13 Tips To Avoid Labor Day Drinking—and Still Have Fun

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September is right around the corner—and with it, plans for backyard barbecues, picnics, or one last beach day to mark the end of the season. Labor Day weekend is a fantastic time to gather with family or friends, socialize, and enjoy the last of the summer weather. 

However, this holiday weekend can pose a significant challenge for people in recovery, or those who simply don’t want to drink a lot (including the sober curious among us). How does one get through Labor Day without having that “one beer”—or several?

Nobody wants to avoid fun social events just to avoid alcohol. Here are some tips for staying sober on Labor Day—and still enjoying yourself.

1. Be Open About Not Drinking

sober labor day, man grilling
Photo by Vincent Keiman on Unsplash

Whether you’ve quit completely, or you just want to cut back, it’s easy to be shy about telling other people. You may want to simply blend in, and avoid having to talk about your sobriety all evening. To some extent, this can be wise. But consider at least telling the host, and a few others you trust, that you want to have a sober Labor Day. You may be surprised how supportive people can be.

2. Find a Sober Friend or Ally

This follows from above. For many of us, Labor Day is about socializing and spending time with those we care about. Having trusted friends who are also sober, or willing to support you in not drinking, can make all the difference. Consider asking someone to be your accountability partner—or simply find a few others who also want to drink less to hang out with during the event.

3. Choose Events with Less Pressure to Drink

Consider the context and the people involved. Is your Labor Day event alcohol-oriented, or in a place that might trigger you to drink? Are the other people attending heavy drinkers, or people who might pressure you to consume alcohol? If you have more than one option for where you spend the holiday, look for social groups and situations where you think it will be easier to control your urges and find support. There may even be sober Labor Day events near you.

4. Bring Your Own Beverages

If you want to have a fun time at the barbecue without fielding endless offers for alcoholic drinks, consider bringing some nonalcoholic beverages of your own to share. It’s not just O’Douls anymore—there are many interesting options to try, including alcohol-free microbrews, canned mocktails, and even nonalcoholic spirits. Having a drink in your hand already can help you blend in—and your host will likely appreciate the extra refreshments!

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5. Create Your Own Event

If you don’t see any good options for a sober Labor Day, consider putting together your own party! Invite people to grill, gather in the park, or head to the beach. Choose people who are sober or not interested in drinking heavily, and let people know you’d prefer an alcohol-free gathering. You could even create a sober bar and mix up some creative late-summer mocktails.

6. Be OK With Prioritizing Your Well-Being

Sometimes, as hard as we try, there are just too many triggers at an event. If that happens, don’t have any shame about leaving early. It can be a major bummer to miss out on the fun, but your health is more important. This is especially true if you are in recovery from alcohol use disorder. Often, with more months or years of sobriety under your belt, it gets easier to navigate these events without drinking. Until then, don’t beat yourself up if you need to leave.

7. Plan Ahead

Create a detailed plan for your holiday to help you maintain structure and focus through the day. This can include your schedule for the day, the events you’re going to attend and also a plan to handle potential triggers or temptations to drink. Developing structure for your day and for your internal response to external stimuli can help you keep your sobriety goals.

8. Stay Active

Engaging in physical activities or games during your festivities can be a helpful way to keep your mind and body engaged throughout the day. It can give also provide a healthy way to bond with your friends and family that isn’t centered around alcohol.

9. Focus on Enjoyment

Remember that holidays are about having fun and enjoying the moment. You can try to turn your focus to enjoying other things during the day than alcohol. Take some moments to appreciate trying new foods, activities, or to engage in meaningful conversations with those around you. Focusing on these opportunities may help increase positive feelings without alcohol.

10. Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness exercises or meditation may help you manage any stress that comes up during the festivities that could trigger cravings. Deep breathing, grounding to stay present and other meditation tools can be powerful tools in such moments.

11. Visualize Success

Mentally visualizing yourself successfully navigating the holiday while staying sober could be a helpful tactic to reinforce confidence and create a positive mindset. While it may sound simple, creating a mental vision of success and being in a positive frame of mind will set you up for success.

12. Keep a Sobriety Journal

Carrying a small journal to write your thoughts, feelings, and experiences down throughout the day may be a helpful outlet if challenging feelings come up during the day. Writing these feelings down can help you process them and also help remind you of your commitment to your sobriety.

13. Reflect on Your Progress

Take some time to reflect on your journey and the progress you’ve made in your sobriety. Remind yourself of the reasons you chose to stay sober and the positive changes it has brought to your life. This can reinforce your commitment during challenging moments.

Help with Sober Socializing

Whether you’ve quit alcohol, or you’re just trying to cut back, large social events can be a major challenge. There’s no shame in looking for support, especially if you struggle to stay sober or have a history of alcohol use disorder. Get in touch with our team to learn how we can help you establish lasting change and be your healthiest self. You don’t need to be an “alcoholic” to join, and support may be more affordable than you think.

Have questions about online alcohol treatment?

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Written By:
Ria Health Team
Ria Health’s editorial team is a group of experienced copywriters, researchers, and healthcare professionals dedicated to removing stigma and improving public knowledge around alcohol use disorder. Articles written by the “Ria Team” are collaborative works completed by several members of our writing team, fact-checked and edited to a high standard of empathy and accuracy.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.

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