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What to Do for Your 21st Instead of Drinking

A set of cultural expectations surround a 21st birthday party, as the newfound ability to buy alcohol indicates that doing so is, naturally, how you should spend your day. As a result, this milestone birthday is typically tied to alcohol consumption — but it’s certainly not the only way to celebrate. If you’re in recovery from alcoholism or have any friends who are, you’re probably looking for ways to throw a memorable bash without setting off any drug or alcohol triggers. Here are some suggestions for throwing a sober party that will feel anything but solemn.

How to Throw a Sober 21st Birthday Party

To make sure everyone attending is on the same page — and to avoid anyone mistakenly bringing a six-pack — make sure you communicate ahead of time that this will be a sober party. Encourage guests to bring a food item or non-alcoholic drink instead.

Because night parties are commonly associated with drinking, consider throwing your party during the day instead. Or if you really want to mix with the norm, make it an activity-themed party instead of a social gathering. Throwing your party at the pool, involving a hike, hosting it at the beach or even just including lawn games can keep the focus from alcohol and remind people how much fun they can have without a drink in their hand.

Tips for Keeping Temptation at Bay

If you’re in recovery and nervous that your upcoming birthday may be rife with triggers, congratulations — your self-awareness is already a huge part of the battle won. Now you can have a game plan in place for keeping any temptations at bay and staying sober on your 21st. Remember to include the following steps:

  1. Be picky about your guest list: Don’t invite people who are likely to disrespect your alcohol-free rules or question your choice.
  2. Focus on the food: Give yourself some delicious treats to look forward to.
  3. Plan some fun drinks: Mocktails, alcohol-free punches and fruity flavors will put a tasty drink in your hand.
  4. Invite sober friends: Bring people who are also on the road to recovery to offer support and understanding.
  5. Focus on the fun: Give yourself plenty of exciting activities to engage in to stay busy.

Looking for a Unique Celebration?

If a party isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways to celebrate this milestone that don’t include alcohol. Here are just a few non-alcoholic 21st birthday ideas — get creative with it!

  • Score some freebies: Many restaurants and coffee shops will offer discounted or free items on your birthday. Do a little tour in your area and celebrate with some free goodies.
  • Hit the road: Gather a few friends together and celebrate your birthday with a road trip. Whether it’s across the country or just to a local area you’ve never explored, make some memories through a long drive.
  • Go to a concert: Plenty of venues are open only to 21+. Celebrate this coming-of-age birthday by checking out a concert. It’s a way to enjoy the perks that come with your ID card without resorting to the classic drinking on your birthday. Be prepared, however, for alcohol to be present if the concert isn’t held at a dry venue.
  • Get your adrenaline pumping: Try a new adventure! Whether it’s bungee jumping, sky diving or white water rafting, celebrate by breaking out of your comfort zone.

How to Throw a Party With a Sober Guest

What do you do if you want to serve alcohol at your party, but you have a friend in recovery? The balance can be tricky — you want your guests to enjoy themselves, but you also want to be sensitive to your friend’s needs. Planning a sober-friendly party takes some consideration but is certainly possible. Here’s how:

  • Have plenty of other food and drink options to make sure your sober guest has lots of non-alcoholic drinks and snacks to munch on.
  • Keep the alcohol in one designated area that’s separate from the rest of the party.
  • Give your event a fun theme with activities that are related — doing so will give guests plenty of entertainment to focus on instead of them being tempted to drink.

If you or one of your loved ones needs help with addiction recovery, contact Gateway now. We’ll be happy to help and honored to take part in the recovery journey with you.

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