Sober Tailgating? Sober Sections at NFL Games? You betcha!

By Amy Tilley, Clinical Director, Desert Star Addiction Recovery Center


It’s Football Season! For the next few months, football is being played five days a week and the tradition of tailgate season is in full effect before all the games. Most people equate drinking alcohol with tailgating, but that does not have to be the case. Sober tailgating is just as enjoyable. 

Maintaining your sobriety and recovery while enjoying a game is possible, whether one is tailgating or inside a stadium.


Follow some of these simple steps:

Invite sober friends and friends in recovery. It is more fun when you and your friends are supporting each other and recovery journeys.

Ask friends to bring food, and tell them alcohol is not permitted. Potluck style is always a fun idea, and there will be a variety of food options to go around.

Play games before the game! Bring your favorite cornhole board, card game, or easy boardgames to set up.

Bring your own non-alcoholic beverage. This helps reduce the temptation of purchasing an alcoholic beverage, and if you already have a your beverage in hand, others are less likely to ask you if you want something.

If you get triggered, ask for help from the sober support you invited along. Take a few deep breaths, step away from the environment for a few minutes. Call your sponsor and talk through the situation with them.


Once inside the stadium, remember the tips that helped you navigate the tailgate. If you are going to a college or NFL game, did you know many stadiums have created sober sections? These are designated sections where recovery and sobriety are respected and alcohol is not permitted. Recognizing the triggers that a football game can create, the NFL created these sections several years ago to provide support for people in recovery, and for people who are curious about being sober.


Many of these sections have a volunteer table, where people in the recovery community hand out literature about local 12 Step meetings, local treatment programs, and stickers (“one game at a time”). Currently, 13 NFL stadiums have sober sections, with the goal of all the stadiums participating. The stadium hosting the Super Bowl also has a sober section each year.


Watching football is a fun activity but it can be triggering if you are not prepared in advance. Follow these tips for a fun afternoon of friendship and fellowship—and your recovery will be touchdown worthy at the end of the game!