During the recovery process, it can be incredibly intimidating to be in any situation that would cause one to want to drink again. While some things, like going to a nightclub, are relatively avoidable, other situations can be much more difficult to steer away from. Family gatherings, birthday parties. holiday events, weddings — these are also places that alcohol frequents, so having a plan of action when in any high-risk situations or scenarios can help guarantee that one stays sober.
While going out with friends to have a fun night can be dangerous, it is certainly possible. Completely cutting one’s self off from society during the recovery process can have its own detriments, so it is important to balance the need for a sense of community and belonging and the dangerous triggering situations that going out can cause. But it is possible, and when successful, a major boost in confidence in the path of recovery.
Having a plan in the first place is the most important part. Knowing who will be there and where everyone will be are important factors. When dealing with difficult situations, knowing the plan and people present can aid in every other aspect of controlling one’s self and their day out. When having a plan to go to just a certain place and then back home, stick to just going to that place, even if adding events sounds good at the time. If there is an offer or opportunity to go to more places, simply make plans for them the next time out. Mitigate as many random factors in the night as possible, and it will reduce the number of triggers and temptations that one would face on any one given night. Having a backup plan is also important — knowing who is with you, how you are getting to any certain place, and what options there are available to leave if things become too difficult are all part of a plan that needs to be formulated before heading out.
Going out and having to explain why you don’t want to drink can be difficult, even embarrassing, for any number of reasons. However, no part of you is required to go into detail about your decisions. Part of your plan should already involve a designated driver as needed, so you can mention that or simply tell others that you prefer mocktails or just have to get up early the next morning. There is no requirement to share with people that you don’t feel comfortable with. When creating these plans, it is important to have someone trusted with you who does know about the possible struggles you will be confronted with. Although this person should be willing to help you through the night, there is no reason you should have to explain every aspect to everybody. Your decisions are all yours, even down to who you are with and what you drink or do not drink — which leads to one more important skill that needs to be developed: saying “no.”
Being able to say “no” is a real skill that requires practice and refinement. Peer and societal pressures are very real and can be exceedingly intense, especially during the recovery process when the temptations can be internal, as well. Saying “no” is important, and in recovery, it can be one of the most difficult things one can do. This ability will take time, so it is important to practice avoidance of high-risk situations whenever possible while this skill is being developed. While a close friend or loved one who knows of the situation may be able to help in this regard and intercept when necessary, it is still a necessary individual skill. Avoiding places where alcohol is present, or places and activities where one would previously drink is important — any location that has a distinct association with using.
Sometimes, going out just won’t be the right answer. Each day comes with a unique set of trials, some much more intense than others. Practicing saying “no” to going out in the first place (and offering to reschedule) may simply be a better choice. Also, suggesting to try something new in a much less risky situation can end up leading to experiencing new things and broadening horizons. Overall, the goal with seeking alternatives is to redefine what “fun” is and can be, in a new situation with no connotations to drinking.
There is no way to go out and be around alcohol that is not inherently dangerous for a recovering alcoholic. However, having the right support system, confidence, and determination makes it possible. When going out, know that there will be a new set of challenges, and each individual will need to decide for themselves where they are in their recovery process before making such a decision — and doing so safely. Keeping a few people close who are aware of the situation, as well as keeping to a particular, well-written plan can aid in having a successful and fun night without compromising recovery.
For those looking to find the strength to take their life back, or who just need an extra push, The Kimberly Center is there to help. With a holistic, “do no harm” approach to recovery, we are available at all steps of the recovery process, offering sober living, outpatient, and continuing care. Help is available. Call us today to speak to a professional at (855) 452-3683.