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Stay Sober at Sporting Events

Whether you’re attending a season football game to watch the Chicago Bears, cheering on the Chicago Bulls at a basketball court or watching the Chicago White Sox make a home run, attending a sports event is a fun and exciting way to enjoy your day. Attending sporting events is a beloved tradition for many people, but attending these events can often mean that alcohol surrounds you.

20 Tips for Staying Sober at Sporting Events

Attending a sporting event sober might seem like a challenge, but it is a worthwhile one you can overcome. Continuing your sober life at a sporting event is possible, and it can be fun if you make an effort to enjoy the day without alcohol. The following tips can help you keep your mind off alcohol so you can enjoy the game sober:

1. Be Selective of Events to Attend

Be careful which events you attend. It’s important to avoid events if they are likely to trigger cravings or host too much temptation. If a stadium is known to serve alcohol around every corner or heavily advertise alcohol, you can attend a different event at another stadium. If you know an event will include tailgate parties with a lot of alcohol, you can arrive after the tailgate parties are over or attend a different game.

Try to go to events at places where you know you can enjoy yourself and have fun without alcohol. If you have fond memories of drinking at a certain stadium but can’t picture yourself having fun without the alcohol, opt for a different event. If staying sober at a baseball game feels more difficult than staying sober at a basketball game, opt for attending a basketball game. If you are invited to an event that you know will trigger cravings or provide too much temptation, feel confident saying no.

Your health and sobriety are more important than attending every event you’re invited to. Friends and family members might not understand at first, but your well-being is important. Missing an event is better than having a relapse. You can explain your reason for turning down an invite, but you don’t have to give any explanation if you don’t want to. Just remember that you’re doing what you feel is best for you and your health.

Identify Your Triggers and Create a Plan

2. Identify Your Triggers and Create a Plan

It’s important to be aware of certain sights, sounds and smells that can trigger cravings and remind you of times before you were sober. Protect yourself and your sobriety by developing self-awareness and planning ahead.

You can create a plan for how to act against cravings when you encounter certain triggers. For example, if you used to purchase alcoholic drinks between plays, change your routine and plan to purchase a snack or visit the souvenir stand between plays. Similarly, if seeing your team lose triggers you to want to drink, plan to instead call a friend and vent if your team loses the game.

3. Inform Your Support System

Hold yourself accountable by letting your AA Sponsor or another program sponsor know you’re attending a sporting event. This can help you hold yourself accountable if a friend offers you a drink or if you feel tempted to purchase alcohol. Knowing that you have a support system rooting for you and expecting you to stay sober can be the encouragement you need to avoid alcohol at an event.

A sponsor can also share their own tips for staying sober at events if they have attended similar events in the past. However, you don’t have to limit yourself to one support person. You can also inform family and friends that you are planning to attend an event and remain sober. You can even call your sponsor or people in your support system if you start to struggle with avoiding alcohol while you’re at a game.

4. Attend With Your Support System

You can ask friends, family members or your support person to attend an event with you. By attending an event with someone who knows about your sobriety journey and supports your sobriety, you can help hold yourself accountable. You will also have the support you need and someone to talk to if you start to struggle with cravings or temptations.

Attend With Other Sober Friends

5. Attend With Other Sober Friends

If you have friends or family members who don’t drink or don’t mind avoiding alcohol for the day, ask if they would like to attend the event with you. Even if they are not in recovery, there are many people who avoid alcohol for health or personal reasons.

If you struggle to find sober friends to attend events with, try finding a sober sports tour company. These companies take care of event tickets, meeting plans, accommodations, itineraries and more. They give you opportunities to connect with others recovering from alcohol use and bond with them over a commitment to staying sober and a love of sports.

Whether you’re attending with others recovering from alcohol use or friends who stay sober for other reasons, having another sober friend with you at an event can help you enjoy the event without temptations.

6. Inform Your Whole Group That You’re Attending Sober

If you feel like you can comfortably attend an event with others who drink alcohol, it can be helpful to let them know ahead of time that you will be attending the event sober. If you do this, you will help them know to avoid offering you drinks. They might even scale back their own drinking or place alcohol out of sight to help you avoid cravings or triggers.

Be aware that some friends may still drink. But if you let them know that you plan to attend sober, you will at least prevent or lower peer pressure. They might even show you a little extra support and help to hold you accountable throughout the event.

7. Attend Local Meetings

If you don’t have a support person to attend an event with or if you feel like you need a little extra support, you can check the area and see if there are any local AA meetings near the event location. If you’re traveling and spending the night in a different city for an event, you can attend a meeting the day before the event to help you stay in the right mindset and feel supported.

8. Sit in a Non-Alcoholic Section

Many sporting event centers have designated non-alcoholic sections, often referred to as family-friendly seating sections. Seeing others drinking alcohol can sometimes be a trigger for people recovering from an alcohol use disorder, but sitting in a non-alcoholic section will allow you to enjoy the game without being surrounded by alcohol. Plus, seats in these sections are often cheaper than in other sections.

Be the Designated Driver

9. Be the Designated Driver

The designated driver plays an important role at any event or party. It will give you an extra reason and motivation to avoid alcohol, and your group will appreciate having someone to get them home safely at the end of the event. Being the designated driver is a significant responsibility, and it’s a great way to feel like you’re still included in your group, even if you’re the only one staying sober.

10. Attend an Alcohol-Free Tailgate Party

Tailgate parties usually include a lot of alcohol. Try to find a family-friendly tailgate party or another tailgate party that serves non-alcoholic drinks. There are organizations that host alcohol-free tailgate parties to fill the growing need for more sober sporting activities. Check to see if there are any organizations hosting sober tailgate parties in your area. This would give you the opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie of tailgating without the presence of alcohol.

11. Bring Your Own Alcohol-Free Drink

Alcohol-free drinks are great if you want to attend an event and feel more like you are included in your group’s activities. Look for fun recipes for alcohol-free drinks online and find one you enjoy. This can help you feel included in your group and serve as a distraction from alcohol at the same time.

12. Host an Alcohol-Free Tailgate Party

If attending a tailgate party that serves alcohol is too difficult and you can’t find an alcohol-free tailgate party to attend, plan your own tailgate party. By hosting your own tailgate party, you can provide great food and alcohol-free drinks, and you can let people know it is an alcohol-free gathering. Many guests might appreciate that you are hosting an alcohol-free tailgate party because they might also be in recovery or they might simply prefer sober events.

You can even reach out to your support groups, recovery meetings or your community to find others who would like to attend a sober tailgate party. Raise awareness by posting about it on social media or starting a Facebook group to find other sober sports fans. By hosting your own tailgate party and reaching out to others, you could fill a need in your community.

13. Enjoy the Food

If you used to feel excited about drinking at sporting events, try getting excited about the food instead. Indulge in a soft pretzel or a ballpark hotdog. Find some awesome recipes to make for your own tailgate party or to bring along to a tailgate party. Think about all the food you will enjoy at a game and reach for a snack any time you might face the temptation to drink.

You can even volunteer to grill the food if you’re attending a tailgate party. Grilling will give you the chance to practice your awesome cooking skills and keep your mind off of alcohol because you’ll keep busy with the food. Plus, other guests will appreciate that you’re making great food for them, and it’s safer when someone sober is operating the grill.

14. Stay Hydrated

Dehydration is dangerous because it can cause fatigue and low mental focus. To avoid making any regrettable decisions, make sure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. This is especially important if you’re attending a game on a hot day.

15. Start Your Own Traditions

If your friends or family have passed down the tradition of drinking at sporting events to you, try starting your own traditions. Host a family-friendly gathering to watch a sporting event. Invite friends and family members who support your recovery journey or are also in recovery. Make it fun by asking guests to bring their own alcohol-free mixed drink recipes or a new food recipe for everyone to try.

16. Focus on the Game

Focus on the Game

Keep alcohol off your mind by putting on your game face. Soak in the music, the food and the team spirit. Have fun by wearing your team jersey or other team memorabilia. Get into the excitement of the game and cheer for your team. Keep your mind focused on the game so you don’t even have time to think about alcohol.

17. Stay Busy

Keep yourself busy during the game to keep your focus off of alcohol. If you’re not operating the grill at a tailgate party, offer to keep the snack bowls filled. Use halftime to check out the souvenirs and team memorabilia that the stadium might be selling. Take your family to a baseball game and use the opportunity to teach your kids about the game. Take a friend and try food from the concession stand between plays.

Plan ways to stay busy at the sporting event before you attend so you have a strategy to keep your mind off of alcohol. Communicating the desire to stay sober and busy during the game can get friends or family members on board, helping your accountability.

18. Remind Yourself Why You’re Sober

When you face temptation or cravings, it’s important to remind yourself why you’re sober. Focus on how much healthier and happier you are now that you’re sober. Think about your friends or family that are counting on you to stay sober. Remind yourself that staying sober is one of the most positive things you can do to protect your health, happiness and well-being.

19. Be Assertive

If you encounter peer pressure when you turn down an invitation or an offered drink, feel free to be assertive. Stand firm in your commitment to stay sober and remind others that you have a right to say no. Your health is more important than others’ opinions or feelings. Feel confident in saying no and staying committed to your own well-being.

20. Make It a Goal to Have Fun Anyway

You don’t need alcohol to enjoy life, and this remains true at sporting events. Even if you enjoyed alcohol at events in the past, make it your goal to have fun without alcohol. Tell yourself that you will have fun at the event, and then go enjoy yourself. Embrace the atmosphere of team spirit and excitement, and enjoy bonding with fellow fans.

Get Help Staying Sober

Sports events often have a heavy focus on alcohol, but you can attend an event sober and still have fun with friends and family. It’s important to remind yourself why you’re sober, surround yourself with a good support system and keep your mind focused on the event. Make it your goal to have fun without alcohol, and you will have the opportunity to see how much more enjoyable a sober life is, no matter where you are.

If you or a loved one is recovering from an alcohol use disorder, contact Gateway Foundation to learn more or get support for the recovery journey. We provide quality treatment and long-term support for people as they embrace a sober life.

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