Avoiding relapse during the Super Bowl

With the 53rd Super Bowl coming up this Sunday, everyone seems to be planning or attending a party to celebrate— and here in the U.S., a celebration may as well be synonymous with alcohol. Roughly 111.3 million people watched Super Bowl LI, and the numbers have continued to grow over the course of the years. Of all these viewers, over half will be drinking while watching the game. In fact, in the weeks leading up to the game, consumers have and will spend roughly $1.3 billion on beer, hard cider, and other drinks to celebrate the game. This drinking culture that surrounds Super Bowl Sunday can put individuals in recovery in a tough spot—many people recovering from substance abuse disorder have a hard time being around alcohol, even after years in recovery, and encounter increased difficulty avoiding relapse during the Super Bowl.

The Tradition and Outcomes of Drinking and Relapse During the Super Bowl

Super Bowl Sunday, after New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day, is one of the biggest drinking days of the year, with incidents of people driving under the influence (DIU) spiking. Studies have reported an average BAC of .091 percent on Super Bowl Sunday and drinking violations for a monitored group jumped an average of 15 percent compared to usual rates on a Sunday. Alcohol and the game traditionally have gone together, and as a result 43 percent of all traffic fatalities on Super Bowl Sunday in 2012 were caused by drunk driving according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). With so many viewers annually, the Super Bowl is the most viewed TV program in U.S. history, and due to its popularity drinking violations have quadrupled in states and regions with teams participating in the game.

Over 100 million people regularly view the program, with 30 percent of teens and 20 percent of kids ages 2-11 reportedly watching the game and commercials. Out of all the commercials, roughly every 1 in 10 featured alcohol in a positive manner, which can be concerning when 20 percent of people ages 12-20 have self-reported drinking in a country with an underage drinking problem. The prevalence of drinking culture and commercials is further unsettling when studies have also shown that drinking at a young age leads to a higher risk of lifetime alcoholism. This overconsumption of alcohol and culture are not only perilous for those who aren’t in recovery, but places those in recovery in uncomfortable and potentially triggering situations.

Staying Sober on Super Bowl Sunday

If you’re in recovery, avoiding relapse during the Super Bowl can be harder than initially thought. It’s important to be honest with yourself this Sunday regarding your limits and vulnerability. This might mean that skipping a family or friend’s Super Bowl parties might be what’s healthiest for your sobriety in the long run, even if your favorite team might be competing this year. Instead, you can surround yourself and share time with those supporting your sobriety. If there comes a point where you come across thoughts of relapsing, don’t hesitate to contact a sponsor, therapist, or close loved one in order to make sure you stay on the right track. If you find yourself in the position where you can’t contact someone and you don’t think you can make it through the Super Bowl clean, don’t be afraid to contact Recovery Unplugged directly at so that you can make it through the Super Bowl sober.