When you think of tailgating, you probably think of sports, food, and alcohol. In fact, among fans who tailgate before sporting events, 82% have at least two alcoholic drinks.
But if you’re recovering from alcohol dependency, is it possible to enjoy a tailgate and still maintain your sobriety?
A tailgate is a high-risk situation for someone who struggles with drinking problems, but you can still tailgate sober by using the following strategies.
Attend with Children or Family
Even if you can’t find a completely sober tailgate, you may be able to find one that’s light on the alcohol by attending a more family-friendly event.
If children are present, the tailgate is likely to be less of a tempting “party atmosphere” and more about families enjoying their time together.
Having children around (especially if they’re your children) can also give you the motivation to stay sober. Plus, you’ll have some sober companions to keep you company.
Bring Non-Alcoholic Beverages
There will likely be some non-alcoholic drink options at the tailgate, but bring some tasty non-alcoholic beverages of your own just in case.
Keeping your hands occupied will also discourage others from asking you if you’d like a drink or offering to pour you a beer.
Invite a Sober Friend
Invite a sober and/or supportive friend to tag along, someone who you know will support you and discourage you from drinking if you feel tempted at the tailgate. A helping hand from someone who cares will certainly make a difference.
It’ll also be easier for you to refrain from drinking if you don’t feel like you’re the only one turning down the alcohol.
Tell People You’re Sober
You don’t have to tell your fellow tailgaters about your struggles with alcohol dependency, but it may be helpful to share that you’re not drinking.
If you do this early on, it’ll be easier for you to enjoy the rest of the tailgate without being pestered to drink.
Enjoy the Food and Games
Tailgates are about more than just alcohol—there’s also food! Attend a tailgate where tasty snacks or delicious barbecue can distract you from the temptation to drink. You can also volunteer to help with the food preparation or man the grill.
Games are also popular at tailgates, so play some cornhole or horseshoes to pass the time in fun, alcohol-free fashion. If you’re unsure there will be games at the tailgate, plan to bring some of your own. Something as simple as a deck of cards can provide an enjoyable distraction.
Have a Plan
Go into the tailgate with a solid plan in mind. If you do start to feel triggered to drink alcohol, what will you do?
For instance, you might want to have a friend or sponsor on standby in case you need to call and talk.
You could also plan to walk away and collect yourself for a few minutes. Think about why you’ve decided to stay sober and conquer your drinking problems. Take a deep breath and envision yourself continuing to resist temptation and turn down the alcohol.
If at any point you feel that staying at the tailgate will cause you to drink, then plan to leave. You may want to drive yourself to the tailgate instead of riding with a friend. Otherwise, have someone on call who’s willing to pick you up if need be.
Think it Through
Following these tips can help you make it through a tailgate sober, but carefully consider if attending a tailgate is right for you.
Will following the tips above work for you?
Will you be able to resist drinking in an atmosphere where you probably drank alcohol previously, around people who drank with you? (Some of the biggest triggers for recovering addicts are places where they used previously and people who they used around.)
If it’s still early in your recovery, you should avoid high-risk situations like a tailgate until you’ve had more time to learn how to stop drinking and how to understand and manage your triggers.
On the other hand, if you believe that bringing non-alcoholic beverages and a supportive friend, focusing on food and games, and having a plan will be enough to help you tailgate sober, go ahead and give it a try.
With the right strategies, you can definitely enjoy a tailgate while maintaining your sobriety!