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Staying Sober During Football Season

football on a field

Updated on

Are you ready for some (sober) football?!

We are well into pre-season football and many people are beginning to wonder, “can I do this sober?” Between football pools, fantasy leagues, and the party environment of football games, is the reward (experience) worth the risk (sobriety)?

Many of us grew up surrounded by football as a family pastime every weekend, especially during fall and winter holidays. Many of us enjoyed football even before we picked up a drink or drug, but it became a trigger. Once we began drinking and/or using at every game. Our brains now associate football with being intoxicated.

Does it have to continue being that way or can we go back to enjoying it while staying sober, like we did as kids?

The truth of the matter is that the environment surrounding the Great American Sport can be triggering. It can cause some to glorify the past as they watch friends and family enjoy their alcoholic beverages and other “extra-curricular activities” during a game. Football season can also cause some co-occurring addictions to present themselves since they reside in close proximity such as gambling, overeating, love, etc.

Some people decide to take a year off of football and focus solely on staying sober, avoiding triggering events completely. Others dabble in these activities to see if they’re still enjoyable sober, and there are those who absolutely refuse to give up something that’s been such a huge part of their life. In any of these circumstances, we can remain sober, happy, joyous, and free if we practice these two particular principles in our affairs: honesty and willingness.

We must absolutely be rigorously honest with ourselves, which also requires tremendous self-awareness. Secrets keep us sick, and those secrets include feeling triggered and/or mentally glorifying drinking or using. If we ignore these feelings and thoughts, they will grow. Once these grow into an obsession, they are challenging to shake. Willingness comes into play when we realize we are triggered or glorifying the past, and we have to avoid those triggers for a little while. We will lose anything we put before our sobriety – 100% of the time.

So, if that means missing a few games out of our season ticket passes or even missing an entire season, we must be willing to do that for our sobriety. Remember, we are constantly changing, growing, and improving our spiritual condition. What happens to trigger us today may not trigger us in a year, a month, or even a day. Everything is temporary, so if we find ourselves unable to be in those environments right now, that doesn’t mean we’ll never be able to be in them. We can practice acceptance, one day at a time.

How to stay sober during football season, while also enjoying football:

  • Make sure you’re spiritually fit. This means you’re regularly attending meetings, working and living the steps, have a sponsor, being honest about triggers, and are feeling grateful for your sobriety.
  • Take a sober friend to all events where alcohol will be present. It’s easier to stay sober when you have someone else who also values their sobriety.
  • Have an exit strategy in case you do start feeling uncomfortable. If triggers to arise, don’t be embarrassed to leave.
  • Always have a non-alcoholic beverage in hand. This is especially helpful if it has some sugar, since our bodies oftentimes confuse a craving for alcohol with a craving for sugar.
  • Join a sober tailgate! Believe it or not, there are sober tailgates everywhere and some even have meetings before the game. You can search for these on the internet or even ask people at the various meetings you attend for suggestions. If you can’t find one, start one!
  • Ashley Harms, MS, CAP, CRC

    Ashley is a primary therapist for Lakeview Health. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of North Florida in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, is a Certified Addiction Professional, and a Certified Recovery Coach. She has been working in the field of mental health and addiction since 2012. Ashley is also a person in long-term recovery; her sobriety date is January 13, 2012. She joined Lakeview Health in 2014 as the Aftercare Coordinator. Ashley has experience in working at both adult and adolescent inpatient treatment facilities. She enjoys inspiring other people to live sober, happy lives and to find their life’s meaning.

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