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Commentary: Staying sober on the Fourth

by Michael Leach
| June 22, 2023 1:00 AM

The Fourth of July is an incredibly festive time for millions of American families nationwide. It’s typically filled with picnics, barbecues, fireworks, days at the beach, sitting by the pool and spending quality time with family and friends.

The Fourth of July is also America’s top beer-drinking holiday. Over $1 billion is estimated to be spent on beer over the holiday. It is no secret that copious amounts of alcohol are consumed, and binge drinking is common. In Washington state, roughly 15% of adults over 18 binge drink at least once per month, according to drugabusestatistics.org.

Holidays like July 4 can be challenging for someone in recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction, especially early on. Fortunately, there are practical tips that anyone can use to stay sober this Fourth of July weekend.

“It’s generally the environments where binge drinking is encouraged or where open-air drug use is taking place. Yet, it often does not take much to slip up, but there are always tools to use to prevent relapse,” said Marcel Gemme of Addicted.org.

Being sober does not mean the end of fun, nor does it mean you do not celebrate freedom. Consider some of the following tips to maintain sobriety:

• Know and recognize relapse triggers. This could be people, environments, situations or anything that could trigger a person to want to use alcohol or drugs. If you know these and identify them, avoiding or managing them becomes much easier.

• Additionally, have a healthy outlet for any negative emotions or feelings that may come up. This will also help avoid relapse.

• Bring sober friends to barbecues or parties and or go to celebrations where you know there is no heavy drinking or drug use. It’s OK to turn down invitations and attend the celebrations you want to attend. Going with other sober people can also help. Also, consider bringing non-alcoholic drinks or mocktails. This can help you avoid those pesky relatives who insist you have a drink in your hand.

• Have an exit strategy in place. Set yourself up in a way so that if you have to leave, you can do it easily. It’s OK to leave a party early.

• Ask for help when needed. This can be especially critical in the early days or months of recovery. Lean on your support system. Holiday functions may seem like not a big deal, but it can stir up old memories.

Independence Day is about celebrating freedom. Being sober is being free from the shackles of addiction. Celebrate July 4 to the fullest; create new memories and new traditions.

Michael Leach has spent most of his career as a health care professional specializing in Substance Use Disorder and addiction recovery. He is a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant and contributor to the health care website Recovery Begins, as well as the public relations officer for Addicted.org.