A common thing we tell clients in drug and alcohol treatment centers is to stay away from “people, places and things.” What we mean by this is that clients (especially in early recovery) shouldn’t hang around with people they used to use drugs and alcohol with, go to places where they used or partied or be near anything that might create a craving for drugs and alcohol.
Staying away from drugs like heroin or methamphetamine usually means just staying away from your old stomping grounds, dealers and using buddies. For people who use alcohol, however, it’s a different story. Alcohol is found just about everywhere: grocery stores, camping trips, restaurants and even little league ballgames. We hear clients say, “it’s everywhere so I’m going to need to get used to it anyway.”
While it’s true that you can’t stay away from alcohol completely, it’s also true that you don’t need to test yourself. Don’t put yourself in difficult situations on purpose. Don’t go to the office Christmas Party two weeks out of treatment and don’t go to that rock concert just because you bought tickets a month ago.
There will be temptations in your life after you leave drug or alcohol rehab (and at many points in your sobriety). However, you don’t need to make it worse on yourself. As we also say in treatment, “time takes time.” It’s important to build clean and sober time before taking certain risks.
If you feel there’s a risky situation that you have no choice about being in, then follow these steps to give yourself the best chance of success:
- Buddy up. Yes, just like in kindergarten, life is easier with a buddy. Feeling like you have to attend your best friend’s wedding? Take along a sober friend as your plus one, call your sponsor before and after the event and discuss the party with your counselor or therapy group. Bottom line: make sober support part a priority.
- Don’t hope, plan. Make sure you have a plan for everything you do. Don’t hope that things will go well. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Have to go to the office party? Make a plan to arrive late, say hello to all the important people and then leave early. Have to be at that family dinner? Make a plan to keep yourself busy by being part of the cooking or cleaning up. Know in your mind that you’ll avoid certain people and arrange to speak to your sponsor during the evening.
- Do new things: instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what you can Be proactive, try new things, meet new people and engage in clean and sober activities. Focusing in this way will help you stay out of dangerous situations and keep you pointed in the right direction.