The first Friday in August is International Beer Day. Friends will be headed to the bars to celebrate or kick it back at home with a six-pack. Should someone in early recovery attend events that have alcohol? This article will discuss how this can be risky and how some people can manage themselves around alcohol.
Can You Drink in Moderation?
Alcoholic drinks like beer often go hand-in-hand with social situations. People drink alcohol because it loosens them up and creates a different experience. Some may feel that alcohol is okay in moderation. However, this is not a universal rule and cannot be applied to everyone.
For those who have just come out of treatment for alcohol addiction, following this rule of thumb is a surefire way to relapse. Nevertheless, a person may find themselves making excuses to engage in this behavior, a sign that mental relapse is occurring. Addiction changes how the brain reacts to rewarding stimuli like alcohol and other substances. For some individuals in recovery, there may be no such thing as “just a little.”
These changes to the brain can be long-lasting and continue to impact a person who has been in recovery for many years. They may choose abstinence because they understand their vulnerability to addiction. Some say that just one sip can spiral into a dangerous binge.
Can You Still Hang?
That’s not to say that someone can’t spend time at the bar with friends. Some individuals can hold up to the pressure and turn down drinks. Others can’t handle being around the activity, at least not at first. Two people can experience addiction differently depending on how long they’ve been abusing alcohol and the amount they’ve been drinking. Other factors contribute to someone’s resilience, such as:
- A strong support system
- A commitment to values
- The presence of clear boundaries
- Their expectations and intentions for socializing
How Long a Person Should Wait Before Exposing Themselves
No universal rule dictates when a person is ready to be around alcohol. Some may never be ready, and that’s okay. Individuals who have had time to manage cravings and enforce boundaries may completely rule out settings with alcohol to avoid any risk.
In treatment, individuals learn to be mindful of their strengths and weaknesses and take responsibility for taking actions that align with their recovery goals. If they doubt their ability to remain sober in social situations at any point in their journey, they should not partake.
How Can the Environment Cause Relapse?
The social environment can be very triggering.
Some have poor social skills that make interactions anxiety-inducing, especially in a crowded room. Others will see their friends’ behavior change as the night goes on, surfacing feelings of exclusion. Feeling lonely while surrounded by a room full of people can be difficult to deal with. The sight and smell of alcohol alone can be enough to push someone over the edge.
As these stressors mount, a person may start to wonder if drinking is all that bad. They may want so badly to relieve these negative feelings regardless of the consequences.
How Can You Cope Around Alcohol?
All hope is not lost. Choosing sobriety doesn’t mean never having fun again or going to events with friends. What it does mean is learning how to set boundaries that are supportive of long-term aspirations. This can take some time and patience.
Before someone decides to expose themselves to potentially risky situations, they should have a solid support system and set of values they hold themselves to. This can mean:
- Spending quality time with friends and family
- Regularly attending therapy and reflecting on progress
- Actively pursuing fulfilling endeavors like career building and volunteering
- Participating in spiritually-oriented self-help groups to find a greater purpose
Boundaries define what a person is and is not comfortable with. Setting and enforcing clear boundaries when it comes to social interactions involving alcohol can look like:
- Knowing when its time to go home
- Confidently saying no to drink offers
- Knowing when to say no to social events
- Expressing when something is causing discomfort
- Acknowledging cravings and applying coping techniques
Setting an Intention
Setting an intention means clarifying the reasons for doing something. This is a vital task because it helps keep a person focused on those reasons and reduces distractions like feeling sad about not drinking. For instance, suppose a friend throws a party to celebrate the purchase of a new home. Or perhaps colleagues head to a restaurant or bar to acknowledge the completion of a big project. In these examples, a person has to reorient the way they think about commemorating. Alcohol is usually not the reason for gathering; it’s a byproduct.
When the Line Is Fine
Sometimes this distinction is hard to make, particularly when it’s happy hour and people are taking advantage of the savings. Some change the narrative around situations like this to emphasize socialization. In other words, it’s not about getting drunk. It’s about spending quality time with friends or getting to know colleagues. Plus, a more authentic experience can be had with a clear mind and raw emotions.
Alcohol can make a social situation a good time or a risky endeavor depending on the perspective and individual. It is not recommended for those in early recovery to attend events that have alcohol because of the pressures that can trigger a relapse. This risk is very high. However, as a person establishes themselves in recovery, they may find they can safely celebrate with friends. West Coast Recovery Centers is an outpatient treatment center for adults in Oceanside, CA. We help our clients heal by using traditional therapies with decades of evidence supporting their efficacy. Nontraditional methods are also offered to ground clients and help them find their center. Alcohol addiction is a challenging disorder to recover from, particularly because of the role alcohol plays in society. Let us help you rediscover your life through sustainable recovery. Call us today at (760) 492-6509.