To truly embrace your sobriety and recovery, you may have to change previous habits and behaviors.
People compulsively use drugs or alcohol for different reasons, but many of them often indulge while with friends, at parties, during special events such as the holidays or other celebrations, or after work with colleagues.
So, to adapt behavior for your new chosen way of life, it helps to understand what your triggers might be, how to plan ahead, and what activities allow you to feel engaged and part of your community.
Identify Your Social Triggers
For many people in recovery, social situations spark reactionary triggers for a variety of reasons:
- You don’t want to be exposed to the substance(s) you previously used.
- Answering questions about where you’ve been or your recovery makes you uneasy.
- You feel as though you won’t fit in if you’re not using.
- Activities don’t feel as “fun” as they did before, which may make you depressed, angry, or anxious.
- Being around certain people or situations might evoke a variety of emotions.
Recognizing triggers puts the power to maintain control back in your hands. You learned valuable coping techniques during treatment that enable you to isolate what’s tugging at you.
Pause, breathe, and reflect. Use these mechanisms to help you make better decisions and resist temptations when you go out.
Make a Plan for Easy Socializing
Bonding is crucial for your continued health. Too often, individuals become isolated in recovery because socializing seems too difficult. But researchers purport that positive interaction with other people may increase dopamine, which naturally stimulates your brain’s reward and pleasure center. Creating a supportive network also reduces stress and contributes to other emotional, mental, and physical benefits.
There are many resources that talk about sober socializing during the holiday season and how you should create a plan to make everything easier. But keep in mind: these suggestions are good for any time of year.
Going to your nephew’s birthday party may put you in the middle of family conflict. Vacationing with friends, as fun as it is, could take you out of a necessary routine. Attending a retirement party might make you feel an awkward obligation to appease the bigwigs at work. Hosting your annual neighborhood barbeque could present a whole new set of challenges.
With a plan, you have another layer of confidence that sobriety doesn’t have to be compromised by wanting to socialize. Consider the following:
- Make a deal with a support buddy. Whether you have a 12-step sponsor, a counselor, your mom, or a close friend who understands your journey, ask him or her to be on-call in case you need to check-in for encouragement.
- Call the host before an event. You’re under no obligation to share your recovery with anyone, but it may put you at ease to explain your circumstances and why you could leave early, especially if a certain environment or group of people may trigger you.
- Hold something in your hand. A non-alcoholic drink, a camera to record events, a sketchpad, a tray of cookies—whatever helps you feel occupied and engaged.
- Take time to reflect. When you get home, notice how you feel and evaluate the outing. This contemplation helps you understand more about what triggers you and how to control your reaction.
Activities to Enjoy
The key to socializing without drugs or alcohol is to be present in the moment and enjoy life as you’ve designed it. With this attitude, there’s really nothing you can’t do. But here are a few ideas:
- Exercise. This is a frequent suggestion, because regular movement naturally enhances your brain’s pleasure center with a flood of mood enhancers such as endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. Find other people active in what you like to do, such as pick-up basketball games, hiking, kayaking, strength training, yoga workshops—the list is endless.
- Family activities. If addiction stole valuable time away from you and your family, now’s your chance to do something different. Camping, game nights, traveling, movie marathons, and other family-centric recreation make it easy to have fun sober.
- Hobbies. Is there something you’ve always wanted to try? Chances are other people are doing it. Dedicate your newfound clarity and energy to join classes or workshops that help you explore a special interest.
- Volunteering. Research indicates when you’re engaged in the happenings of your community, you develop a stronger sense of purpose. Bonding with people who share your passion for a particular cause helps broaden your social circle in more positive ways.
You can also be a little more laid back. Choose a special friend for a weekly coffee and conversation date. Attend art house movies with the one person who likes them as much as you do. Plan to go to a museum or a concert with your elderly uncle. One-on-one interaction is crucial to finding value in relationships.
Tap into Your Support System
Sometimes, there’s ease and comfort associated with being with people who you don’t have to explain anything to—perhaps others in recovery who can relate to the decisions you make and why.
Willingway has two strong programs to help people strengthen their social support systems:
- The Continuing Care Community Group. Located in a variety of cities in the South and Southeast, the primary goal of each meeting is to continue to provide a nurturing environment for sober individuals.
- The Alumni Program. Once you complete treatment with us, we consider you a member of our family. We extend our support into your daily life in a variety of ways, including alumni special events, workshops, and parties; the annual Homecoming; and volunteer opportunities.
We’ll do whatever it takes to help you stay on your path of recovery.