When you have substance use challenges, navigating summertime social gatherings can be difficult. It can be hard to strike the balance between wanting to spend time with friends and family when you know there could be temptations, such as alcohol, and, in some cases, recreational substances.
So, how do you hang out with people you care about while managing your own recovery? Here are some ways you can enjoy being social and be conscious of your own physical and mental needs.
Tell Your Friends and Family.
According to the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Manual, research has shown that people are more likely to recover when they have a network of stable family relationships, approval and sympathy from family and supportive friends and peers. Be upfront with your family and friends before a barbecue or hangout about what your goals are in refraining from drugs and alcohol. Chances are they will refrain or reduce their usage, too, and want to support you in your journey.
Learn How to Say No.
Before heading out the door to an event, have a few phrases prepared in the back of your mind. That way, when someone offers you alcohol, you already know how you’ll decline. You could say, “I appreciate the offer, but do you have any water?” or “Thanks for the beverage, but I’m trying to stay away from alcohol. I’ll take a soda instead.”
In a social setting, it can be hard to think on the spot, so practice what you’ll say beforehand to feel confident in your delivery.
Give Yourself a Time Limit.
Some social gatherings last several hours, and that may be too long to resist temptations. Give yourself a set time for how long you’ll stay at the event, whether it’s an hour or a few hours. Every person will be different based on their recovery journey.
Plus, socializing in general can be emotionally taxing. Keep tabs on the event’s vibe and how it’s trending. Are other people at the event using more substances and making you feel anxious? Or is it a relaxing event that makes you feel comfortable and at ease? Take mental check-ins with yourself every so often to ensure you’re in a good headspace.
A useful way to manage recovery during summer is to find a healthy alternative to whatever substance you’re avoiding. For example, instead of beer, try sparkling water or non-alcoholic beer. Bring whatever it is you’d like to substitute in case the host of the party doesn’t have it on hand.
Grant Yourself Grace.
Know that relapse is often part of the recovery process, and that sobriety usually takes several attempts. If you happen to relapse, don’t beat yourself up. Ask for support and make a new commitment to recovery. Tomorrow is a new day for a fresh start.
Gatherings are a wonderful way to boost your spirits and connect with family and friends. And the good news is it’s totally possible to be social while on your road to recovery, especially when you’re surrounded by people who care.
Ideally, at least one person in your close circle of peers, family and friends is trained in MHFA and can offer you support and resources. MHFA believes every 1 in 15 people should be certified to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges.
Though MHFA has trained more than 3 million First Aiders, we’re not done yet. Our goal is to train the next 3 million so that the recovery process is easier for people with addiction and substance use challenges. Let your friends know how to find a MHFA course, and #BeTheDifference to yourself and others managing recovery.
Mental Health First Aid. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA. National Council for Behavioral Health d/b/a National Council for Mental Wellbeing.