There are many firsts in recovery. There is the first sporting event without alcohol. There is the first date without alcohol. There is the first holiday season without using. Facing a social situations without the comfort of liquid courage and the usual coping mechanisms can evoke anxiety. Preparing for those firsts is the best defense against relapse. Here are a few suggestions:
1. You have nothing to prove. At times, people new in recovery want to “test” their ability to not use. There is no pressure to place yourself in uncomfortable situations that place your recovery at risk to prove a point. We avoid people, places, and things that are triggers.
2. Learn your challenging emotions. Identify those emotions that are intense or most difficult to manage.
3. Holidays Past. For some, holidays are a time for celebration and jovial times. Traditions and social norms may involve bonding over food and drink. Experiencing the first holiday without drinking may bring up thoughts of “the good old days” or “I can only deal with my family drunk or high.” Talk to your support about these thoughts and feelings prior.
4. Ghosts of Christmas Past. Recalling family outings when intoxication led to embarrassing and humiliating behavior can be overwhelming. This may be the first family gathering that you have attended in some time. Resentments, anger, guilt, and loneliness are some of the feelings that using covered up. Interacting with family and friends can bring these feelings to the forefront and using or drinking may seem appealing to deal with the uncomfortable feelings.
Talk to your sponsor, support, and counselor about addressing these concerns prior to attending these events. Review #1 on this list. You have nothing to prove
5. You don’t have to be alone. Have a support person with you when attending events that knows your triggers, worries, and recovery plan. The support person can be a friend or family member. You can have a friend in recovery with a strong foundation with whom you can partner on various family events to help keep each other accountable and clean. The ultimate weapon against the disease (of addiction) is another recovering addict.
6. Some family and friends may not understand the journey you are on in recovery. You may hear statements like:
“Come on, you have not drank (or used) in __ days. You can have a drink (or use).”
“Are you going to let me drink (or use) alone?”
“Look at, you stopped. You can control it. You just need will power.”
It may be appealing or seem like a good idea to listen for several, seemingly plausible, reasons.
STOP. PA– USE. Run your idea by support and sponsor. Consider your past.