Recovery house owner Bryan Kennedy and friends take in games without booze — and love it

Bryan Kennedy first entered his recovery from addiction not long before Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds.

It was the first game of the National League Division Series in 2010 at Citizens Bank Park. Kennedy was living in a local recovery house, and after the win, he and his roommates excitedly ran to neighboring recovery houses to celebrate — kind of like the rowdy Eagles fans who stormed Broad Street two weeks ago after the team won the NFC Championship.

But unlike many of those Eagles fans, Kennedy was sober that night.

When he first entered recovery eight years ago, Kennedy thought it would be impossible to have fun without using. “How do you go to tailgate or even go inside Eagles games without drinking?”

But his experience in a recovery house changed that assumption. And leading up to Super Bowl LII’s Eagles–Patriots matchup this weekend, Kennedy wants to provide that same opportunity for others who recently got clean.

At one of his six Bucks County facilities operating as Independence Lodge Sober Living, he’s hosting a sober watch party Sunday night.

Providing a booze-free space to catch the action is good for both those in recovery and their loved ones, Kennedy noted. “I get to watch the light come on in these guys’ eyes,” he said. “I get to see their families breathing easier and sleeping better…they don’t have to worry.”

Even without liquor or beer, the Independence Lodge house is doing the Super Bowl big: Two living rooms will be set up with two big-screen TVs, barbecue, wings and pulled pork tacos from a Brazilian place down the street — which also happens to be owned by someone in recovery, Kennedy said.

“One of the things people in recovery really get into during these events is the menu,” he observed. “We put a lot of our money that doesn’t go toward alcohol anymore toward the food.”

Kennedy’s not the only one hosting a celebration free of drinking. Barb Williamson, who owns the Way of Life Recovery houses in Philly and Bucks County, is ready to break out fireworks if the Birds win.

“We absolutely have sober parties all the time,” Williamson said. “I’m sure everyone will act crazy, but sober.”

Andrew Haselroth — who lives in Williamson’s New Falls, Pa., house — has never watched a Super Bowl sober before this year. Now that he’s in recovery, he said, football is a totally different experience.

“It’s probably more fun when I’m sober because I can enjoy it,” Haselroth said. “At the playoff game, we were loud and rowdy…. Doing that sober is a whole new world to me. It was amazing.”

He added an important postscript: “And I remembered the game the next day.”

Tyler Cordeiro, another Way of Life resident, sees a past version of himself in the drunk people climbing poles and smashing cars after games. He realizes that must have been what he looked like before he got sober.

“I’m happy I’ll be able to enjoy the game,” Cordeiro said, “and not worry about getting arrested.”

When Kennedy tailgated the NFC Championship a few weeks ago with some of his residents, he said they had the same realization.

“We had conversations the next day and the days after about how awesome it was to not have to go stand in line for the bathroom 17 times, to be able to remember every detail of the game,” Kennedy said. “We were being the type of Philly Eagles fans we would like the rest of the country to recognize.”

There’s just one hiccup in Kennedy’s Super Bowl plans: one of his residents is from Boston, and he was raised a Patriots fan.

“Every time I walk into the house he’s making some remarks,” Kennedy said. “If for any reason the Patriots win, we’re going to have to kick him out.”

But Kennedy said even a Pats fan can’t ruin his day.

“We’re gonna have an absolute blast sitting on the edge of our couches, high-fiving each other,” Kennedy said. “We’ve learned it doesn’t require alcohol to have fun. And we’re going to wake up Monday morning feeling a lot better than the rest of the city.”

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...