Memorial Day Weekend is the official beginning of the Summer season in the US, where it’s traditional to eat, drink and be merry, get outdoors, get sunburned, and enjoy various other excesses.
For those of us in the Sun Belt, it’s also officially the weekend that the snowbirds finish their northerly migration and we get our streets, supermarkets and beaches back for about four months. Anyone who spends June through September in South Florida has either to be a native, underprivileged retiree or persona non grata above the northern border of South Carolina. No one else is dumb enough to put up with our weather. (And yes, I do fall into one of those categories. Y’all will just have to figure out which one.)
And of course, for a notable number, it’s one of the hot summer excuses for getting squashed, fried, pickled, or embalmed (pick one or add your own). Memorial Day was always one of my favorites, and if you’re in recovery you may by now have remembered some of the shenanigans with which we came close to getting memorialized ourselves.
Can you say “Trigger?” Along with the 4th, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, it’s hard to imagine a set of circumstances that might trigger our various addictions much more than the Springtime paean to well-lubricated excess. So in recovery, especially early recovery, we need to be extra careful, and take steps to safeguard our sobriety if necessary.
There are a few basic rules for safe enjoyment of the festivities. First of all, feel comfortable attending them. The devil is not going to drag you off your seat at the picnic table and into the beer cooler, provided that you are fortified successfully with the tools to repel her. Here, briefly, is the advice I give newcomers at any holiday time.
- Take a sober person along. It’s fun (and sometimes instructive) to watch the drunks and other chemical carousers, as long as you have someone sober to relate to as well.
- If you get uncomfortable, leave — with your sober buddy.
- Always have your own transportation, money for a cab or whatever it takes to make you totally independent. What if your sober buddy suddenly…isn’t?
- Have an agreement: if one or the other “slips,” they are abandoned at the scene and the one still sober heads for safe ground. Don’t try to reason with the one who has slipped. They were well on the way to a relapse before the party, or it wouldn’t have happened. Relapse happens before you use. Save yourself. You can help later when you’re in safer territory — like a meeting.
- Always get your own drinks, and watch them being made. Keep them in your hand. Don’t set them down and walk away. Someone might replace it with a “treat,” and besides if you have one in your hand people won’t bug you to have another one.
- If you start feeling uncomfortable, eat something. Anything. And drink lots of water.
- Don’t feel self-conscious. It really isn’t all about you and, if you drank and drugged like me, should anyone notice that you’re not indulging it will probably be with a sense of relief. If offered a drink, my favorite line is, “No thanks, I finished my share.”
- Check around the larger 12-step groups and clubs. There are almost always sober gatherings to go to. They’re fun, even if you have to pass up the drunkfest. (Drunks really aren’t very interesting when you’re sober, believe me.)
Whatever you do, have fun! If you’re not having fun in recovery, you’re doing something wrong.