From my personal experience and what has worked for me, I want to share with you how to stay sober against all odds. Recovery from alcohol is a huge milestone and brings many successes and celebrations. But, it also brings with it some challenges. For many newly sober individuals, it can seem impossible to celebrate or have a good time with friends without feeling tempted to turn to alcohol.
It is possible to celebrate without alcohol if you are prepared, always have a backup plan, use the buddy system, and manage stress in a healthy way. Next time you are celebrating a special occasion, turn to these failsafe ways to maintain your sobriety and still have a good time.
Before you head out to your event, make sure you’re ready for what’s to come. Have a birthday coming up for you or a friend? Chances are, alcohol will be involved. To get a feel for what to expect, look at the guest list, the venue, and the theme of the party. If it’s your own party, plan a “dry” party and let your guests know ahead of time. Your loved ones will still have a great time, even if there aren’t any drinks! Plus, delicious food and a great playlist will distract anyone from the lack of drink in their hand!
During the holidays, you can still create a festive environment without feeling the need to drink. It’s easy to make some non-alcoholic holiday drinks, put some holiday music on, and play fun games. Everyone loves things like White Elephant gift exchanges, charades, board games, and more. You and your guests will all have fun, and you won’t have to sacrifice any of your hard work.
Have a Back-Up Plan
All the preparation in the world can’t guarantee that you won’t be tempted at a celebration or gathering, which is why it’s important to have a back-up plan. In case things go sideways, know who you will call, where you will go, and what you’ll do. For example, a birthday party or work happy hour might seem innocent enough, until the group goes out for an after party in a neighborhood you might not be familiar with. All of these stressors might tempt you, so feel free to bow out respectfully to enjoy your sobriety and not ruin the celebration. A friend or loved one will be happy to pick you up if that means helping you stay on track.
Use the Buddy System
Just like having a friend to call if a party goes unexpected and you suddenly have to leave, having a buddy at the celebration with you is invaluable to protecting your sobriety while still enjoying yourself. This buddy should help you monitor your drinks to make sure you don’t get the spiked version, steer the conversation when someone asks about your lack of drinking and, most importantly, not complain if you want to leave the party early. Sometimes, these celebrations can be too much for those recovering from alcohol addiction. If that is the case, don’t be afraid to leave and take your buddy with you.
Manage Your Stress in a Healthy Way
Knowing and managing your stressors is the most important way to stay sober and happy. This tip is helpful for everyone, not just those recovering from addiction, but it’s even more important for this population because stress, like depression or anxiety, is probably one of the reasons users turned to alcohol in the first place. Many times, addicts don’t have a healthy way to express their anxiety, anger, or frustrations, so they turn to alcohol or drugs. This is a slippery slope that can quickly snowball into a dangerous situation.
Now that you’re sober, though, knowing how to manage this stress is key. Many experts in the recovery field use HALT to help users identify their stress:
H – Hungry
A – Angry
L – Lonely
T – Tired
While these obviously aren’t all the causes for stress, they can be the foundation for other feelings. So instead of turning to a drink when you feel this stress come on, develop a stress management tool that works for you. It could be distancing yourself from the situation, finding a new hobby, doing a short breathing exercise, or countless other stress management techniques.
We bring this up in explaining celebrating without alcohol because a social situation, like a party, might trigger a recovering addict’s stressors, making them more likely to reach for a drink. If this situation arises, identify the stressor and distance yourself from it as soon as possible. Whether this is a person from your past that you used to drink with, an uncomfortable setting, or just social exhaustion, it’s important to take care of your own mental health to protect your sobriety.
Being sober doesn’t mean that you can’t still have fun and celebrate with your friends and family. By being prepared, having a support system, and knowing how to identify and manage stress that may arise, you can have just as much, if not more, fun as those around you.
Author’s Bio: Trevor is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.