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Tips to Stay Sober at Events Where People Will Drink

How I Stayed Sober at a Wedding at One Month Clean

Photo by Al Elmes on Unsplash

When I got sober, I’d already booked a flight back to my hometown of Pittsburgh for a friend’s wedding.

I’ll call him Charlie. He and I had been good friends in college, and we’d done a lot of drinking and getting high together. We also took a road trip to the Jersey shore for a drunken week at the beach after working as laborers all summer (me in a steel mill, him on road construction) before heading back to college.

I knew there would be a number of old drinking buddies at the wedding, and I wasn’t sure if I should go. I wanted to, but I didn’t know how to navigate my newfound sober life. I got sober around a month before the wedding, so it loomed large in my early days.

Here are some of the things I did that can help you in a similar situation, be it a work event, a social event, a family party, or whatever it may be.


First, I talked it over with some people who were supporting me in getting sober - my therapist, friends, and sisters.

I was learning to check in with people, knowing that my ability to make intelligent and healthy decisions had been compromised during my drinking days.

I realized it was important to me to be there. Charlie was a great guy, and I wanted to show up for his wedding.


The planning began.

  • The most important piece was that I made a commitment to make phone calls to my supporters during the reception.

  • This was before cell phones, so I loaded up on a bunch of coins in order to use a pay phone. I can remember going into the lobby and seeing the long bank of pay phones, each one with a wood and glass door, and a little wooden seat inside. It was a safe harbor for me.

  • I did make the phone calls, but basically, I was checking in. No drama going on. Thankfully, I didn't need to be talked out of taking a drink.

  • As it turned out, the most important part of this was the fact that I’d made the commitment and the plan. I was carrying my supporters with me in my heart and mind. This reinforced the fact that I knew that I can’t drink safely

  • I committed to the idea that I could leave without explanation at any time if I were to feel in danger of taking a drink. Again, just knowing that helped me to not need to do that because it took the pressure off of me. It was my way of telling myself that staying sober took priority over everything and anything else.

  • It had been suggested to me that I could arrive late and leave early. I took a bit of a walk between the ceremony and the reception. By the time I arrived, most folks had gotten there and had already gotten a drink of whatever they wanted. That helped me avoid someone asking what I want to drink, and the weirdness that often followed when said “ginger ale.”

  • Another important piece was to be sure not to be too hungry at any point during the day because hunger cues can be mistaken for drinking cues. It was suggested to me to carry a snack bar or two just in case. Of course, weddings often have plenty of food, but with a wedding followed by a reception, you’re not in charge of when the food will be presented to you. Best to be able to look out for yourself


Because of this planning, I felt both positive and safe going into it. I was actually excited to get back to Pittsburgh, to see my friend get married and to meet his bride, and to see some old friends.

One thing I’ve realized over the years is that many of my party friends did not turn out to be alcoholics like me. Charlie, for one, was quite a drinker in college. But he left that behind the way many college kids do.

He went on to earn a doctorate and become a professor at a university, and then into a successful career in business. We’re friends to this day, and he’s completely comfortable not drinking when we get together.

The same was true about some of my other college friends that were at the wedding. They were chill, happy to have a couple of beers, but not all about getting wasted as we used to do.


I had a successful trip, and I learned that I can engage in life if I have my priorities straight. For me, the priority every day is to stay sober. Everything in my life stems from that.

I believe if you have that as your priority, and you learn some important tools and are willing to utilize them, you can be sober, day by day. It’s within your power to do it.

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