We all know Pride Weekend is like gay Saint Patrick’s Day when it comes to drugs, alcohol and general debauchery. No judgement – debauchery is fun. But for those of us who don’t choose to imbibe or for those of us who are struggling to stay sober, Pride can be a huge trigger. Rather than avoiding Pride altogether, embracing Pride sober can make you feel more engaged, more proud, and more focused on the true purpose of coming together as a community (spoiler alert: that purpose is not rainbow jello-shots.)
Pride, as we know, began as a commemoration of the Stonewall Riots of June 1969. As we also know, alcohol companies see big dollar signs at Pride – beer and vodka brands like Miller Brewing and Smirnoff sponsor floats, performances, parties, after parties, and after-after parties. While Pride might be a party now, Pride started as a riot.
Excessive alcohol consumption and the nonstop carefree hedonism can both distract from the inherently political statement of Pride, and also hides the fact that many members of our community (approximately 25% versus 9% of the cis-het population according to a recent study) suffer from substance abuse.
So, how do you survive AND have fun at Pride without falling (or jumping) off the wagon?
Use the (sober) buddy system
Bring a sober friend to the event with you – they don’t have to be sober or in recovery, they can just decide to be sober for a night with you. Even the most daunting tasks are easier when you’ve got someone by your side.
Check out a meeting
Before you head to Pride, attend an AA, harm-reduction or support group meeting and get some support from your sober family. If you can, check in with your sponsor. Spending some time to get re-grounded before facing the chaos of Pride weekend will help remind you that you’re not alone.
Look f*cking dope
When you look bomb dot com, you exude confidence. Spending a little more time priming pays off majorly. Plus, it always feels good to end the night looking as fly as you did when you started, and it feels even better to wake up the next morning fresh as a daisy and hangover free.
Dance your ass off
Pride parties are parties – whether you’re drinking or doing drugs, it’s still a party dammit so have some fun! Dance like crazy, and better yet ask a cutie to dance. Smooch on a rooftop. Watch the sunrise. Just because you’re sober doesn’t mean the party has to be lame.
There’s always time for a mocktail
Sometimes it seems like other people are more comfortable with you not drinking than you are. The easiest way to get people off your case is to have your favorite non-alcoholic drink in hand. It puts other people at ease, deters they “hey why aren’t you drinking?” question, and gives you something to do with your hands. If plain seltzer water isn’t your gig, ask for soda water with bitters and a lime, or cran-pineapple-seltzer in a champagne glass.
Get your story straight
Speaking of other people being more uncomfortable with you drinking than you are, it can help to have an answer prepared when people ask why you’re not drinking. My default is “I’m on a super-strong antibiotic” because it tends to stop the convo there.
HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Any of these feelings can trigger a relapse (or just a major moody meltdown). If you’re out and suddenly feel like you need to pound a tray of shots, check-in with yourself and assess if you need to call a friend, take a nap, eat something, get some water, or simply go home.
Have an exit strategy
Speaking of going home, don’t forget this is always a viable option. If you need to pull a French exit (my signature party trick), go for it but please remember to text your friends and tell them you left, so they don’t worry. It can also help to have a reason why you need to suddenly bolt from the bar – I usually go with “my heels are killing me” or “I left a candle burning” but “Taco Bell closes in 30 minutes” works too.
Remember why you’re celebrating
The purpose of Pride is to come together as a community, and as a united front. The first Pride was a riot for our rights, led by black and brown trans women, drag queens and street queers. Honor their legacy, and remember why we’re still marching today. Even better, get involved! Support your community by volunteering, rallying, organizing, marching, and supporting queer artists and activists.