The first time I went to a nightclub in recovery I had been sober for about nine months. I was slightly apprehensive because I wasn’t sure how being in that environment would make me feel. I went with a group of about six or seven sober friends, some with years of recovery and some with months like me. One of the things that I missed the most about “going out” was the process of getting ready. Before I had equated this process with pre-gaming – drinking excessively before even arriving at the nightclub, which basically meant the remainder of the night was one blacked-out blur that would either end in a one-night stand or several hours of toilet-hugging. But more than that (I didn’t miss that part of it at all actually) I missed finding a cute outfit to wear, doing my hair and make-up and singing along to songs loudly and badly with my friends.
My Sober Nightclub Experience
I realized that in sobriety I could absolutely still have that experience. My friends and I spent time getting ready, rode to the nightclub with the windows down blaring music and arrived in good spirits. A plus was that we didn’t have to worry about designating a driver or getting pulled over – everyone was having a blast and no one was drunk. Imagine that! We got to the club, ordered Red Bulls and hit the dance floor. We danced for a solid three hours (which was an awesome work-out and another plus) and when we were all petered out we collectively decided to head home. Because of the people I was with and the amount of fun I was having, I was never tempted to drink. The next morning I woke up at 8am and made myself breakfast. I gave thanks for the amount of fun I had coupled with the fact that I wasn’t hungover. It was truly miraculous. I also realized that as much fun as I had the night before, I probably wouldn’t be going to anymore nightclubs for a long time. Being surrounded by drunk people spilling their beverages on my top as they flailed around on the dance floor wasn’t my idea of a good time anymore. That sentiment alone showed me that recovery was working for me.
Staying Sober at Nightclubs
This isn’t to say that you won’t decide to spend your weekends tearing up the dance floor. Everyone is different, and as you learn more and more about yourself during your journey of recovery you’ll learn what you like to do in your free time. That might be going to nightclubs with your sober friends. For some, nightclubs can be highly triggering because of the prevalence of booze and drugs (this is usually true for those in early recovery). There are several important questions that you’d benefit from asking yourself before heading to a nightclub with your friends. These questions are as follows:
Why did I attend nightclubs in the past?
Try and wrack your brain. Think back to when you weren’t sober. Did you go to nightclubs because you loved dancing with your friends? Did you go because you knew you could get free drinks and drugs if you wore the right outfit? Did you go because your favorite DJs were playing and you wanted to appreciate the music in person? You can get a good grasp of your current feelings based on your past motives.
Do I have a solid group of sober friends that are willing to join me?
It is absolutely crucial that you bring a group of sober friends with you – especially in early recovery! Bring people that you trust completely, people that you can pull aside if you’re feeling unstable and say, “Hey, I think I might need to step outside and call my sponsor,” or, “Hey, will you take a walk with me?” Bring people you know will always have your back and people that prioritize their own recovery over everything else.
What are my honest motives?
Back to the first question… maybe you really did used to go to nightclubs because you appreciated dance music. Is this really your current motive? Sometimes, if we’re unstable in our sobriety, we can talk ourselves into doing something that might not be in our best interest. Addiction is a disease of denial, and this symptom doesn’t always subside the very second we get sober. Are you in denial about your motives? If you aren’t sure give your sponsor a call and talk things through with him or her.
Have I been open and honest about my intentions with myself and with others?
Did you immediately call your sponsor and sober supports to tell them that you were going to a potentially triggering place, or did you figure that they probably didn’t need to know? It’s important that you’re honest and share about things like this as much as you possibly can. Seek advice. Learn from those that came before you. Even if going to a nightclub doesn’t seem like a huge deal to you, run it by some people.
Am I willing to leave the environment if I start to feel uncomfortable?
Sometimes our pride can prevent us from taking care of ourselves. If you go to a nightclub and you start to feel uncomfortable, remember that you can leave at any time! There’s absolutely no shame in recognizing that you aren’t quite ready to venture away from your sober comfort zone. Just be sure that you have a carefully formulated “escape plan” – for example, drive your own car, or let your sponsor know that you might need to be picked up if you start feeling shaky.
If you are able to ask yourself these questions and provide yourself with honest answers, you’ll probably be safe so long as your motives are good and you’ve got a solid relapse prevention plan in place.
Relapse Prevention and Managing Triggers
When it comes to highly triggering places like nightclubs, there are several relapse prevention steps that you need to take in order to ensure that you come out the other side unscathed and sober. The best steps you can take involve surrounding yourself with like-minded people who are equally as dedicated to their sobriety. Have people on speed-dial incase you need to step outside and make a phone call. Finally, remember that there’s no shame in leaving before everyone else does. You absolutely have to do what’s right for you. And you never know – one of your friends might be in the same boat, but may be too nervous to admit that they want to leave as well. By being honest about where you’re at you’ll inevitably help other people. For more tips on relapse prevention and staying sober in highly triggering places, please give us a call. We understand how fragile early recovery can be, and we’re standing by to help you navigate. Remember that the journey of addiction recovery is different for everyone, and even if your friends can safely go to nightclubs it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can – or even that you want to!