For many folks, the July 4th—also known as Independence Day—is a day for celebration. For me at one time, it was simply an opportunity to drink to my heart’s content in plain sight and go unnoticed because many around me were commemorating the holiday with a beer (or two).
Today, 11+ years into recovery from addiction, July 4th is still a day to for me to celebrate. These days, I celebrate the absence of hangovers, remorse, and apologies for bad behavior that I only vaguely remember.
Over the years, I created a three-step powerful routine that helps me stay on track when folks all around me are drinking. It’s simple, and only takes a few minutes.
So, if you’re in early recovery, and getting ready to attend that 4th of July party, take a few minutes to try out this “personal intervention” to keep yourself safe—and away from the bar.
1. Remember What You Value
If you haven’t already done some values assessment work, take some time to do it asap. Now that you’re in recovery, you will most likely discover that what’s most important to you has shifted. Awareness of those values is like having a personal “GPS” that guides your thoughts and behaviors.
You can do values assessment work with a coach or a therapist; you can go online and find many values assessment tools. If you’d like to learn more about values clarification, check out “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris for an easy to read guide to ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) and how to create a meaningful and stress-free life.
Once you’ve identified your top values, list those on a piece of paper and take that with you to the party. If you find yourself thinking about how good a cold beer would taste, pull out this list and consider how that one drink can lead to two (or probably more) and the negative impact that will have on all the things you care about.
2. Remember That You Always Have a Choice
I’ve come to understand that I have a choice to not drink. Even if I think about drinking, I can still say ‘No!’ It is a choice that I made 11 years ago because I believed that I was in real trouble. It’s a choice that I make today because I love the life I’ve created and don’t want to jeopardize it.
If you’re in early recovery and starting to enjoy parts of your life, remind yourself that you have a choice. When someone is holding a frosty beer in front of your face, say to yourself: I LIKE MY LIFE. I HAVE A CHOICE. RIGHT NOW, I’M NOT GOING TO DRINK. The key words are “RIGHT NOW.” These words remind me that I’m in charge. I’m not making any promises about tomorrow or next month or next year. I’m simply reminding myself that right at that moment, I’m making a choice not to drink.
(Note: For me, it’s easier to live with the idea that I won’t drink at that moment, rather than thinking I CAN’T ever drink. I don’t do well when someone tells me that I NEVER can do something that I like! In fact, hearing that word “NEVER” makes me determined to do it more. I handle the drinking decision much better when it’s my choice!)
3: Remember To Take Action
Saying no to a drink is only part of the equation. When I make the choice not to drink, it has to be followed by a decision to DO something else. So, at that party, I may strike up a conversation with a friend, take a walk around the house or in the neighborhood, go to a quiet place for a few minutes of mediation or read something funny or inspiring on my phone. In addition to the simple reminders I use to stay empowered every day, one of my favorite APPS for meditation “on the go” is Headspace. And don’t forget to load your phone with comedy podcasts! By refocusing my attention, I draw my thoughts away from that frosty beer and that few minutes gives me an opportunity to remember what’s really important to me. (See Step #1 above, refresh and repeat Steps #2 & #3).
This three-step strategy will help you connect with what you value most and stay aligned with your intention to stick with your recovery. It’s also effective when paired with other advice that I’ve gotten over the years: driving my own car to an event so that I can leave if I feel uneasy, keeping a glass of soda in my hand to avoid the question “why aren’t you drinking”, or bringing someone with me who understands my challenges and will offer a high-five when I walk away from the bar.
Here’s to the freedom to create your extraordinary life in recovery! Happy July 4th!
Call me at 720-684-4373 if you’d like to learn more about values assessment or other strategies that I share with clients to support their recovery efforts.