Nothing looms larger for a newly sober alcoholic than a holiday, a weekend, or worse a holiday weekend.
In early sobriety, holidays are something to be negotiated carefully, especially holidays that involve a lot of drinking.
The first year of sobriety is really about a lot of ‘firsts.’
• First sober birthday
• First sober Christmas
• First sober New Years Eve
• First sober Thanksgiving
• First sober Superbowl
• First time having sex sober
You get the picture. These are all events that previously would have been perfect excuses to drink. Alcoholics particularly like events that ‘normal’ people drink (and get drunk on) because for that day they can pretend they’re normal too. Alcoholics can hide in a sea of drunk people.
In truth, alcoholics never need an excuse to drink, although if we have one we will never waste it.
So if this is your first sober July 4th here are some tried and tested methods for getting through it sober.
1. Have an escape plan. Wherever you are going, whatever you are doing, think of an exit strategy before you go. Don’t put yourself in a position where you are stranded and relying on someone else to give you a ride. Make sure you drive yourself to wherever you are going or have enough money for a cab or bus. That way, if you feel wobbly and need to get away, you can make your excuses and go.
2. It’s ok to lie. If you are not ready to tell people that you have stopped drinking and are in recovery it’s perfectly ok to fib. Tell them you are on medication that means you can’t drink, tell them you are driving later, tell them whatever you want.
Rehearse it in your mind before you go out, so if someone asks why you’re not drinking, or tries to force a drink on you, you have an excuse already to go. Don’t feel guilty about telling a white lie; your sobriety is your business and no one else’s.
3. Watch what you drink. It’s really easy in social situations to put your glass of soda down and go to pick it up and realize it’s someone else’s rum and coke. For someone in early sobriety that may be the only trigger they need. Keep hold of your drink at all times, or do something to the container that identifies it as yours, like writing your initials on it if it’s plastic.
4. Hang out with sober people. Sometimes in recovery, we feel that as soon as we get sober we have to start making it up to the people we hurt when we were drinking. It is a mistake to do this too early.
If you have been invited to a party with family or friends and there is usually lots of drinking and partying. Give yourself permission to politely decline. You may be feeling you should attend to make up for all the years you didn’t show up, or showed up drunk and ruined it for everyone. You don’t have to do any of those things. Remember July 4th comes round every year and next year you will be in much better shape to take part. This year, it may just be safer and wiser to hang out with people who don’t drink.
5. Think through the drink. If you find you are in a situation and you are tempted to drink, think through the ‘drunk’. Play the tape in your mind as you think through having the first drink, then the second, then the third, then what happens next. Think about how you would feel the next day, remember how awful it was.
Lastly, don’t’ be alone, don’t struggle on your own. Pick up the phone and call a friend or another sober person, be honest about how you feel and you will be amazed and the difference it makes when we begin to tell someone how we really feel. You don’t have to hide anymore.
Happy July 4th!