March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day: A Guide to Maintaining Sobriety

march madness

To many, March equates to following basketball brackets and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. As both events approach, people plan how they will get together, what they will bring to a party, or prepare the drink and food menu. Before COVID-19, you could go out to a restaurant, a friend’s party or a street party. Now, gatherings are determined by current state regulations. Despite how your friends or family celebrate March Madness or St. Patrick’s Day, you can decide how you want to celebrate.

Connection Between Substances, March Madness or St. Patrick’s Day

March Madness kicks off with selection day. An event that occurs during the weekend, this makes it easier for people to get together if their state or county allows for gatherings. If your region allows small groups or has partial restaurant regulations, the chance someone you know will host or suggest a get together is likely. You can attend if you think you can avoid the temptation to have “just a sip.” 

Throughout your treatment and recovery, the temptation can crop up and you may think you can handle taking “just one”; however, ask yourself if that’s realistic. Often one sip or try of a substance can easily lead to another. One drink or attempting to drink is considered a relapse. Ask yourself if it’s worth losing your sobriety. 

Before you go to a gathering involving sports and alcohol, put a plan in place to maintain your sobriety. Think about any obstacles, emotions or triggers that can be present. Discuss any questions or fears you have about attending the event with your therapist, alumni group, sponsor or group meeting. The people who want to help you with your sobriety are there for you whenever you need guidance.

St. Patrick’s Day is another time when you can face unwanted substance-related problems. People who celebrate, in general, tend to imbibe beer. The novelty of green beer, leprechauns and other festive symbols can make some forget to drink in moderation. St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday many people use to justify their overindulgence or “break” from abstaining. You can feel vulnerable while you are with those who are drinking or using a drug excessively. If you are at a gathering and don’t have a way to leave, call a car service, your sponsor, a sober friend or a family member. You don’t have to stay in a situation you feel is dangerous to your mental health, physical well-being or sobriety.

Before You Go

The urge to be a part of a social event is expected. You don’t have to give up socializing with friends or family after you leave treatment. You do need to reassess your relationships and the places you used to hang out – do these people and places help your sobriety or hinder it? A March Madness or St. Patrick’s Day gathering can cause you anxiety or stress. Celebrations that trigger these emotions are something you should avoid. Instead, you can find or host a sober party. 

  • Given the COVID-19 limitations regarding getting together, maybe host a party via a social or communication app. Ask your friends from group meetings or those other healthy outside connections if they would like to join you. 
  • Some social apps host sober parties; find one and join. Through a sober group, you can find others who are like-minded, and when COVID-19 regulations ease, you can meet them in real life.
  • Some apps connect people who have similar interests. These apps follow current health regulations while allowing others to share their interests. Once the health-related restrictions are lifted, you can join the group in activities.
  • Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others have many groups that share their thoughts and feelings about sobriety. You can find encouragement, ideas or tips to maintain your sobriety. 

There are a few more things you can consider before you go to a gathering:

  • Think about what it feels like to wake up sober. Consider how good it feels to interact with others when you are sober. Remember the strength you had to go to treatment and learn healthy mechanisms to maintain your sobriety. 
  • How do you feel when you are in a social setting that includes drinking or using a drug excessively? Remember how good it feels to not worry about being pressured or placed in a harmful situation. Sometimes the memory of what things were before your sobriety can help you avoid dangerous situations.
  • Think about the financial toll of using alcohol or substance. When you are sober, you have more money than you did when you were using substances. 

Maintaining your sobriety doesn’t mean you need to cut yourself off from social gatherings. Before you go, discuss your thoughts with a person who can guide you, put a plan in place or don’t go. Your sobriety is worth it.


March Madness or St. Patrick’s Day can bring up substance-related memories. In some cases, you can feel anxiety or stress about attending a social gathering focused on either event. You control your sobriety. Reach out to your therapist, sponsor, support group or other sober friends to discuss how you feel about being around substances, the people attending the event and the dynamics or experiences you had at these gatherings. The decision to go or not go is yours. If you’re not comfortable going, try joining or hosting a sober party. At Casa Palmera, we understand social events, holidays or sporting events where substances can cause anxiety or stress. We are here for you and want to help guide you throughout your recovery journey. Through individual, group and other therapies, you can learn healthy ways to maintain your sobriety.