean you need to give up the pregame festivities of parking lot tailgate parties.
Here we look at the challenges that sober people go through at sporting events, as well as some different tips and tricks available for staying sober, whether it’s a live game, a tailgate party or your friend’s game night gathering.
Challenges Staying Sober at Sporting Events
For many people, no matter where they are in their recovery journey, being in an environment with others who are drinking can be very challenging. These environments, though fun to be involved in, can be triggering and difficult for those who want to remain sober. Many people may feel vulnerable, uncomfortable or tempted by cravings and the availability of alcohol.
If you or someone you love is headed to a sporting event or tailgate party sober, here are some of the challenges you may expect to be faced with:
- Being offered drinks repeatedly by the host and other guests
- Having your close friends around you all drinking socially
- Sporting events such as pregame tailgate parties, all heavily centered around drinking
- Advertisements and drink specials
- Being asked repeatedly why you’re not drinking
- Being told you should “just have one”
- Bringing up emotional and sense triggers such as smells, sights and sounds
For each individual, there may be multiple challenges or only a few. Despite years of being in recovery, many people still face these challenges, so it’s important to remember you aren’t alone.
General Tips for Staying Sober at Sporting Events
Whether you’re at the stadium to watch a live game, attending a pregame tailgate party or headed to a friend’s house for a game night gathering, you will be in an environment surrounded by alcohol.
Here are some general tips to follow for any kind of sporting event you’re attending sober. These tips are helpful to anyone feeling vulnerable to alcohol temptations.
1. Inform Your Sponsor
Letting your AA or other program sponsor know that you’re heading to a game or tailgate party is important to keep you sober through the event. Your sponsor can help by offering his or her own tips and tricks for staying sober during sporting events.
By telling your sponsor about your plans for attending the game, you can also help to hold yourself accountable when someone offers you a drink or you feel tempted by alcohol.
2. Share Your Plans With a Friend or Family Member
Another way to help keep yourself accountable in staying sober at sporting events is to inform someone you trust ahead of time. This should be a friend or family member who has your best interest at heart. Confiding in this person that you are heading to an event that may be a challenge will help remind you to stay sober through self-accountability.
3. Remind Yourself of Why You’re Sober
Before you head out to watch the game, make yourself a mental or physical checklist of all the reasons you choose to stay sober. This positive reinforcement is something you can carry with you throughout the night and review if you need to.
4. Go With Other Sober Friends if Possible
If you can, try to attend events with other sober friends. Whether they’re in recovery, the designated driver or making healthier life choices, find some friends who share your love for the home team and your sobriety.
5. Attend with Your Kids or Family
Instead of heading to games with your buddies (who will be drinking), why not plan a family sports event? Hosting a game night at home or attending a family-friendly tailgate party is a great option for staying sober. Otherwise, stadiums have family-friendly seating available for you to book ahead of time for watching the game live.
6. Know Your Triggers and Have a Plan
Being aware of triggers that induce cravings or remind you of times before you were sober is important when putting yourself into environments with drinking. This is part of developing self-awareness to protect yourself and your recovery progress. Think about which types of smells, sounds and sights will trigger cravings. Plan for ways to counter these triggers before going to the party.
7. Watch the Game From Home
If it’s too early in your sobriety to be in environments with drinking, then consider just staying home to watch the game. While it’s important to remain integrated in society and learn how to cope with triggers and challenges, it’s also important to be realistic and know your limits. If you feel there’s too much pressure and it will be too difficult, it’s far better to mitigate the risk and enjoy the game from the comfort of your own living room.
8. Make it a Point to Have Fun Anyway
At first, it may seem difficult to have fun when you feel like you are the only sober person in attendance. If you’re early in your recovery journey, this can be even more challenging. But it’s important to learn how to have fun anyway, even if it is hard. Remind yourself that alcohol isn’t a requirement to enjoy yourself at sporting events. Sports are about the team, the friendly competition and the bonding with fellow fans. The atmosphere around you is what makes the game fun to watch – with or without alcohol.
Tips for Staying Sober at the Stadium
When you’re packed into a crowded stadium with thousands of fans around you drinking and cheering, it can be difficult to ignore, especially if you attend with friends who drink. Nevertheless, there are ways to stay focused on your sobriety and still enjoy the game despite the environment.
If you’re headed to a stadium either locally or far away, here are some tips to help you out when you’re cheering on your team from the bleachers.
9. Be the Designated Driver
Someone has to get everyone to the stadium and back home safely. This can be your responsibility. It’s an important role and everyone will greatly appreciate it. Plus, it’s great to know that even though you won’t be drinking you can still be part of the group.
10. Sit in the Non-Alcoholic Section
Provided you aren’t going with friends who want to drink in the stands, you can sit in certain alcohol-free zones where you won’t witness others around you drinking, which can act as triggers for some sober people. These seats, often deemed family-friendly, are generally much cheaper.
11. Enjoy the Food
It’s true that stadium food isn’t exactly gourmet, but why not indulge in the classic ballpark hotdog or football’s nachos and cheese plate? The food is as much part of the live game attending experience as the alcohol is for some.
12. Have A Go-To Non-Alcoholic Drink
Plan ahead for what you’ll drink at the stadium. Maybe you have a favorite soda or non-alcoholic beer that you can stay focused on to prevent the temptation of alcoholic beverages. Remind yourself that this go-to drink is your drink of choice for the evening.
13. Stay Hydrated
If you’re attending a game at a stadium, be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Dehydration can cause fatigue and a lack of mental focus, both of which can make you vulnerable to making regrettable decisions.
14. Attend Local Meetings
If you’re traveling for a sporting event and staying overnight, check out your local support groups. Attend a meeting the day before or day of the sporting event to help keep you in the right mindset.
15. Book Sober Sports Tours With Others in Recovery
If you love attending sports events, but find it challenging to attend in a drinking environment, then try a sober sports tour. Sports tour companies, such as Sobriety Sports Tours, combine travel with sporting events and offer recovery meetings and fellowship integrated into the experience. You’ll join fellow recovering alcoholics and bond over your love for sports and mutual commitments to recovery. The tour companies take care of everything: itineraries, accommodations, event tickets, meeting plans and more.
Top Tips for Sober Tailgating
A time-honored tradition, tailgate parties typically take place in the parking lot before the game. Friends and fellow fans gather in the lot for food, fun and sometimes alcohol. While you won’t be participating in the booze, there are still plenty of ways you can have fun tailgating sober.
Some of the top ways to stay sober and still have fun at your next tailgate party include:
16. Bring Your Go-to Non-Alcoholic Drink
Stock up on your favorite non-alcoholic beer, beverage or virgin cocktail mix and head to the parking lot. Throw your drinks into a cooler just like anyone else so you still feel like part of the atmosphere. Make sure you bring an ample supply so you have plenty of your own drinks and won’t be tempted by beer if you run out.
17. Appoint Yourself the Grill Master
One of the greatest traditions of tailgate parties is the grilled food. Someone needs to operate the grill and who better than the sober person? It’s not only safer, but you’ll be able to stay busy and keep your mind off alcohol. Chances are, your friends will appreciate the fact that they don’t have to worry about cooking.
Another way to take your mind off alcohol and stay focused on the food is to have a grill-off or chili cook-off with other tailgaters. This will allow you to participate in pregame festivities and hone your cooking skills.
18. Attend an Alcohol-Free and Drug-Free Tailgate Party
In response to the growing need for more sober sporting activities, different organizations have put together their own tailgate events that are alcohol and drug-free. Many sports fans love attending games and the comradery of tailgating but don’t want to be around the environment of heavy drinking.
So instead, they group together with their coolers of water and welcome all who want to have fun tailgating sober. Check your local area for these types of sober tailgating communities such as Recovery First Tailgaters, started at LSU.
19. Host Your Own Tailgate Party
If you don’t have any sober-specific tailgate parties in your community, try starting one with people in your recovery meetings or from your area who are looking for something similar. Start an event or group on Meetup or Facebook to raise awareness about sober tailgating options and recruit fellow sports fans in recovery.
If you’re in college, ask your school if you can promote the idea of sober tailgating throughout campus to encourage students in recovery to join a safe and fun environment before the big game. Focus on the food, fun and everyone’s mutual support for the home team. It’s a great way to build community with your fellow students and have positive and healthy fun without drugs or alcohol.
20. Ensure Your Friends and Family Know That You’re Attending Sober
One of the best ways to help you keep focused on staying sober at a tailgate party is to discuss it ahead of time with your family or close friends even if they aren’t attending. Simply letting them know that you’re aware of the environment and that you have a plan for dealing with triggers will be a big stress reliever for yourself and those concerned for your well-being.
21. Get Your Game Face On
Just because you’re not drinking doesn’t mean you can’t still show your love of the game and support for your team. Wear your team jersey, colors and any other team memorabilia you have to boost your energy and stay focused on why you’re there in the first place — for your home team. By staying focused on the team spirit, the music, the events and the food, you’ll be less likely to think about the temptation of alcohol.
Tips for Staying Sober While Watching the Game at House Parties
When your friends decide to have a big game night party you know that alcohol will most likely be present. But don’t turn down the invite just yet. There are many ways you can stay committed to your sobriety, avoid temptation and still have fun with your friends while watching the game.
Here are the top tips for staying sober while watching the game at a house party:
22. Use Your Own Red Solo Cup
Red solo cups aren’t just for alcohol. They’re good for any beverage of choice. Claim your own cup by writing your name on it and keep it with you at all times. This not only helps you feel that you fit in, but it can help to intercept people when they try to offer you a drink. Keep the cup with you as often as you can so you’re not caught empty-handed and vulnerable.
23. Claim a Health Day
You don’t have to discuss your sobriety with other party-goers when they ask why you aren’t drinking. Just let them know that it’s been a long season and you’re making healthier choices. Besides, staying sober helps you focus on the game and remember the victory (hopefully).
24. Stay Busy
Staying busy can take your mind off drinking and help you avoid being a target. Party hosts generally like to ensure their guests’ drinks are topped off. So if you’re the one staying busy and serving others, then you become less vulnerable to the alcohol yourself. In between commercial breaks and during intermission, head into the kitchen to help out with dishes, refill the chip bowl and help clean up in order to stay busy.
25. Locate Another Sober Person
Being the only sober fan watching the game may feel a bit lonely. If possible, locate another sober person and stick with them. You’ll be able to talk about the game and your mutual love for sports. Plus, it will help to take your mind off the drinking happening around you.
26. Only Stay Until the End of the Game
Chances are by the time the game is over, many of your fellow fans will be inebriated. Don’t stick around and leave yourself open to triggers. Instead, make it clear that you’re only staying until the end of the game. Let the host know you have prior commitments or that you have to be up early the next day.
Committing to Recovery
Staying committed to sobriety and your recovery journey doesn’t mean you have to compromise your favorite hobbies and pastimes. By planning ahead, recruiting the support of your friends and family members, and working with your sponsor and fellow recovering alcoholics, you can still have fun and enjoy the sports season. Staying realistic about where you are at in your recovery journey will also help you to plan an appropriate strategy heading into your next sporting event or party.
Most importantly, remember that your commitment to sobriety is your number one priority. So if you start to feel overwhelmed, have cravings or are triggered by the environment, it’s best to leave as soon as possible. Call your sponsor or direct your attention to any of the many recovery apps that can help. Text or call a close friend or your spouse to help take your mind off drinking.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol abuse, there are treatment options available. With treatment, you or your loved one can still enjoy hobbies and pastimes in a safe and healthy way. Contact 12 Keys Rehab for information on our individualized treatment plans that can help you on the path to recovery.