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Staying Sober Over The Fourth Of July

Debra Wallace, MA.Ed, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Debra Wallace, MA.Ed, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS

April 8, 2019

Independence Day conjures up thoughts of parades, picnics, barbecues, beaches, fireworks, and other moments spent with family and friends. But for many, these festivities also involve drinking, and for some, illicit drug use. Time reports that Independence Day is the seventh highest drinking holiday in the US. Here are some things you can do before and during the Fourth to get strong and stay that way, should temptation arise.

Tips To Stay Sober On The Fourth Staying Sober Over The Fourth Of July_Drinking HolidayThe Fourth of July recognizes and cherishes our nation’s freedom and independence. But if you’re in recovery (especially early recovery) and entertaining thoughts of substance use, a return to drug or alcohol abuse is anything but freedom.

The following ideas will help you to relax and enjoy a sober holiday. Even if you’re not sober yet, these tips can help you to move closer to a drug-free life.

Go To A Meeting: Spending time with people who understand your unique challenges on this day can help you to stay focused on your recovery. This camaraderie and support will help you to make the most of the day.

Focus On Your Recovery: Don’t forget about all of the hard work you’ve put into getting sober. Take some time to reconnect and recommit to your recovery goals.

Remember Your Triggers: Triggers or cues are events, people, and even emotions which bring about memories of past drug use in a way which elicits cravings. By writing down your triggers beforehand, you can take steps to avoid them on the Fourth.

Refresh Your Coping Skills: Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, you can’t always avoid every temptation or trigger. It’s how you handle these moments that makes a huge difference. Spend some time revisiting the coping skills you developed during treatment so that you’re prepared to resist any urges or cravings.

Don’t Go It Alone: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, scared, or weak in the face of temptation, don’t let the heat of the moment consume you. Talk to a loved one, your therapist, a sober friend, your sponsor, or anyone who can help you to stay centered and remind you of your sobriety goals.

Practice Saying “No”: Starting now, rehearse different ways to firmly turn down requests for drinking or using. It might seem silly or overly simple at the time, but in the heat of the moment you’ll be glad you’re prepared. Carrying a non-alcoholic drink in your hand might dissuade someone from offering in the first place.

Have An Accountability Buddy: Play it safe and have someone with you who will commit to being sober and to keeping you accountable. Tell them in advance if there are certain triggers they should be on the lookout for. Have a code word in case things develop into a compromising situation. Should either of you say the word, leave immediately, no questions asked.

Prepare An Exit Plan: Have a plan in case a negative influence pops up. This could involve having an excuse on hand about why you have to leave. If you’re not driving make sure to arrange a reliable ride so that you can leave as soon as possible.

Avoid Drugs And Alcohol Altogether: If you don’t feel comfortable or strong enough to be in an atmosphere of substance use, then don’t. It’s that simple. Doing so places you within compromising situations which could threaten your sobriety. Your loved ones should understand this and support you in finding healthy alternatives.

Plan A Sober Get Together

Celebrate your independence and freedom from drugs and alcohol by planning a sober get-together. Invite friends from peer support groups and other loved ones who are willing to support your sobriety goals. Clearly state that the event is sober and plan some fun activities that everyone will enjoy. Don’t forget Fourth of July classics. Here’s some ideas:

  • Go to the parade, participate in local activities
  • Plan a picnic
  • Volleyball
  • Family fun day: water balloons, three-legged race, scavenger hunts, etc.
  • Potluck dinner
  • Bonfire with sparklers
  • Have people bring their instruments for an impromptu jam session Staying Sober Over The Fourth Of July_ParticipateDon’t fear, the fireworks will look just as bright and spectacular, sober. And they’ll be even better the next day when you can remember them and all the memories you made with your loved ones.

You don’t have to drink water to be sober. You can still keep things festive by preparing fun and tasty “mocktails,” or nonalcoholic beverages, for your evening. These drinks come in a variety of flavors and can even be served in fun glasses with creative garnishes. Here’s some recipes published by AAA to help you get started.

Is It Dangerous To Use Just Once?

When faced with this question, think of every day beyond the Fourth. Consider what fills those days: your job, schooling, partner, children, and/or other sources of responsibility and well-being. Would you trade one night for the many moments of joy and fulfillment tied to these things? Because the hard truth is it rarely ends up being only one time. Using “just once” often snowballs into full-blown relapse. If this happens, renewed substance abuse could:

  • Break the trust and hope you’ve established with your loved ones, damaging these important relationships.
  • Jeopardize your job or schooling.
  • Damage your physical and mental health.
  • Lead to overdose. Overdoses often occur when a sober person returns to substance abuse after prolonged abstinence.

Don’t let your cravings or thoughts of drug use destroy what could be a meaningful time spent with friends and family or the time beyond. Instead, invest in a positive, healthy night that will carry you towards a brighter tomorrow. But what if you or a loved one ends up using drugs or alcohol?

What To Do If You Relapse

Sadly, some individuals may fall prey to the excitement, temptation, triggers and/or peer pressure on the Fourth of July. If this happens, it’s important to realize that relapsing doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Relapse is actually very common within recovery. The good news is that many people who relapse go on to leave healthy, sober lives. Staying Sober Over The Fourth Of July_NIDA

The National Institute on Drug Abuse writes that “for the addicted individual, lapses to drug abuse do not indicate failure—rather, they signify that treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted, or that alternate treatment is needed.”

If you relapse, it’s critical that you or your loved one immediately become proactive about reclaiming and maintaining a sober state. At these times, a good treatment program can help you to get back on your feet and reinvested in your sobriety. While outpatient treatment is sufficient in many of these situations, certain circumstances might warrant a more comprehensive, inpatient program.

Stay Committed And Continue Building Your Recovery

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