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Sober parties offer safe alternative for people in addiction recovery - KPBS

By Tania Thorne / North County Reporter

Published December 31, 2021 at 5:02 PM PST

For people in addiction recovery, holiday parties can be hard. Some organizations offer safe alternatives for people choosing a sober lifestyle.

Iron Mongers Gym in San Marcos is hosting a sober New Year's Eve party open to the public.

Mike Delgado, a trainer at the gym, said he wanted to offer an alternative to recovery support programs' meetings, which can run for hours into the night.

“They have marathon meetings and that's cool if you’re at that level, but when you first start this, sitting in a room for 24 hours hearing people tell you what you can and can't do for the rest of your life can be overwhelming,” Delgado said. “So I just want to offer something more fun.”

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He knows firsthand how hard parties can be for someone in recovery because he once struggled with drugs. Delgado began using drugs when he was 10, became addicted by 13 and sought treatment when he turned 27.

“Any kind of celebration would be hard, but especially around the holidays because I'm so used to doing everything under the influence,“ he said. “I didn’t know how to do anything sober and the only thing that was offered to me then was a meeting…well I’ve been to enough of those.”

Brandon O’Connell trains with Delgado and is also living a sober life.

“I think places like Iron Mongers Gym and other places that open their doors up to sober people to come in, it kind of breaks that stigma of, I don't have to go to a rehab...to get my sober holiday party in,“ he said. “I can come to this gym and meet like-minded people and everyone here might not be sober. But the environment is a sober environment.”

Sober parties, a safe alternative for people in addiction recovery

Raven Martinez is also in recovery and trains at Iron Mongers Gym.

She said sober events take away the pressure of turning down alcohol or drugs at parties.

“Being in a place like this, a safe space, you don't have to push back,“ she said. “You're already coming into a situation where people are understanding and people are more open minded.”

The gym will have food, nonalcoholic drinks, weight training and karaoke Friday from 9 p.m. until midnight.

While health officials are advising people not to gather in large groups due to COVID-19, Delgado said the 5,000-square-foot facility has enough space for people to spread out and he will keep doors open for airflow.