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  • Caleb Birkhoff

Negotiating July 4th Sober – Tips and Tricks

The July 4th holiday is just around the corner, and for many, it is time to celebrate and engage in various social events. However, for those struggling with addiction or in recovery, this holiday can be challenging. The celebrations, alcohol, and temptation to engage in old behaviors or relapse can be overwhelming.

This might be the first time you’re interacting with friends, family members, or coworkers since you’ve decided to stop drinking. Deciding to stop drinking, whether it's for health reasons or personal choice, is a big step. But one of the most difficult challenges can be telling your friends and family about your decision, so it’s good to have a plan, especially with this holiday looming. You may be worried about how they will react or whether they will support your decision. But there are ways to approach the conversation that can make it easier for you and your intended audience. Working with a therapist is a great way to make sense of this process for you, and help you figure out how you want, or need, to share it with others.

If you are worried about how to negotiate the holiday season while staying clean and sober, we've got you covered! Below are some helpful tips and tricks to handle July 4th sober.

Manage your Risk!

1. Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is critical when dealing with sobriety during the July 4th holiday. Take the time to identify the social events you will be attending. The first step in telling your friends and family that you're not drinking is to be honest and upfront about your decision. Don't beat around the bush or try to downplay your choice. Clear, concise, and direct is a great way to have this conversation. Your level of disclosure is up to you, you don’t have to explain why. If you are ready to explain your reasons for not drinking and how you feel about it, practice what you’re going to say before you say it. This can help your loved ones understand your decision and be more supportive. If you’re not ready to give them the back story, humor can often be a disarming way of avoiding going any further with the topic than you’re ready. I’d encourage you to think about bringing your own non-alcoholic beverages, it’s risky to rely on others to take care of a need that you might not have expressed yet.

2. Bring a Sober Buddy or Support

Having a sober companion, familiar with your situation, can be helpful. They can provide support and motivation as you negotiate the festivities. Your sober buddy can also help you avoid the desire to return to old habits and remind you of the gains you have made in your recovery. Having a friend or family member who is in the know can make a huge difference if you need support. Additionally, consider making sure you have a safe way to get to and from the event, specifically a form of transportation that you’re in charge of. This way you’re not relying on anyone to leave if you need to in order to take the best care of yourself.

3. Choose a Good Time and Place, and Stay Firm but Respectful

When you're ready to have the conversation, try to choose a good time and place. Pick a quiet and private location where you can have a meaningful conversation, which can be hard to do at a holiday gathering. Don’t feel pressured to make this weekend the time to disclose your decision. There will other opportunities, ones you can even create, to tell the necessary people what’s going. When you’re ready, be sure to choose a time when you're not rushed or distracted, so you can focus on the conversation. Timing is a critical element in good communication; is this a good time and do we have enough time? This can help create a more comfortable environment for you and the person you’re talking to.

It's important to stay firm in your decision not to drink, but also to be respectful of others who may still choose to drink. Early in the process, it might be easiest to bow out of events that include a lot of drinking, better to apologize for hurt feelings than risk your health and safety. Let your friends and family know that you're not judging them for their choices, but simply making a personal decision for yourself. Not everyone will be able to respect your boundary, a firm and respectful resetting of the boundary might be necessary.

4. Be Prepared for Different Reactions

Remember that everyone reacts differently to news like this, so be prepared for a range of reactions. You're also likely to have a different reaction! When was the last time you were sober for 4th of July? Or any holiday for that matter? Be gentle, kind, and compassionate with yourself as your emotions get going. Some people may be supportive and understanding, while others may be hurt, confused, or even angry. Try not to take any negative reactions personally, but instead, be patient and understanding, and give your loved ones time to process their feelings. The folks that you used to drink, or use with, might feel judged or worried that they too “should be” considering sobriety. Do your best to let them work out their own thougths and feelings on your own. Though it can be helpful to support someone else, it’s not your responsibility to take care of them or their emotional needs.

5. Attend Sober Events and Set Limits

If possible, consider attending sober events or meetings. The July 4th holiday is an excellent time to connect with others who are in recovery or have a similar experience. Setting limits on the number of events you can attend and the amount of time you spend at each event can help you manage your recovery. If you feel overwhelmed or tempted to drink in a particular environment, politely excuse yourself and leave. Don't be afraid to seek support from others who are going through similar experiences. Consider joining a support group or talking to a therapist who can offer guidance and understanding. Surrounding yourself with supportive people can make all the difference in your journey to sobriety.

5. Self-Care

Finally, take care of yourself during the holiday period. This includes adequate rest, exercise, and meditation. Make sure to maintain a healthy eating and sleeping routine. Focusing on self-care is an important aspect of your recovery journey. It's not a terrible idea to get some time on the calendar with your therapist to go over your plan or get a pep talk. Lean into all the things that have been working so far.

Recipe for Success

Telling your friends and family that you're not drinking can be a challenging conversation, but it's an important step in your decision to stop drinking. By being honest and upfront, planning ahead, and seeking support, you can make the conversation easier for and more successful. Remember, you're making this decision for yourself, and it's okay to ask for help and support along the way. It’s also okay to take your time in telling people in your life. It’s important to have boundaries, not everyone needs to know, but there are certainly some that do. Don’t rush into it this weekend if you’re not ready.

The July 4th holiday can be enjoyable and fun while staying clean and sober. However, it can also be a challenging period for those who are struggling with addiction or in recovery. You can smoothly navigate the celebrations and remain sober. By focusing on taking care of yourself you can effectively manage risk and set yourself up for success.

I hope that this list helps you feel more confident to negotiate a potentially challenging holiday weekend. There’s lots of support out there for you, including seeking therapy in San Francisco. If after reading all of that, you’re still swirling with questions feel free to call me at 415-990-1452 for a free 15-minute phone consultation and to get some questions answered. I would be happy to hear about your challenges with drugs and alcohol and see if therapy is the right fit, and help you find the right therapist.

If you are seeking help with drugs and alcohol, couples therapy life transitions, discovering yourself, or therapy for men’s issues, you can read more about how Caleb Birkhoff might be able to help by clicking here!

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