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Super Bowl Sunday Sober

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Worried about getting through the big game in recovery? Here are some tips for enjoying the Super Bowl sober.

While I personally like football, I’m going to be completely honest … my family is the kind that watches the Super Bowl for the commercials. My husband doesn’t know a safety from a sack and is perfectly happy that way. But even in our non-sporting household with our nerdy friend circle, the concept of the Super Bowl was very intertwined with alcohol and other intoxicants before I got sober. Beer may be the traditional beverage for football, but at our house, it was margaritas or rum and Coke (innocuous drinks that allowed me to sneak an extra shot or two into my glass). And I know the drinking gets much more intense in a lot of other gatherings! I have friends who, when they were using, got loaded every Sunday and watched football with their crew, turning it into a huge, rowdy party at Super Bowl time.  

So how can you still enjoy the Super Bowl sober? Is it even fun in recovery?

Yes, you absolutely can enjoy the Super Bowl without drinking or drugs! But it might take some planning—especially if you’re in early recovery. Here are some tips to get you through:

Consider who you’re watching the game with

Reflect honestly on your friends and family and their usual Super Bowl viewing habits. At a lot of get-togethers, it’s really no big deal (or even encouraged) to avoid drugs and alcohol. But if you know that your crew likes to get smashed early and often at the Super Bowl, this might not be the gathering for you. Steer clear of parties where the main attraction is a drinking game rather than the game on the screen, or where everyone else will be intoxicated. 

For Super Bowl gatherings that don’t have a heavy focus on substance use, you might feel out some of your friends or family to ask for support. You may even be surprised to realize that a large percentage of attendees were already planning to stay sober or mostly sober. People often abstain if they’re going to be driving, have kids to take care of, need to work on Monday morning, etc. 

Think through your friends and their habits, and make the call that’s best for you about whether or not to attend.

Bring your own beverages

I have never felt more peer pressure to drink than at a party where my hosts were trying to make me feel welcome. “Let me get you a beer! Oh, come on! We have wine, then. No? Are you sure? Well, the kitchen is stocked when you’re ready for a drink.” I felt like I was in an after-school special. And they weren’t even trying to sabotage my recovery! They thought they were being nice, and I wasn’t comfortable sharing with them about my alcoholism. 

The number one best way to ward off well-meaning offers of drinks (and ones that are not well-meaning, too) is to already have a beverage in your hand. It can be a soda, a coffee, a mocktail … whatever you actually like to drink that fits into your recovery plan. That way you can just lift your cup and honestly say, “No, thanks! I’m all set,” if someone offers you a drink.

Enjoy your Super Bowl snacks

I’ve heard SO many people in early recovery bemoaning their funless, joyless futures, only to later discover that they can and do have a blast without drugs or alcohol. One way to make sure you’re not sitting sadly on Super Bowl Sunday, mourning what you can’t have, is to really relish what you can have.

Football snacks are traditionally not health food, but they are often delicious. So on Sunday, let yourself really enjoy your Buffalo Chicken Dip, brownies, Lit’l Smokies, pizza, or whatever. It’s much easier to have fun and not consider yourself deprived when you’re feeling a little indulged. If you’re health-conscious, bring something that is both nourishing and tasty to the party so you have a treat that you feel comfortable snacking on.

Plan distractions

Unless you’re hosting or attending a strictly sober gathering, you will probably see some people drinking or using. Heck, even if you do have a fully sober get-together, you may still feel triggered by commercials, conversations, or other factors. So plan ahead for what you’re going to do if a trigger pops up.

Maybe this will mean texting a friend or dropping into the Workit Health members-only Facebook group for support. Maybe it will mean distracting yourself with a phone or video game or by flipping over to the Puppy Bowl (on a tv that’s not being dominated by football). Maybe it will mean volunteering to help out at the party (prepping food, entertaining kids, running out for more ice, etc.). If you have a plan in place before things get uncomfortable, you will feel more secure and be more likely to follow through with it when triggers present themselves. 

Have an exit plan

When possible, don’t rely on someone else for transportation to and from the party. That way you can leave whenever you’re ready. It can be incredibly freeing to walk into a gathering knowing that you can leave at any time. 

Depending on the group and what the norms are like, you may want to give your host a heads-up that you might need to leave early. “I might need to duck out at halftime. If so, let’s plan to catch up later!” 

If things do get bad for you, give yourself permission to leave. You can always try again next year.

Change things up a little

Sometimes we trap ourselves into doing all the same stuff we did during our active addiction, just minus our substance of choice. This is a risky proposition, and I don’t recommend it. Instead, change things up! Hang out with a different friend group this year. Create a new ritual around touchdowns. Change the jersey you wear or try out a new recipe for the snacks you bring. 

It’s easier to feel confident and solid in your new recovery journey when you’re not trying to cram yourself back into your old habits.

Set limits and stay accountable for them

While my own recovery works best when I fully abstain, I know that different people are on different recovery journeys. But even if you are planning to drink or use on Super Bowl Sunday, that doesn’t mean you should go hog wild. 

Set reasonable limits that are in keeping with your recovery goals. Then decide how you’re going to be accountable for sticking to those limits. For example, you could share them with a trusted friend, use an app to track how much you’re drinking or using, or discuss your limits and strategies with your recovery coach or group. 

Want to learn more?

Learn more about alcohol and alchol use disorder, read stories of recovery, and find helpful tools on our blog.

Alaine Sepulveda is a content strategist in recovery from alcohol. She believes that engaging people and sharing stories with them allows us to spread knowledge, and to help others in the path to recovery. She holds an MA in Communication Studies from New Mexico State University.

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