For Locals: Top Five Tips on How to Handle the Pressures of Attending the Annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa, Florida When You Are in Recovery


Yo Ho Ho! The Pirate Life isn’t for everyone.

The Gasparilla Pirate Festival is the largest parade held in Tampa, FL, which has hosted parties and community events every year since 1904.  The Gasparilla Pirate Festival celebrates the legend of José Gaspar, known as Gasparilla, who was a mythical Spanish pirate that frequented Southwest Florida in the early 1800s.  Gasparilla Pirate Festival showcases parade floats, bar crawls and heavy drinking, and partying in the streets.   Being the third largest parade in the country, this event brings over 1 million “modern day pirates” to the Tampa Bay area. 

Banyan Hyde Park, a women’s residential addiction treatment facility, is located just 10 steps from the parade route.  While this is a festive parade full of positive energy and love for the city, there are also huge crowds of “tipsy pirates” that could challenge the recovery of sober attendees and locals.  That’s why Banyan Hyde Park put together a schedule of sober activities for those in our care, and tips on how to prepare for Gasparilla for anyone in recovery. 

  1. Don’t succumb to pressure.  Your friends who are not in recovery may ask you to join the Gasparilla festivities.  Don’t feel pressure to tag along, especially in an environment you know is full of drinking and possible triggers.  Stay firm on your answer and don’t feel bad about it. Your friends should respect you and value your decision to take recovery seriously.   Keep in mind, strength comes with time.  Sometimes, those in early recovery may feel like super woman/man, but we’ve seen people expose themselves to high risk situations time and time again sooner than they were ready.  Consider everything you have been through and evaluate if you really think that you are ready for exposure to the smells, sights, and feelings related to being in an alcohol-saturated environment.  Only you will know when you are ready, but most people need at least a year under their belt before they can tolerate environments with excessive alcohol.  Again, don’t give in to any pressure. It’s not worth losing what you worked so hard to achieve.

  3. Make plans to travel out of the city for a few days. You may feel like you are missing out on Gasparilla or that you will be tempted to join the parties, so we suggest you take a few days to yourself and get out of town.  Plan a mini getaway or take a trip to Orlando, Naples or surrounding areas that aren’t going to be riddled with loud and drunk party-goers.  Removing yourself from that environment is a good decision and also escaping the Gasparilla traffic nightmare doesn’t hurt also.

  5. Evaluate yourself and your intentions before you go to Gasparilla.  If you find yourself in a situation where you are out on the town and party-goers are everywhere during Gasparilla, ask yourself, “What are my motives for being here?”  Are you going because you truly enjoy meeting new people out or did you go to be in a party environment?   If you’ve been off-track, experiencing cravings or thoughts of using, not attending meetings, etc., you should probably stay away.  If the answers are, “I really enjoy seeing my friends at this particular hangout,” and “My recovery is strong right now, I’m on track,” then you’re in a good place. Most importantly, if you do end up going, know when it’s time to leave. If you begin to feel uncomfortable, pressured into using, or experience cravings, it’s okay to excuse yourself.

  7. Go to a meeting.  If you are feeling pressured or stressed during Gasparilla, it’s time to refocus on your recovery and your goals. You have to put yourself in a position where you are around others in recovery.  The meetings will be your support community.  Other people in recovery will help take your mind off wanting to go to Gasparilla.  Local meetings in Tampa, Florida can be found here:

  9. Plan a sober event of your own with your friends.  During the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, you can create your own sober haven with no alcohol.  It’s not all about the beads and booze, it’s about connecting with the community and friends and being able to still celebrate traditions while staying sober. Plan a BBQ, a movie night, game night, or other sober activities to keep you busy and enjoying your time with friends without having to go to the bar scene or the parades in the streets.  You can get a much better view of the decked-out cars and pirate decorated boats on the television news than trying to jump over people in a crowded part of town to catch a glimpse.

For more information on our addiction treatment center for women in Tampa and which levels of care we provide, please contact us at (813)-670-9505.


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Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.