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Navigating Family Celebrations While in Recovery

Sometimes, it’s not painful events that can risk your sobriety — it’s life’s celebrations. From the winter holidays to warm weather gatherings, family get-togethers can present more temptations and risks to your recovery than you realize. From freely flowing alcohol to complex relationships that could trigger dark and uncomfortable feelings, it’s important to safeguard your hard-won sobriety.

10 Tips for Navigating Family Celebrations in Early Recovery

For those preparing for their first foray into family time post-recovery — and for families of people who actively misuse substances and those in recovery — here are 10 tips for navigating family celebrations safely, comfortably and joyously:

1. Put Your Sobriety First

Nothing that happens, no matter how unpleasant or painful, is worth sacrificing your recovery. If this means stepping on a few toes or skipping an event entirely, do what’s best. You’ve worked too hard to give up your sobriety.

2. Minimize Stress and Dangerous Exposures

In recovery, you’ve learned to recognize signs of potential relapse. While you can’t foresee everything that might happen, many contingencies can be anticipated and planned for. On that note:

  • Remember your triggers and flashpoints.
  • Recognize scenarios that have proven dangerous in the past.
  • Know which interactions will bring up harmful emotions.

3. Know How to Re-Center Yourself

Along with recognizing the risks, know what steps you need to take to re-center yourself. This approach could mean calling a friend, stepping away from the group for a while or leaving if a stressful situation you can’t handle arises.

4. Request an Alcohol-Free Gathering

Many families want to help create an environment where you feel comfortable and calm. Whether it’s hiding alcohol and medications or going completely alcohol-free, your family may be willing to keep the celebration sober to ensure your recovery.

5. Set a Time Limit

Sadly, some people can’t enjoy themselves without alcohol. If you can’t deal with the stress of an intoxicated environment, try setting a time limit. Let your family know you have to leave at a certain time.

6. Bring a Sober Friend

It often helps to bring a sober friend to family celebrations. You’ll have someone to socialize with who’s not drinking and can be a confidant to help you manage stress or triggers that may arise.

7. Keep a Drink in Your Hand

At celebrations with alcohol, try to always have a drink in hand. Whether it’s soda, tea or water, already having a drink reduces the risk that a family member will ask you if you want an adult beverage.

8. Be Prepared for Questions

Your family members may have many questions about your experience and how you’re doing. While some may ask for permission before broaching certain topics, others will dive right in. Be prepared for questions about your recovery. You can choose not to answer or give a short reply — whatever you feel most comfortable with.

9. Check in With Someone

Before, after or during the celebration, stay in touch with your key support system. This could be friends from your support group, counselors or your therapist. Asking for help and discussing problems ensures you don’t internalize negative emotions or try to fix all problems on your own.

10. Release Control

There is no magic formula that ensures a family celebration will go perfectly. These events are often filled with bumps, hiccups and awkward moments. Try to see the humor in these human moments and accept the reality that there is beauty in the imperfections.

Begin the Stages of Recovery With Gateway

If you are struggling with addiction and don’t know where to turn, Gateway Foundation is here for you. We offer evidence-based care personalized to your unique needs. Reach out to us today. We want to help you celebrate a substance-free life.

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