Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
How To Avoid Relapse On The 4th Of July.
Some of the most difficult challenges in early sobriety are making it through the days when social drinking is accepted and even expected. The 4th of July is the perfect excuse to over-indulge. In my drinking/using days, holiday celebrations were just one more reason to get totally wasted. It seemed sophisticated to make champagne and orange juice part of the breakfast menu. It was sociable to be drinking before noon, and to be drunk (maybe even passed out) before the fireworks started. On Independence Day everyone tipped a few too many. At least, that’s what I thought at the time.
But truthfully, everyone does not get falling-down drunk. There are loads of folks who just watch the fireworks and then drive home afterward. For the newly recovering addict experiencing these firsts, the trick is finding safe, supportive people who also remain abstinent.
Ben – not his real name – just took his six-month tag after a decade of abusing drugs and alcohol. Ben is lucky to be alive. After his last overdose, Ben finally saw the light. Ben completed treatment and works hard to maintain his sobriety. But Ben says no matter how hard he works, he knows he’ll be facing temptation soon. This will be his first 4th of July, clean and sober. For any newly recovering addicted person, summer is a tough time. Beaches, sand, bikinis and beer coolers, go together like fireworks on Independence Day.
So what should you do if that little voice in your head whispers, ‘Maybe just one won’t hurt?’
Play the tape all the way through.
Yes, your old using buddies are gearing up for a wicked party. The start will be crazy-fun. Jokes, laughter, stories, but as the day passes into evening the jokes become a little too loud. The laughter a little too forced. By now you would have secluded yourself in the bathroom. You’re not hanging with your buddies anymore. You’re hanging out with drugs and they will consume the rest of your evening and the next day. Your phone will be ringing non-stop. Your family will be sick and frightened and trying to find you. Then, when you run out of drugs (because you’ve spent all your money and no one is willing to front you more) you’ll be left with the crash. Remember the crash? Let yourself feel it. Demoralizing, hopeless, shame. Pretty awful, wasn’t it? It’s normal to crave. Euphoric recall is a seductive mistress, but she’s also a lying one. You didn’t choose to be abstinent because everything was going great in your life. Drugs and alcohol were destroying you. You were dying and taking your family with you. Remember addiction is progressive – if you do pick up you don’t start at the beginning again, you start where you left off and it gets worse from there.
If it’s too risky…
Avoid people/places or celebrations that include drinking/drugging.
Maintaining your recovery needs to be your number one focus. There will be many more opportunities to attend 4th of July celebrations if you’re alive. Keep in mind, you’re fighting a life and death battle and you must be vigilant. If you are going to go into a slippery place, bring safe, sober, supportive people with you. Plan ahead by bringing water or other non-alcoholic beverages with you. Make sure to bring your car and have an exit plan. Now is not the time to ‘suck it up!’ If you’re feeling uncomfortable, say so.
Remember why you stopped.
Look around. Notice everything. You’ve only been sober a short time and look at how much you’ve already gained. You feel better. You look better. You’re doing better. You have hope. You’re grateful. You’re full of life and have energy. Your eyes sparkle. You have big dreams and you’re accomplishing them. Now picture your families face. Your kids are smiling again. Your spouse is happier. Your parents don’t jump every time the phone rings. People are beginning to trust you. You’ve worked hard to crawl out of that dark hole. Don’t let a passing impulse pull you back in.
What Ben is experiencing is healthy fear. Ben has much to be grateful for and he doesn’t want to lose it. Ben has a job. He has a roof over his head. He’s spending time with his family and best of all, his kids are back in his life again. Ben spends every weekend with his two sons. He says he can’t believe how much joy he gets from pushing them on the swings and doing ‘Dad things.’ Ben used to believe freedom came with opening a beer and ingesting drugs. Ben says he felt relaxed when he was using, but then crossed an invisible line and became someone he despised. He acted in ways that brought him and the rest of his family, shame and humiliation. Since Ben got clean he’s learned real freedom isn’t found in chemicals. It’s found in breaking the chains of addiction and living a life you feel proud of.
If you’re worried about someone you love, or you’re having a bad moment, instead of reaching for a beer or swallowing a pill, reach for the phone. Give Vertava Health a call. They have trained professionals who will take your call 24/7. They can talk you off the cliff and will stay on the phone with you until your cravings pass and you feel safe again.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1-888-614-2379.