Relapse Prevention – Dealing With Highly Triggered Areas: Holiday Parties
No matter what time of the year it is – summer, spring, winter or fall – it seems there is always something to celebrate. While fall and winter are unarguably the most holiday-heavy times of year (what with Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve) the spring and summer bring their own festivities. Easter is right around the corner, as is St. Patrick’s Day and The 4th of July. Oh, and Cinco de Mayo. And let us not forget Passover, Palm Sunday and Tax Day. When active in alcoholism or addiction it’s easy to turn any holiday (no matter how obscure) into a drinking holiday. One of the nice things about sobriety is you’ll begin to learn that there are many ways to celebrate the holidays, and that very few of them involve blacking out on margaritas or drinking so much green beer that you can’t see straight. Of course, the holidays can still be extremely triggering, even if the focus has been shifted away from drinking.
Let’s take a look at each of these three upcoming holidays and how to avoid relapse triggers and stay committed to sobriety through each and every one of them.
Staying Sober on St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day is notorious for being one holiday that almost exclusively revolves around drinking. If you ask ten strangers on the street why we celebrate, there’s a good chance that one or less will know the actual answer. In most cases, friends get together on this day to dress in green and bar hop. The very best thing to do on this day is plan a non-booze oriented activity for you and your sober friends. Start your own annual tradition! Here are some examples of fun sober activities that you can do rather than going downtown and running amuck.
- Host a St. Patty’s potluck.
Tell everyone to bring a green dish – creamed spinach, green mashed potatoes, green cupcakes… you name it! Assign something to everyone and have a festive (drug and alcohol-free) dinner party. Remind your guests to dress up too! There are tons of super fun party games that you can play that don’t involve alcohol, like Cards Against Humanity or something old-school like Truth or Dare.
- Host a movie night, or go out to the movies.
Invite a few close, sober friends over for a movie night and pizza. If you don’t feel like staying at home go to the movies! One of the nice things about holidays like St. Patrick’s Day is that the movie theater will probably be close to empty. Take advantage of the fact that other people are out at the bars and go to the movies… or go bowling!
- Take one close, sober friend to a themed dinner at a nice restaurant.
A lot of restaurants will offer special meals during holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, which is a holiday that is actually just as much about corned beef and cabbage as it is about green beer! Scout out a restaurant with St. Patrick’s Day food specials and treat yourself to a nice dinner.
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
There’s no better way to get out of your own head and move to a place of gratitude than to volunteer and work with those in need. Homeless shelters and soup kitchens are always looking for volunteers to help with food preparation, serving and clean-up. Call a local shelter and see what you can do to help.
- Go on a night hike with some sober friends.
Doing something outdoors is always a healthy and fulfilling alternative to bar hopping. Organize a night hike with your friends and make that an annual tradition! You’ll get in some good exercise while having fun and inevitably getting more grounded. Take a few moments to meditate while out in the vast wilderness.
Staying Sober on Easter
While Easter is not considered a drinking holiday, it can still be extremely triggering for some. Some people spend Easter with their families, and if the family is dysfunctional that could pose a threat to sobriety. You also might have some memories tied to this holiday – painful memories of family problems or maybe memories of a family member you recently lost. For some, the religious affiliations can also be triggering. It isn’t uncommon for those who grew up strictly religious to grapple with some kind of related trauma. If you are new to sobriety and you believe that returning home to celebrate Easter with the family will trigger a potential relapse, simply tell your family members that you need to prioritize your health and you’ll be there next year. Of course, this conversation isn’t an always easy one to have – but that’s why you’ve got a solid support system in place. Go to a meeting and share about your hesitations or go grab coffee with your sponsor and let them know where you’re at emotionally.
Staying Sober on Cinco de Mayo and the 4th
Like St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo is a holiday notorious for its ties to heavy drinking. Many people will host booze-fueled parties on this day. The best advice we have, again, is to host your own party (or attend a party hosted by a sober friend). Many newly sober addicts and alcoholics worry that once they stop drinking or doing drugs they won’t know how to have fun. They might be afraid that things will become dull and boring… that social gatherings won’t be quite as fun as they used to be. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! You’ll soon recognize that the laughs you’re sharing with friends are actually authentic. There’s little chance that you experienced deep belly laughs while in active addiction. Do what you can to make this holiday a celebration of Mexican cuisine – taco bar, anyone? Ovoid highly triggering places, and if you do go to a party where alcohol is present make sure you’re doing what’s necessary for relapse prevention. Bring a sober friend, make sure your sponsor is available for a phone call and go to a meeting before and after the social event. Saying sober on the 4th of July can be just as difficult, considering every backyard BBQ and fireworks viewing party will likely be punctuated by heavy drinking. If you’re feeling shaky in your sobriety then it might be best to avoid BBQs and other parties where you know there will be a lot of drinking. Again, make the holiday about food! Host your own BBQ and invite your friends to bring a dish. The firework shows typically start right at sundown, so there’s no reason to stay out too late. Create your own tradition, host your own event, and if you do end up going somewhere that might trigger you be sure you have all of your relapse prevention tools in place.
We understand that early recovery is a bit difficult to navigate, especially when it comes to holiday parties and other potentially triggering social events. The most important thing is that you remember all of the preventative tools you learned in inpatient treatment and in your comprehensive aftercare program, and that you utilize those tools whenever necessary. For more information on avoiding relapse triggers and staying sober, please give us a call. No matter what stage you’re at in your recovery, we are available to help.
The Help You Need Is Here
Whether you are ready to take the first step toward lifelong recovery or want to connect with fellow Guardian IOP alumni, we encourage to speak with a Recovery Specialist at (855) 517-1871.