If you are in recovery, you may have a tough time with special events and holidays — especially any holiday that is a so-called “drinking holiday.” Even during the summer, those of us who are recovering from addiction must carefully navigate events that pose potential stumbling blocks to our sobriety. Whether it is the annual July 4th barbecue and a cooler full of beer or a gathering at the beach, block party or an outdoor concert where everyone is sipping sangria, margaritas or little drinks with umbrellas — any event presents a potential for relapse when we are trying to stay sober and avoid drinking triggers. Remember when you were in active addiction to alcohol or drugs and any holiday was an excuse to drink? Not anymore. Now that you are sober, you must be mindful of any social event or environment that you must navigate with caution or avoid altogether. To stay on track with your recovery program, you will need a sobriety game plan!
Here Are 6 Tips to Help You Avoid Holiday Drinking (and Other Pitfalls to Sobriety)
#1 Stay healthy and humorous. If you are in recovery, come up with funny ways to show others you are planning to stay sober and healthy. Try approaching sobriety on July 4th and other drinking holidays with humor. Wear a T-shirt that says, “I’m the designated driver,” or “Not Drinking … Driving Later,” or any other humorous motto that explains why you aren’t drinking and prevents people from offering you a drink or pressuring you to drink. #2 Host a “sober party” to support your friends in recovery. Throw a party for others who are in recovery. Plan a non-drinking get-together at your place, making sure not to invite anyone who may be drinking, which would be awkward and counter-productive. On any day that represents a potential trigger day for drinking — July 4th, Memorial Day, Labor Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, Hanukkah or New Year’s Eve — invite other members of your 12-step group or alumni from your addiction treatment program to enjoy some distracting, alcohol-free fun. #3 Attend a self-help support group meeting on every holiday. It’s a good idea to plan on going to a support meeting on every holiday to bolster your commitment to sobriety — and to support others in theirs. Some 12-step groups host special “sober parties” around holidays, but even if they don’t, these are the times when attending meetings can reinforce your resolve. #4 Write a script for declining invitations. Plan ahead by writing down a few ways you can tactfully decline invites to events where alcohol will be served. Telling a “white lie” in this case is OK, if you use it as a tool to protect your recovery. You might practice your script a few times until it becomes natural. Following the script helps prevent you from getting caught off guard and accepting an invitation that will put your recovery at risk. #5 Devise an exit from risky situations. Every recovering addict can unintentionally end up in a situation that is triggering — maybe others are unexpectedly drinking or doing drugs, and you need to find a way to get out of there fast. You can mention that you just got a text from a friend asking you to pick them up at the airport, or say that you are the designated driver for a friend and need to give them a ride home. Connecting your excuse to safe driving is a good way to telegraph why you are refusing drinks without having to mention words like “addict” or “alcoholic” or to even reveal that you are in recovery. #6 Explore new sober holiday traditions. Follow the example of many colleges and community centers across the country that now offer sober celebrations on holidays as a safe and healthy way for students and other young people to enjoy themselves. These are alternatives to drinking parties. You can do an online search of local community events to find annual alcohol-free events at venues like ice skating rinks or bowling allies. If you share the information with your peers in recovery, maybe you and your sober friends can establish a new alcohol-free event as a new annual tradition where you can feel supported in your recovery and still enjoy some fun. The goal of these six tips is to help you create a safe space for yourself and protect your recovery — especially when the calendar indicates that there is a holiday or event approaching that may throw obstacles in your way. A little advance planning can go a long way to ensuring your long-term, healthy and happy sobriety.