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When you leave rehab, something curious happens. You start to have a bunch of firsts. We should actually call them sober firsts: the first time you’ve gone to see a band sober, the first time you’ve slept in your new bed sober, the first time you’ve gone to work sober, the first time you’ve planned a Friday night that doesn’t revolve around alcohol.

You’ve done all those things before, of course. When you quit drinking, though, it’s like they’ve never happened. You’re a little bit like a newborn. It all feels a little unreal. Familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

To survive summer events with your sobriety intact, the first thing to remember is that not everyone knows your story. In fact, most people probably don’t know all the details. They don’t know you’ve been in treatment – they probably didn’t know you had a drinking problem in the first place. What this means is they don’t know how important it is for you to get through the day without drinking.

Of course the best way to avoid the alcohol is to avoid the cookout altogether but that won’t work if it’s a family tradition. Sometimes you have to go these things. One great tip is, always have a drink in your hand if you’re at a social gathering early in your recovery and know there will be alcohol. It might be a drink can, a water bottle, one of those red plastic soda cups, or a juice box. Anything may be used. It doesn’t even have to be filled with anything. It might be empty or filled with ice. That drink may be like a small comfort blanket for the length of a party, believe us. 

Because when you’ve already got a drink in your hand:

People aren’t going to place one in your hand at random. When someone asks if you need anything, simply raise the cup and respond, “No, I’m OK.” You will not be required to explain why you do not have anything. You won’t feel as though you’re the only one without a drink in their hand. The cup in your hand – or Coke can, or whatever – will serve as a physical reminder of the most essential aspect of the day: remaining sober. 

Make sure you have some buzz-worthy non-alcoholic beverages on hand for them to enjoy. If they are unable to consume alcohol, they may demand something tasty and “worthy” of the occasion to be substituted. So, remind your visitors that they can still have a good time without alcohol by providing excellent non-alcoholic beverage alternatives. Perhaps you have some delectable flavored lemonade, alcohol-free mixed cocktails, or even non-alcoholic wine or beer on hand. If the temperature is cooler outdoors, you could even make homemade hot chocolate. Embrace an alcohol-free theme by demonstrating to your guests that with the wonderful drinks supplied, they can still have a fun, delicious evening.