Consider a holiday consisting of picnics, parades and partying, fueled by alcohol and topped off with extravagant displays of small explosives and fireworks. The Fourth of July is one of the most popular, yet potentially dangerous holidays celebrated in America.
Each year, emergency rooms are filled with fireworks injuries and other mishaps due to excessive partying on America’s birthday. Alcohol impairs judgment. Fireworks, once lit, are extremely unforgiving. Mixing the two is a recipe for disaster, as emergency room staff will tell you.
The Fourth of July can also be exceptionally challenging for individuals in recovery. The all day nature of the celebration means the party starts early in the day and can go on into the night. It’s hard enough to stay sober on normal weekend days, but being in close proximity to family, friends, food and alcohol for hours on end on a special holiday can put a lot of pressure on individuals in recovery, especially those who are newly sober.
Also, many addicts and alcoholics have memories from previous years where drugs and alcohol were the center of attention at their celebration. This holiday in particular definitely requires a few proactive strategies for staying both safe and sober.
3 tips to remain sober on the 4th of July
1. Avoid triggers and temptation – stay away from trouble
Of course, this is good advice for any day of the week, but especially on the Fourth of July. You need to plan out your day in advance and go to any length to maintain your sobriety.
Focus on freedom – your freedom from the tyranny of addiction – and make it your independence day from drugs and alcohol.
Learn to listen to your own inner early warning system. If you are aware that certain “old” neighborhood friends, family members or relatives are going to be at a particular picnic or party, and you know they like to drink or they might trigger you or pressure you to drink, give yourself permission to skip that event. Just stay away. Don’t worry about what they might say. Be committed to your program. Sometimes the best way to stay out of trouble is to avoid trouble before it happens. Many families have complicated social dynamics where drinking or getting drunk is the standard operating procedure for gatherings and holidays.
Remember, you’re trying to break free from these destructive family cycles. Just because your relatives are getting together to go through their yearly ritual of burning hamburgers, getting drunk and shooting off fireworks doesn’t mean you have to participate.
2. Go to a meeting
A great way to kick off your Independence Day holiday is to go to a meeting. You’ll find plenty of people, just like you, who are focused on staying sober. You’ll probably even hear a few holiday horror stories that will serve as great reminders to just stay away from potential problems on this day, along with plenty of encouragement and inspiration to stick to your program and stay on track.
3. Hang out with your sober friends
One of the benefits of being active in 12-step meetings is developing a new set of friends who are also committed to recovery. These are the perfect people to surround yourself with on this holiday, along with those existing friends and family who also support your recovery.
Are you someone who enjoys throwing parties or organizing get-togethers? Why not invite these positive people to join you on a morning hike or to watch a parade to celebrate your collective independence from addiction? Or, host a party that’s focused on the culinary favorites of the holiday. Celebrate the summer delights of fresh fruit, corn on the cob and grilling outdoors. Offer refreshing lemonade to wash it all down. Everything tastes better when not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
When you really think about it, the Fourth of July is the perfect holiday for those in recovery. It’s about celebrating freedom. When you’re in recovery, you’re freer than you’ve ever been before, and that’s far more valuable than partying or getting drunk will ever be.