What do you associate with the Fourth of July? Hamburgers, fireworks, family, independence, patriotism? For many Americans it is all of the above. There are family traditions and community traditions. People spend the day with the people they care about and participate in activities they look forward to all year.
For others, the 4th of July is associated with binge drinking. Some people feel as though getting drunk on the 4th of July is a rite of passage. Others are only interested in a couple of cold beers, but couldn’t see the day without a mild buzz. For whatever reason, the 4th of July has certainly gained popularity as a drinking holiday in many circles.
So how does one stay sober on a day where abstaining from a drink may differ from many cultural norms?
Have a plan.
Like any holiday, the 4th of July can break us out of our regular routine. Routine is important for people in recovery and that is why it is important to have a plan. The first thing to think about when planning your holiday is to list out the events that you would like to go to and who you would like to see. This may include an annual BBQ at a friend or family’s house and spending some time with your siblings, followed by watching the local fireworks.
It is then important for us to evaluate each situation for the potential emotional, physical, and recovery hostile toll that it may take. Here are some example questions that you may ask yourself:
- How much drinking will there be at the BBQ?
- Will my siblings that I want to see be drinking?
- Will they be getting drunk?
- Will people offer me drinks?
- How late will the party go?
From there we can come up with a plan. The first thing we should do is re-evaluate if these events are things that we should attend. Do we have a good reason to be there? Seeing family members and showing up is often a great reason to attend a family party, especially if there is a history of not being present for these types of things. On the other hand, your evaluation may show that the BBQ you want to go to is going to be all about drinking and it may be best to find something else to do.
This brings us to our next step, contingency planning. It is always a good plan to have an escape route if you are feeling uncomfortable or need to make a swift exit when the party gets too rowdy. If we are traveling, it would make sense to connect with local people in the recovery community ahead of time. This can be done through 12-step programs and hotlines, Young People in Recovery (YPR) chapters, Collegiate Recovery Communities, or other groups that offer community and support for people in recovery. Maybe there is a YPR 4th of July Party. Maybe an AA clubhouse is having a special event for the 4th. Armed with this knowledge, getting out at the right time and avoiding bad situations becomes much easier.
The last part of planning is finding someone else to hold you accountable. This may be a friend, a sponsor, or a recovery ally. Setting a predetermined check in time for a call or text can help to keep you honest about how long you should stay somewhere and encourage a sense of self awareness about how you are doing. An easy solution is to commit to sending someone a text message when you leave a party and/or calling them before you go.
Remembering the Big Picture
Holidays may seem like a chore to people in early recovery. The extra planning and uncertainty can be taxing. It is important to remember to have fun. For many people in recovery, holidays like the 4th of July have been all about drinking for much of their life. Reassociating those memories with positive things like community and family will take time, but eventually it will happen. Remember to enjoy yourself in the process.