Content Reviewed by Jennifer Wheeler, Clinical & Community Outreach for New Life
With COVID-19 restrictions dropping, social activities are increasing. Summer is also quickly approaching, and social drinking and partying opportunities will be plentiful. For individuals in recovery, this combination of factors can be overwhelming.
Although everyone in recovery is bound to face the challenges of staying sober at social events, the idea can be daunting for those struggling to sustain their sobriety. It is essential that individuals in recovery work to keep their recovery at the highest priority during this summer season and every season to follow. With these helpful tips, you can learn how to enjoy social events without a voice in your head encouraging you to relapse.
Reflect on Your Commitment to Sobriety this Summer
Before testing the waters at social events this summer, reflect on your commitment to sobriety and lifelong recovery. You may have to look back on the consequences of your substance use or addiction to consciously remember why you decided to be sober. These reasons should always be kept at the forefront of your mind, especially at events where alcohol and other substances are present.
Reflection in recovery also helps you become aware of any negative or intrusive thought patterns lurking when you think of social gatherings. It is important to constantly re-evaluate your emotional triggers so that you can identify what is causing them. New triggers can develop at any point, and when they develop without notice, you may react to them without considering behavioral consequences.
Try to avoid dwelling on the past. Instead, recognize all of the circumstances that caused you to choose treatment, sobriety and ultimately, recovery.
Have a Plan for Events Ahead Of Time
Planning and scheduling provide many benefits, especially for those in recovery. Effective treatment for substance use and recovery involves short-term and long-term treatment planning. Similarly, it is essential to plan for the events you want to attend outside of treatment.
Some notable benefits of planning your summer ahead of time include:
- Having peace of mind with the decisions you make for yourself
- Having an exit plan when you attend social events
- Spacing out the events that you attend to avoid social and emotional burnout
- Feeling confident enough to decline invitations to social events without having to do so last-minute
- Planning therapy or treatment sessions during weeks or weekends that may bring about increased levels of stress and anxiety
- Identifying and managing triggers by preparing for them before they occur
- Preventing relapse
One of the most important things you can do for yourself in recovery is to have an exit or emergency plan during social events, specifically if there is alcohol involved. Your emergency plan can help you rehearse everyday answers to questions such as, “Can I get you a drink?” or, “Come on, it’s just one drink.” Most importantly, your plan should outline what to do when you experience unavoidable triggers or intense temptations to use substances. In this case, consider the following:
- Have a friend or loved one on speed dial that will be ready to come to get you at any point. You can say you aren’t feeling well as an excuse to leave.
- Have a friend ready to call you with the intent that you need to leave the event and see them immediately. This way, you can have a valid excuse to go if you have your own vehicle.
- If you know that alcohol and other drugs are accessible, you can set the stage for an early exit when you arrive. You can let your host know that you can only stay for a short time and not feel as bad when you choose to leave.
Set Ground Rules as You Socialize while in Recovery
Although you have planned out your summer, what do you do when you are faced with the task of attending social events? If you want to prevent relapse, you have to set healthy expectations and ground rules for yourself.
Before you go, know what time you will get to your event and plan how long you want to stay. The details regarding this situation may depend on several factors. For instance, if you have other sober friends attending, you may feel more comfortable staying longer.
Either bring a drink or get a non-alcoholic beverage once you are there so that your hand has something to hold. If someone sees that you already have a drink, there is far less chance that they will volunteer to get you anything.
If you are going somewhere you are unfamiliar with, consider bringing a sober buddy. Once you are at the event, locate your safe space. Maybe there are snacks or a dance floor. Either way, find an area or a person you can be with that will help you relax.
If Attending Social Events Feels Unmanageable, Seek Treatment.
Whether you have relapsed due to social events in the past or can’t fight the temptations when you are in substance-using environments, substance use treatment will meet you exactly where you are. There are several treatment variations, including inpatient — where you reside at the treatment facility — and outpatient, where you attend therapy while continuing to care for your outside responsibilities. It all depends on the level of care you need to secure long-term sobriety and recovery.
New Life recognizes the temptations of the summer season. We offer several different treatment programs to meet our patients where they are in their unique recovery journey. We will help you face the obstacles that keep you from securing long-term recovery so that you no longer need to feel defeated by your temptations. To learn more, give us a call today at (877) 929-2571.