How To Survive Summer Parties And Boozy BBQs

How To Survive Summer Parties And Boozy BBQs

I used to love BBQs when I was drinking; they were the perfect excuse to day drink without feeling like an alcoholic.

The warm weather used to make me crave beer and the idea of watching the sun go down, stone cold sober, seemed unimaginable.

When I stopped drinking, I was surprised to discover that summer parties and BBQs were still fun.

I began to realise that what really mattered was the mood I was in, the people at the party, the food, the atmosphere, the music. Basically, 101 tiny things that I’d never stopped to consider before.

Nowadays, knocking back a beer at a BBQ is as appealing as sipping rat poison; I’d much rather have ice cold fizzy water, a mocktail or a glass of fresh juice. But I can still remember how challenging these events can be in early sobriety.

If you’re about to tackle your first ever sober party, boozy BBQ or wedding this summer, this blog is for you. Here are 10 tips for staying alcohol free (and having a great time!)


1. Decide you’re not going to drink

I know this seems like an obvious one but seriously – do NOT wait until you get there to decide what you’re going to do. A ‘maybe’ or a ‘wait and see’ is nearly always a yes. There’s a lot of freedom in making a firm decision and knowing that you’re going to stick to it, no matter what.

Remember, you can’t figure sobriety out without overcoming a few challenges. Rather than seeing these events as things that are ‘impossible’ to do without drinking, reframe them as a challenge that you will rise up to and overcome.


2. Be positive

A lot of this is about perception – thinking something is true often makes it so. If you decide that it’s going to be an awkward event and you’ll hate it, then guess what? You probably will feel like that!

Stay positive and remember that alcohol is not the secret to having a good time. (If that were true then you should have an amazing time at every single boozy party. But haven’t we all been to events that were boring, no matter how much we drank?)


3. Have something to eat and drink before you go

Feeling hungry or thirsty will exacerbate any cravings you have, and you’ll be more likely to feel tired, grumpy and lethargic. Make life easy on yourself and have something to eat and drink beforehand.


4. Take a drink you love with you

The great thing about BBQs is that you can bring whatever you like with you. Now is not the time to pretend you’re happy drinking lukewarm water or flat diet coke – find something you genuinely love to drink! Being sober does not mean ‘making do’ with boring drinks.


5. Decide what you’re going to bring the host

Are you comfortable taking them a bottle of wine that you’re not going to drink? Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. You could always volunteer to bring some food or non-alcoholic drinks. (A pitcher of something alcohol-free is often very welcome and disappears surprisingly quickly.)


6. Get a drink as soon as you arrive

Keeping a drink in your hand makes it harder for other people to offer you alcoholic drinks, plus it gives you something to do with your hands. Fizzy water and a slice of lemon in a wine glass could easily pass for an alcoholic drink if you don’t want to attract attention.


7. Prepare a response

You’ll be amazed how many people won’t notice that you’re not drinking. Some people just don’t care about this stuff and others are far too wrapped up in themselves. But it’s worth thinking about what you’ll say if someone is being nosy. I made a few suggestions here.


8. Watch the kids

If you catch yourself slipping into a negative state, look at what the kids are doing. The chances are they’re playing games, having a good time and mixing with other children they’ve never met before. They don’t need alcohol in order to have a good time. You were that kid once!


9. Make sure you can leave when you want

Respect your own time and head home when you’re ready. Don’t stay until the bitter end because you feel you have to (or because that’s what you would’ve done when drinking). If you’re tired or you’ve had enough, just go – people won’t care as much as you think. If they’re drunk, they might not even notice! So plan your escape route in advance.


10. Celebrate afterwards

Woo hoo – you did it! You made it through a challenging situation. Take some time out to really acknowledge that, reflect on how things went and congratulate yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone. Plan some lovely sober treats for you to enjoy when you get home or the next day.


Now I’d love to hear from you.

What are your tips for staying sober at boozy BBQs, weddings and summer parties? What have been your experiences so far? Let me know below 🙂


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  1. Thanks Kate, you have inspired me to keep going! I’m going to a fundraiser next weekend and I know there will be a lot of drinking going on. So far I’ve found that being the designated driver is a good excuse / motivation!

    • Having to drive is always a good one – people can’t argue with that. Enjoy your event at the weekend – you’ve got this 🙂

    • First night of many first nights but I am determined this time. Just need to keep saying “no”.

  2. Non alcoholic beer and leaving the party when you need to .

    • Definitely. A good non-alcoholic beer can really hit the spot!

  3. Great ideas! I also tell myself: you’ll spend much less energy thinking about not having a drink as opposed to thinking about getting to your next drink if I do decide to drink.

    • This is so true. The will-I-won’t-I battle takes up so much brain space and energy! And if you do drink you have to decide what you’ll drink, when, where, how much… it’s lots of tiring little decisions. Skipping all of that is just easier!

  4. Great tips! I have learned that other people really don’t care what I drink or even pay attention!

    • Totally! I think that when alcohol has been an issue for us, and it’s something we’ve thought about a lot, it’s easy to forget that not everyone feels that way. Some people really don’t care 🙂

  5. Fentimans and FeverTree mixers are my lifesavers or sparkling water with chopped fresh mint or basil and fresh lime. X

    • Sounds delicious! 🙂

  6. Fabulous! I have negotiated a few sober trips to pubs, and dinner out a couple of times. This is a timely reminder as next week I’m going to an all day party with a group of my good, but heavy drinking friends. I know I won’t drink, but this just reminds me to go expecting to have fun!

    • Yep, mindset is everything! Have fun Liza 🙂

  7. I always thought I would be so obvious to everyone if I didn’t drink; that I would stand out like a sore thumb. Being AF for 6 months now I realize that no one really cares – it was MY issue, no one else’s. I was building that up to something almost insurmountable!! What a relief to know that now.

    • Isn’t it funny the stories we tell ourselves? Congratulations on your six months Suzanne!

  8. I’m ready now to start a sober life but it’s strange because I’ve found myself becoming too obsessed with information and loosing sight of the personal journey I am going on. Does anyone else find this?

    • It sounds as if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed – that can happen in the early days, when you’re trying to figure things out and decide what to do. Focus on just taking a break from booze for now as that’s much less overwhelming. If you’d like some more support with this, and a step by step plan to follow, do take a look at my online coaching programme. The next 6 week class starts soon! More details here:

      • Thanks so much. xxx

    • Sal, I think this is very common. I think I’ve read almost every online article about quitting drinking… What happens to your body/mind, how your life changes, loosing friends, what to do in your spare time ect. It has comforted me greatly to know I’m not alone and to be informed about what’s happening to me and I think that’s ok. Really anything that works and helps is awesome.
      I have been journaling daily. I’ve found it’s a great way to check in with myself and also get out any worries or anxiety. Also looking back on my thoughts and what I was going through really reminds me why this decision is so important for me. Give it a go and remember not to be hard on yourself. These pages will be just for you. Good luck on your sober journey.

      • Thank you cant say much more right now, overwhelmed by to many things at this time. Can relate to Sal and thank you kate for this sight! Have to deal with my moms memorial this weekend so my mind is a bit scrambled. Love sobriety but have struggled over the last few yrs but i know I’ll get there because i want to.

  9. Totally love reading your blogs, I think taking what you like to drink is a brilliant idea, I am at 64 days AF now I believe I can just keep on going loving not drinking.

    • That’s brilliant Lindsay, congratulations on your 64 days! 🙂

  10. Thanks Siri for your reply. Kate I watched your video today about your 5 year anniversary and so want to be that person. thanks

  11. Hi Kate, love your emails. I’m early in my alcohol free journey and have a work function to attend this weekend. It’s actually leaving drinks in my honour. How does one not drink at their own leaving drinks? I’m thinking of saying I’m on antibiotics just to avoid any pressure. I know if I have just 1, I’ll likely have 10!

    • I think you have two options – you could either own it from the start, and say ‘great – buy me a mocktail please’ (after all, leaving drinks are leaving drinks, they don’t have to involve alcohol) or you could make an excuse. You could say you’re driving, on antibiotics, not feeling well or you’ve got to be up early the next day. Either way, remember that the leaving drinks aren’t really about the drinks: this is about humans connecting with other humans. It doesn’t really matter what’s in your glass; this event is about acknowledging you and wishing you well as you leave your job. Have fun!

  12. I wish I was where you all are. I can barely do 2 days let alone more. Not in a happy place and wish I had the answer. Thanks for the blog 🙂

  13. Hi there I am day 32 AF and loving life, my husband and I meet up with some old friends at our local,he was more concerned for me than I was , as one of the friends and I go way back and we’re massive drinking buddies.
    At first nobody noticed my soda water and lemon as I had asked for it in a tall glass, and when they did realise I wasn’t drinking the questions started ?
    They laughed and joked when I said I don’t drink anymore , and I just said think what you want this is my life and my choice! Then I asked one of them why don’t you do drugs anymore ? The response was “ well because I was poisoning myself and wanted to have a better life” I just said yeah I know that feeling , life is great without poison isn’t it?
    Any way we enjoyed our evening and on leaving the one who laughed the loudest was the one who said how proud he was of me x
    My husband was blown away by my strength and so happy to see me hold my head high.
    Thank you for your encouragement and education x

    • Your post made me smile Amanda, feeling so proud for you even though I don’t know you. It takes strength and guts to be completely honest and forthright about our decision to stop drinking, especially at first and especially with our old drinking buddies. But I’m finding (for myself at least) just completely “owning it” has been the best way for me to kill the shame, secrecy and isolation that had kept me pinned down for so many years. You go, girl! You’re on to great things!

  14. So this was very difficult for me…summertime. I had been 3 weeks sober and feeling really good. Then I had a 3 day “business” event on Cape Cod with fine wine flowing and I caved. So now it’s been 3 weeks of drinking again with an excuse every day and I’m ready to be done with it all. As Mel mentioned the secrecy and isolation of nightly drinking isn’t a life to lead. I welcome reading everyone’s responses here and I’m hoping to join the sober school in July.

  15. I am looking forward to starting the classes. 3 days AF and at the moment my biggest concerns are being able to fall asleep and telling others I am giving it up. I know I shouldn’t care about their reactions… not sure why I do.

  16. Thank you for this website and your encouraging blog posts! I am attempting my first ‘Dry July’, actually my first period of time going without alcohol. I’ve signed up for a run and booze will not help me to prepare for it so I am hoping that having an activity outlet will help me to give an alcohol break a serious go (and, perhaps, an eventual break up!). Many thanks!


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