Intoxicating substances have been a part of every human society, without exception. The Social Issues Research Centre dates social and cultural uses of alcohol since 4000 B.C. (oddly enough, they also believe that the development of agriculture was just as much for the generation of alcohol as for bread!)
In this light, social and cultural drinking is human nature. This does not mean, however, that drinking alcohol is recommended for everyone; alcohol abuse problems can and do persist today. Americans widely incorporate alcohol into their parties, celebrations, nightlife, and sporting events. This can create a dilemma for the sober person: how to celebrate and have fun without alcohol and/or drugs?
Suppose you are having a birthday party, or a wedding, or a retirement event, how can you celebrate without the presence of intoxicating substances? Or perhaps you have reached a sober milestone, which is certainly difficult enough work that it merits recognition. It is important for a person in recovery to celebrate special occasions in a positive, healthy, meaningful way.
Sobriety Milestone or Anniversary
By taking pride in their achievement, by treating themselves and by receiving positive feedback, the addict is re-enforcing their efforts in a healthy, safe way.Dr. David Sack, who blogs about addiction recovery, insists that self-recognition is very important for those in recovery. By taking pride in their achievement, by treating themselves and by receiving positive feedback, the addict is re-enforcing their efforts in a healthy, safe way. Find a location and invite those people who you feel most comfortable being around. Create a welcome, light atmosphere. You can arrange a special meal, play a game or listen to music. Some local alcoholic recovery groups will host these events, or schedule celebrations for anyone who wishes to participate.
Dr. Sack also advises giving back as a form of celebration; speak to those who have helped you, and let them know that you appreciate their companionship. Volunteering in the community can be a celebratory event. As the New York Times once reported, volunteering is therapeutic for the volunteers too.
Birthday parties are one of the most common celebrations in our culture. Since most birthday events involve drinking alcohol (for adults, anyway), it is important to plan out the party and set expectations well in advance. Be conscious of who is invited. Ask yourself: Have you enjoyed time with them without alcohol in the past? It could be useful to create a theme for the party, one that lets others know that the party will be “dry.” By establishing the expectation that there won’t be alcohol at the party, guests will have to time to adjust accordingly. Organize the food, the beverages, and the music beforehand. Plan a group activity or game – such as charades or Apples to Apples – that will keep the party and the conversations running smoothly.
Holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and especially New Year’s Eve might seem tricky to plan without alcohol. People expect a festive atmosphere, so plan to give them exactly that! Try some non-alcoholic holiday drinks, set up ‘white elephant’ gift exchanges, or make the preparation of the food a group activity for people to enjoy together. Add music and dancing (possibly karaoke?) and get your friends and family moving. These events are about enjoying people, not enjoying drinking. If being around certain individuals is a stressor for you, set limits on how much time you will spend around them.
What Do the Experts Say?
Many benefits of leaving alcohol out of special occasions are easy to see: no triggers for relapse, no hangovers, no risk of driving home under the influence, etc. There are other benefits, however, that provide a little extra incentive to set up ‘sober’ celebrations.
By avoiding exposure and introduction to alcohol and drug consumption, young people are less likely to develop substance abuse problems later in life.
Research by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in Australia has found that there are real benefits to not exposing children or young adults to drinking culture at graduation parties, weddings, sporting events and other activities. By avoiding exposure and introduction to alcohol and drug consumption, young people are less likely to develop substance abuse problems later in life.
A study out of the University of Michigan about celebratory drinking in college shows that up to 30 percent of those who do not wish to drink reported feeling uncomfortable celebrating around those who were drinking alcohol. Sober events can be just as much fun, and far more beneficial for everyone involved.
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