5 Thoughtful Suggestions for Staying Sober During Labor Day Weekend
For many, Labor Day signals the end of summer. Soon, school will be back in session, and over much of the United States, the temperature will decline. Moreover, there might not be that many more opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors without a parka and ski pants.
But I live in Michigan – the state shaped like a piece of winter apparel. What do I know?
I do know this: attending barbecues, parties, and other Labor Day events can be stressful on someone who is newly sober or drug-free. And as a recovering alcoholic, I also know that now is precisely the time I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend like I’m not at risk for relapse.
But for many others in the same boat as myself, their weekend may seem more daunting.
Henceforth, I’d like to offer some well-thought out suggestions for staying sober during the Labor Day weekend without losing your mind.
#1 Remember, it’s just another weekend.
If you are anything like me, you might have, in the past, noticed an uptick in your drinking patterns over the weekend. While it’s normal to want to cut loose once you are free of the daily work grind, remember that this weekend – and every weekend, for that matter – isn’t really that special.
Weekends are just days. They are no more or less stressful than any other day. There is no more reason to inbibe or cut loose than any other time. Alcoholics especially tend to find creative ways to excuse their drinking behavior. Labor Day, no matter the implications, does not offer an excellent reason to relapse.
#2 Remember that once upon a time, you could have fun NOT DRINKING.
Whether you started drinking or as an adult, it doesn’t matter. Most of us can remember a time when we had fun without alcohol. If you are newly sober, now is the time to really reflect on that history.
Try to think back to a holiday weekend when you had an absolute blast, with minimal or no alcohol. You were probably healthier back then. You had other reasons to look forward to the 3-day weekend. Whether you visited family, participated in backyard games, went camping, or engaging in any associated outdoor activities, you enjoyed yourself. Without alcohol. Yes, there was a time. There will be more. I promise.
#3 Consider your choices of activities – but remain realistic.
All of us, at one point, probably had an enabler. And the worst enablers are the ones who seem to walk that fine line of alcohol abuse without crossing it. These people assume you could do the same, if you just tried.
Well, if you are reading this and can relate to what I’m saying, chances are, you found out long ago that you can’t.
However, I am not a huge advocate of avoidance. Avoid if you have to, but the bottom line is, alcohol is legal and its not going to go away. If you force yourself to avoid every activity or place that involves drinking, you might end up drowning your sorrows at home, alone. There is an art to staying sober. Avoidance seems like a simple plan. But how is that going to work out for you in the long run?
I’m not saying to go to bars or heavy-drinking parties. What I am saying is this: if you are any type of social person, you have to get used to this fact. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Weigh your risks. And the best part is, if you are offered alcohol and say no, you are far more empowered than someone who simply avoids the situation altogether.
#4 Don’t forget everything you’ve learned about staying sober.
It doesn’t matter if you have one day, one week, or one month under your belt – if you are sober for any length of time, you have accomplished something.
If you have gone through rehab, counseling, and/or therapy, you have probably been taught how to deal with triggers and utilize coping mechanisms. Once you are sober, these are the tools that will help you remain that way.
It’s okay to stop, take a break, and check yourself. What I mean is, practice mindfulness. Remember that cravings are just that – they are not life-threatening. Your thoughts and feelings during this time are not wrong – they just ARE. That is, you don’t have to be down on yourself for flirting with temptation. Temptation is not good or bad – it’s how you deal with temptation that is important.
Indeed, defeating temptation is the very thing that helps addicts and alcoholics recover. So if you feel it, take notice of it. Then move on.
#5 Don’t feel sorry for yourself.
Addiction and alcoholism, by many models, are considered a form of disease. However, there are worse things you could be facing. Be happy that you can exert some control over your fate. If you were primarily dealing with cancer or some other physical condition, you might not be able to enjoy the holiday at all.
I’m not trying to be morbid, but consider the worst case scenario…you could be lying in a hospital bed. You could be homeless. But if alcoholism is the worst thing you are facing, honestly, it’s probably not the end of the world. Staying sober is difficult, but not impossible. You do have a choice.
So you can’t have a drink? Well, some people don’t even have clean drinking water. It’s tough love, but in all honestly, you should have a Coke and a smile and quit dwelling over your mild misfortune. This is the kind of pep talk I’ve had to give myself, so I say it with the best of intentions.
As I composed this piece, I really tried to keep it unique and offer something new. There is a lot of advice on the Internet, but a great deal of it is blanket. What I mean is, how many times have you been told to avoid triggers? Maybe that’s good advice for some, but not for all. No one model of abstinence will fit everyone.
However, my hope is that my experiences and related thoughts will somehow provide new insight to those who continue to struggle with sobriety.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology
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