We leave treatment and the world around us is exactly the same, even though we have profoundly changed. Leaving treatment and entering back into daily life can feel like leaving the nest, a scary yet freeing experience. The world around us still uses substances at social events and gatherings and it can be hard to know how to exist in that space even after some time. Many of us are able to maintain friendships with those who do not share a substance-free lifestyle, and of course, we want to be able to do fun activities with them. How can you care for yourself when you’re the odd man out without a drink?
First Things First
Caring for yourself and your recovery becomes priority number one after leaving treatment. For many of us, taking time to heal and rebuild before jumping back into life as it was before is essential to lasting recovery. With this in mind, remember that while it may be tough to turn down attending that concert or celebrating that friend’s birthday, it is worth it to take an honest self-appraisal and the time you need away from certain environments. The hope for all of those in recovery is to be able to lead a full and healthy life, where we are able to go anywhere and do anything that others who do not struggle with substance use disorder can, and this goal is achievable. Some things take more time than others in recovery and if you listen to your inner voice and you lean into your sober support network, you’ll be able to do these things once more and with more assuredness that your recovery isn’t being put in a vulnerable place.
Let the Good Times Roll
If you are in a place where you feel safe to engage in activities where people may be using substances, there are many things you can do that can help make you feel safe in these settings. Concerts, birthday parties, weddings, and many other events can be enjoyable for those in recovery if we plan to keep ourselves comfortable and secure.
- Have a Support Person or Two
While you may choose to keep your sober status private, it’s extremely helpful to have one or two trusted friends by your side during an event. This isn’t so that they can chaperone or watch over you, but more so that you will have someone to turn to and be honest with if you are struggling, feeling anxious, or need to talk. Having someone there that is familiar with the fact that you are in recovery can make the event feel more relaxed and fun. If you so choose, they can also help provide someone to be accountable to or responsible for as a layer of extra comfort.
- Be Prepared With Your Answer
“I don’t drink,” is a simple and straightforward way to explain to others that you are not partaking. It’s clear and unapologetic and simple. Remember that you don’t need to explain any further to help someone understand your choice iif you are not comfortable doing so. You get to be the broken record if necessary, politely reminding them that you choose to avoid substances.
- Have a Non-Alcoholic Beverage in Hand
Sometimes not having a drink in hand can lead to us feeling left out or lead to questions from those who are partaking. Order yourself something from the bar that doesn’t contain alcohol, it can be as simple as a soda or water or you can look into different “mocktails,” which play off classic alcoholic beverages but keep the alcohol out. Having something safe in hand can put you at ease socially, it will help avoid prying questions and keep your hands busy.
- Have an Exit Plan
This doesn’t have to mean just at the end of the event. We may simply find ourselves overwhelmed by the energy of a space or people who are under the influence and need to step outside, step away, or take a break from it. This is another way having a support person can be helpful, you can grab your friend who knows where you’re coming from and take a moment. An exit plan for the end of the night or if you feel emotionally or mentally unwell during an event is also very useful. Even if you don’t end up utilizing the plan to remove yourself, even just knowing you have one in place can ease anxiety and allow you to have more fun.
- Have Fun
Perhaps the most important tip, have a good time. While the world we experience during recovery is sometimes somber and serious, the reason that we do it is so that we can have fun and fulfilling lives. Get a plan in place and a support network, and then work to let go of your fears surrounding social events. It’s incredibly beneficial for us to take some time to laugh and have fun.
Life only just begins when you leave treatment. While some things take time to grow comfortable with, you deserve to see your favorite band play, celebrate milestones in your friend’s lives, and be a part of special events. With some thought and planning, you can have fun no matter where you go.
Ashley Addiction Treatment is an innovative treatment program located on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Ashley provides support for professionals seeking help with addiction. We are able to help people with co-occurring disorders and offer confidential treatment programs to meet your needs. Please reach out to us today at 800-799-4673.