Labor Day Weekend is here—and though few school districts now save their “first days” for the week after, we still see this as the opening of the fall season. Traditionally, Labor Day was the last day for sporting ladies’ white shoes before closeting them until the following summer. Now, we anticipate an imminent sales surge for pumpkin-flavored treats, and for Halloween items. It seems the party is on and your sober living may be at risk.
For Houston-area residents, this weekend also signals relief from the hottest days of the year. Average daily temperatures are already dropping from the high 90’s into the high 80’s.
For nearly everyone, Labor Day is a day to cut loose a bit, to enjoy one more round of picnics and barbecue before the more serious-and-sober living days of autumn. Many people give themselves license for a one-day break from healthy eating and drinking.
Then there are those of us who don’t dare take a sip of our once-favorite beer.
Sober Living Knows No Days Off
You’ve heard it from your doctor, your support group, the experts: no one is ever completely cured of substance addiction. One taste, years later, can set old cravings spiraling out of control and land you in detox for a week. Be prepared to live without “social drinking”; it’s not worth the risk.
For the newly sober or those under new stresses, sober living can be daily mental agony. You wonder if you should check into a hospital just to have someone forcibly keeping you away from temptation. You’re determined to live one day at a time, yet the specter of long-term life without your favorite coping approach still taunts you. You keep wondering if “just this once” for a special day would really hurt—then are gripped by panic at the thought.
I know that “things will get better” is poor comfort in the throes of misery, but the time will come when the next Labor Day—or New Year’s, or birthday, or Monday, or stressful moment—will roll around and you won’t even think about missing your “usual” hit. In the meantime, here are a few hints for getting through this weekend sober and reasonably content.
Focus Your Attention Away from the Enemy
As a child, you probably complained to your mother about a classmate’s teasing—and were told, “Just ignore him/her.” Annoying as it is to hear that when you want someone to put a stop to it now, the approach does work. If someone’s goal is to see you start screaming or break into tears, and they can’t achieve that goal, they lose interest—provided you can remain adequately unconcerned not to show any hints they’re making progress.
Adults are less likely to be pestered by outside bullying—and more likely to “bully” themselves. The more you think about how “I can’t ever have the drink I want,” the more you encourage yourself to want it; the sorrier you feel for yourself; and the more likely you are to give in to “once won’t hurt” rationalizing which destroys your sober living plan.
Find something better to think about. Invite your sober friends over for a backyard picnic. Push your kids on the swings. Sit down with your favorite latte and a patriotic video. Go for a long walk along the bayou (leaving your cash and cards at home). This is the classic “crowd worry out of your mind” technique, and it’s far more effective than arguing with cravings, which only fuels them with your own precious energy.
Support Your Self-Esteem
As with the grade-school tease, your cravings will only go away if you’re willing to ignore them inwardly as well as outwardly. Many people fail here because they expect to learn the right way of thinking once and do it perfectly every time thereafter. When a “wrong” thought comes to them, instead of letting it roll on out of their consciousness, they stop to berate themselves for having it. It’s a short step from there to deliberately entertaining other wrong thoughts such as “You should know better,” “You never get anything right,” “You’ll never be anything but a bum”; and it’s a short step from there to relapse.
To paraphrase the classic saying on temptation, if you chase after every unwanted bird that flies overhead, shaking your fists at it and screaming, you’ll become too exhausted to shoo off the bird that tries to nest in your hair! Keep yourself busy developing your talents, working toward your goals, and affirming your good qualities, and you’ll be prepped for victory over those cravings that come—and will find them fewer and farther between.
And remember, any negative reaction to substance-use temptations shows that your sobriety resolve is still alive. That in itself is something to be proud of.
Choose Good Company
If you’ve always spent Labor Day with beer-guzzling friends (or with relatives who launch a guilt trip when their hospitality in providing wine goes unappreciated), find someone else to celebrate with this year. Choose someone from your active sober living support network whenever possible; if every reliable personal contact is committed elsewhere, a good substance-free place to make new friends is a church or community event with the word “family” in the title. (Spending the day alone is an option, but unless you genuinely enjoy solo time, you risk ending with a “pity party” in more senses than one.)
Don’t Sweat It
Labor Day or work day, every sober day is a challenge and a triumph. Remember, a little struggle is part of every day of every life; without it, we’d all be so stagnant we’d be dead.
Have a happy and sober Labor Day. And be proud of how far you’ve come with your sober living!
Stay Sober with Kemah Palms
Addiction recovery is a challenging process from all stages. That’s why Kemah Palms Recovery utilizes programs and addiction therapy services such as:
To learn more information on how our programs can help you live your best sober life, call us at 866.604.1873 today.