How to do a house party sober
Tips and tricks for having fun at a house party even when you’re not drinking
image Bodies Bodies Bodies / A24
words Sophie Lou Wilson
House parties are temples of hedonism. You won’t find bouncers searching you on the door or banging on toilet cubicles. Drinking a gin and tonic doesn’t have to set you back a tenner a pop. And the lack of bar queues means you can get a buzz on fast. It’s good, old fashioned, lawless fun. In short, the perfect environment for getting wasted. Only, you’ve been invited to a house party and you’re not drinking right now. Perhaps you’re doing Sober October or you’re trying sobriety longer term. Whatever the reason, the thought of experiencing a house party sober can be daunting, but just because you’re not drinking doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time.
Last weekend, my friend threw a house party for his birthday. Friends and strangers spilled out from the kitchen into the garden for wine soaked conversations or snuck off upstairs to take other things. It was the kind of party where I could see myself sitting in the living room chatting shit until 6am, wondering why the birds were chirping so loudly. Except I had a half marathon in two days and I didn’t want a heavy night to mess up the training I’d put in. So I decided to do the house party sober. Armed with a bag full of kombucha, CBD drinks and alcohol free beer – because who says sobriety means having boring drinks? – I trekked down to the house in south London for my first fully sober house party.
I've been drinking less this year so I've been to sober gigs and sober pub hangs, but this event felt bigger. I was worried about getting overwhelmed with social anxiety or not knowing what to do with myself, but other people said they kept forgetting that I wasn’t drinking. I felt more present in the conversations I had and more like myself rather than a projected drunken version. I planned to leave before midnight but ended up staying until 1am and wishing I could have stayed longer. Even though I was sober, it was the best party I've been to all year. Here's what I learned.
Make your pres pop off
If you’re like me, then pre-drinks are the best part of the night. The right drink and the right soundtrack can set you up for a good time. Before getting ready, I went for a run so that the runner’s high would carry me through to the party. Then I showered, poured myself a kombucha in a wine glass – the wine glass is important – and got ready listening to a party playlist I made years ago that always gets me in the mood to go out.
Wear an outfit you feel good in
I find the best way to counter the stereotype that sobriety is boring is by wearing an outfit that is anything but. I went for the kind of outfit I would wear to a rave, which might have been a bit much for a birthday party, but it meant I felt ready for a party, drinking or not. The little details like wearing your favourite perfume or your favourite underwear can make you feel more confident and comfortable too. Plus, an interesting outfit can be a conversation starter.
Drink fun drinks
Sobriety doesn’t mean condemning yourself to sipping tap water all night long. Sure, not drinking alcohol means you can use the opportunity to stay hydrated, but there are so many alcohol alternatives available to try now. Whether you opt for mood enhancing CBD or nootropic drinks or go for the placebo effect of alcohol free beers and wines, these are drinks that feel like fun, yet grown up and won't make you feel left out. Plus, when you’re not drinking, you can focus on enjoying the flavour of your drink instead of convincing yourself you actually like tequila.
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Remind yourself why you’re not drinking
If you’re not drinking, it’s for a reason. Whatever that reason may be, remind yourself of it when temptation arises. Think how good you’ll feel in the morning for having stayed sober. Instead of focusing on what might feel good in the present moment, play it forwards. Maybe you’re working towards a sober streak or you just want to prove to yourself that you can have fun without alcohol. Keep this reason at the forefront of your mind.
Make morning plans as a reward
Make plans that you can’t be hungover for. This could be brunch, an exercise class or a car boot sale. Early morning plans with a hangover are vile so you don’t want to put yourself through that. Just be wary that you might still end up having a late night and don’t be too over ambitious with your early start. I ended up getting home at 3am so I still felt pretty rubbish at my 10am brunch the next day, but not as bad as I would have felt if I'd been drinking.
If you need help with a drinking problem you can ask a GP or alcohol service about what support is available in your area.
You can also phone Drinkline the national alcohol helpline on 0300 123 1110 or Alcoholics Anonymous’s helpline on 0800 9177650. Both are free and anonymous. You can also visit alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk.
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