7 Sober Tips for Memorial Day From People Who’ve Been There

We Asked People In Recovery For Their Strategies

Memorial Day is coming up fast and while many are looking forward to the long weekend, holidays like this one can create some anxiety for those of us in recovery. It might be a little easier than usual, since we’re still technically in the time of social distancing, but we asked some of our sober friends for their tips for navigating Memorial Day.

1. Start Some Self Reflection

Check in and ask yourself some questions such as, where am I at in my recovery? Am I capable of going to a place where alcohol will be served and not being triggered to use? Have I built a support network I can call upon if I do have these feelings?  Be honest with yourself, know your limits, and stick to them. If you can’t say with confidence that your sobriety would be safe in a situation where people are drinking, don’t go. 

2. Have Portable Coping Skills

Amanda Gist, public speaker and writer on mental health and addiction, suggests that when a trigger arises it’s good to have some go-to coping skills in your back pocket. For example, these can be “excusing yourself for a ten minute walk, doing some deep breathing in the bathroom, or applying lavender essential oil to your neck and wrists to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Another option would be to have a friend you can reach out to via text with the agreement that they’ll help you untangle the thoughts you’re struggling with in the moment of the trigger.” 

3. Do Something Different This Year

This one might be easier due to lockdown but going to the same party you went to last year when you were using isn’t a good idea. As Joanne Ketch of Chrysalis Counseling says, “Don’t do the ‘same old thing.’ Try a new way to celebrate. For instance, you could go to a different home, grill something new, go to the park, even change the music. Changes will help your brain not associate the day with drinking or using.” 

4. Going to a Party? Mentally Prepare Yourself for Questions (and Prepare Answers, Too)

If you’re going to a gathering, barbecue or party, another suggestion from Amanda is to have some verbal responses planned in case you are offered a drink. “This way, you know you won’t be stumbling around for words if you are offered a drink. No swinging between telling your life story and just running away. Have a few reliable one-liners, like the simple but effective ‘No thanks, I don’t drink.’ Or the grateful but stern ‘I appreciate the offer, that’s so thoughtful of you but I’m not drinking.’ Or there’s the offer-them-an-alternative: ‘I don’t drink alcohol but I’d love a lemonade if you have one!’

5. Find a Substitute

Do you feel awkward at a party without something in your hand? Megan Kioulafofski, founder of Sol and Spirit, suggests coming prepared with a substitute. “It avoids those ‘you’re not drinking?’ conversations and makes me feel like I’m not missing out on anything,” she says. For example, Megan’s favorite substitute is to mix Kombucha with soda water, “it has a nice bite to it.” 

*Additionally, just make sure your alcohol-free drink isn’t made with anything you used to use in your drink of choice to avoid triggers. For example, if you used to drink Rum and Coke, it’s not a good idea to drink plain coke at a party. 

6. Have Your “Outs” Ready

“… And be willing to use them,” says Joanne. Planning an escape or distraction strategy ahead of time will be helpful in the event you feel that the situation is no longer safe for your sobriety. “The out can be physically leaving the event. But, it can also be a smaller ‘out’ such as a text, phone call, FaceTime or Skype with someone. They can support you and talk you through it.”

7. Replace FOMO with JOMO and Skip it Altogether

Mike, founder of “I Will Not Drink With You Today,” suggests a different approach altogether. “If you feel that going anywhere will trigger you, ask yourself ‘What’s more important: this party or my sobriety?’ Holidays come and go, there’s no reason you can’t sit this one out.  Camp at home with some TV or a book and watch how nothing is different afterward.” 

We hope these tips were able to help you stay sober this Memorial Day. If you find yourself or a loved one needing additional support reach out to us we are here for you.

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