Socializing Without Substance Misuse

Mixing socialization with the imbibing of some form of mind-altering substances is a common practice among Americans to help alleviate social anxiety and supposedly elevate the overall mood and public discourse of a social interaction. A variety of illicit drugs are also utilized for a similar purpose, but alcohol is the most popular and legal of substances to serve as a social lubricant.

The prevailing presence of alcohol consumption in social situations may have arguably always been a cultural norm, no matter the year or country of origin; however, the current statistics for alcohol consumption among Americans has seen a considerable uptick as advanced technology has allowed targeted marketing campaigns to be widely distributed among the masses. The uptick is particularly noticeable in men, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Statistically, American men are much more likely than women to misuse alcohol through binge drinking with men at 30.4 percent vs. women at only 16 percent, respectively. Men are also more likely to report heavy drinking at 9.9 percent vs. 3.4 percent for women.

The Culture of Social Drinking

Drinking alcohol has in turn become its own social event, a cultural phenomenon indiscriminate when it comes to age groups, albeit statistically, alcohol consumption is higher in scenarios involving younger adults. In essence, alcohol has become the reason for friends to get together, as opposed to socialization alone. The two have become so intrinsically linked and prevalent that the term “social drinking” has even become a regular part of the modern American vernacular.

Not only does the culture of social drinking pose increased risk factors for substance misuse and the development of addictive disorders among individuals biologically predisposed to addictive behavioral traits, but it also acts as an impediment to sobriety for those in addiction recovery. For many individuals in active recovery, social drinking may have been one of the root causes for exacerbating their addictive behavioral traits and substance misuse. You can only imagine then the difficulty of re-entering a social drinking society as a sober individual. 

Addiction disorders rarely develop without mental health issues, and social anxiety combined with feelings of isolation make the journey toward maintaining sobriety in early recovery an uphill battle. If you are in active addiction recovery, socializing without substance misuse may be an uphill battle, but it is certainly not a death sentence for your social calendar. You simply have to pivot and take a different and broader approach toward socialization. Below, you will find our top tips on how to re-enter society and socialize without substance misuse.

  • Avoid Bars and Nightlife Scene

At first mention, this may seem like a no-brainer, but depending on your social circle, avoiding bars and a nightlife scene that gravitates around drinking can be easier said than done. The trick with re-entering society as a sober individual is to maintain a social life while avoiding the triggers of a social drinking culture; addictive disorders isolate those in recovery enough, and you do not need to exacerbate those feelings of isolation by avoiding social situations altogether. That may mean pushing the timeframe of your social interactions up to include dinners, lunches, and even coffee dates. The relatively recent popularity of coffee culture is a particular boon for those in addiction recovery because it provides a safe, casual location for social interaction that mirrors that of a bar, minus the presence of alcohol. Meeting friends for coffee is a great way to ease your way into socializing without substance misuse, and we think you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoy social interactions while not being inebriated. 

  • Plan Physical Activities Around Social Interaction

Planning an activity such as hiking, biking, or even a group exercise class to revolve around your social interactions with friends can be of particular interest, especially if social anxiety is a problem for you. The physical activity helps to distract the anxious mind while also literally calming the body from any anxiety through physical exertion. You might even find a new hobby that you really enjoy; one that you would have never realized without sober socializing.

  • Don’t Be Afraid To Leave

At some point, you may feel comfortable enough in your sobriety to re-enter bars and even join in on the social nightlife scene. Whether it be for a concert, a friendly get-together, or possibly a birthday celebration, instances will come up that you will want to participate in socially. Thankfully, sobriety is becoming more of a common practice even for individuals without addictive disorders, and many bars even offer mocktails – non-alcoholic concoctions prepared with the precision just as a bartender would with specialty alcoholic cocktails. We would suggest ordering a mocktail, and if not available, order a soda, juice, or even simply water. Trying to normalize your sober situation is a good practice to avoid the pitfalls of social anxiety and potential drinking culture triggers. No matter the scenario, though, you need to be ready and willing to leave at a moment’s notice if you feel uncomfortable at all. Maintaining your sobriety should always remain your number one priority, and cannot be sacrificed for the potential joys of socializing.


If your social drinking habits have increased dangerously into substance misuse and the development of an addictive disorder, Choice House can provide you with the help you need to get your life back on track. Through a variety of therapeutic modalities, we offer men the opportunity to regain their sobriety by helping them craft a new foundation of love, empathy, and understanding. Our addiction recovery programs consist of a 90-day inpatient service, an intensive outpatient program, and residency at our sober living campus. Located in the Boulder County, Colorado area, our facilities are ideally situated between the Rocky Mountain National Park and the bustling city of Louisville. The close proximity allows us to provide a unique outdoor wilderness therapy modality that helps men create new bonds with nature, fellow recovery patients, and themselves through physical activity like hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing. We feel that reconnecting with humanity through friendship is a vital piece to the recovery puzzle and the bonding that occurs during these physical activities provides the foundation for lifelong friendship that can prove essential at all stages of addiction recovery. If you are interested in learning more about Choice House’s recovery programs or facilities, please give us a call today at (720) 577-4422.

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