Ah – St. Patrick’s Day — How Can You Still Enjoy the Festivities While in Recovery?

Ah - St. Patrick's Day -- How Can You Still Enjoy the Festivities While in Recovery Pathfinders Recovery Center - A green background with a wet four leaf clover lying on it to symbolize the celebration of St. Patrick's Day.

Celebrate Differently

When I entered recovery at Pathfinders, my idea of celebration, especially for St. Patrick’s Day, changed drastically.

Each holiday that comes up on the calendar seemed like an occasion to relapse, especially for well-known drinking holidays, like St. Patrick’s Day.

When I was newly sober I looked at each holiday as a battle.

I had to prepare myself accordingly and put in extra effort to keep myself in check.

The alcohol treatment program at Pathfinders gave me a lot of tools, yet I still felt anxiety.

Ah - St. Patrick's Day -- How Can You Still Enjoy the Festivities While in Recovery Pathfinders Recovery Center - A green background with a wet four leaf clover lying on it to symbolize the celebration of St. Patrick's Day.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were especially tough for me during my first year. Even with my family going out of their way to not trigger me, I was still terrified of relapsing.

When I got through those particular holidays unscathed, I thought I could breathe a sigh of relief.

Then I remembered St. Patrick’s Day.

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I feel like St. Patrick’s Day is probably the one holiday all of us in recovery have to be careful of. Preventing a relapse on St. Patrick’s Day is almost like winning the lottery. When you see many people wandering through the streets intoxicated, it can be a massive trigger. I remember when the months switched from February to March, I became increasingly nervous.

All I could think about was my behavior the year before. I made a complete jerk out of myself, and it was one of the driving factors toward me getting sober a few months later. I did what everyone else does that day. I went from bar to bar consuming green beer in between shots of whiskey.

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One thing I should mention is that I tended to be a mean drunk. I was one of those guys that you had to walk on eggshells around. I could be a lot of fun to drink with, but it didn’t take much for me to turn. I remember waking up the next day to text messages from two separate friends who were offended by my behavior.

I had made inappropriate comments about their significant others and had no memory of it. I thought they were being unreasonable. It wasn’t until months later that I started to take what people were telling me seriously. They all came up with the same conclusion. “Dude, you’re a horrible drunk.”

 

Ah - St. Patrick's Day -- How Can You Still Enjoy the Festivities While in Recovery Pathfinders Recovery Center - A group of individuals in recovery meets with an addiction therapist and their support group to offer advice to one another on how to celebrate St. Patrick's Day without risking their sobriety.

Talk it Out

So that next St. Patrick’s Day was scary for me. I stressed so much about what I was capable of doing. All I could think about was what could end up happening. Should I just lock myself in my house that day and not even go out? Should I check myself in somewhere? It was freaking me out. It got so bad that I considered relapsing weeks before St. Patrick’s Day just so I could get it out of the way and start all over.

I forgot all about the wonderful people around me who were there to help. One of the big things about recovery is talking things out. You have to talk about your feelings and let your temptations be known. Getting sober is in a lot of ways very much a group effort. Sometimes you are the one picking others up out of their despair, and sometimes you are the one that needs to be picked up.

The program at Pathfinders taught me that meetings are invaluable. The folks at Pathfinders have always been there to give me a hand. Sometimes I fail to recognize this. Even when you have a great team around you, you can still be pulled back into your previous thinking.

This year, I’ve tried hard to remind myself of what I have around me. I think about the people I would be letting down if I slip back into my old ways. I think about being a beacon for others. I don’t want to be a reason someone else has a relapse. I want to be the person you call. I try very hard to be positive for others, but I also understand I am fighting my own battle. You can be there for others, but you must always be there for yourself first.

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Finding the Right People

Pathfinders have done a wonderful job of setting me up with the right outlets. There are a lot of St. Patrick’s Day events that are specifically targeted at people in recovery, and they are not hard to find. First of all, the hotlines are your friend. A lot of sober hotlines now are 24/7, so you can reach out to someone whenever you feel the need. Not only do these hotlines provide a way for you to talk out your feelings, but they also provide you with resources and sober events local to you. These events are a great way to get out and socialize with like-minded people.

The more people I meet in recovery, the less alone I feel in the process. It almost always helps me to meet a new person going through this process. It reinforces to me that I’m a part of something bigger than myself. I plan on attending a couple of different sober parties on St. Patrick’s Day, and I have the same amount of enthusiasm for them as I used to have for the bars. I understand now that the sober version of me is so much more likable and approachable than the drunk version of me. It makes me feel a tremendous amount of confidence to be the best version of myself when I meet people. I also know that when I go to these sober events, I am meeting the new and improved versions of a lot of my peers.

It’s never a bad idea to be of service to other people. If you are comfortable being a designated driver for your friends who do drink, it can be a great help. Not only are you doing them a solid favor, but you are also preventing someone from getting behind the wheel drunk. You could be drastically altering the course of a lot of people’s evenings. I usually offer to be the DD whenever I know my friends may need it.

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Sometimes I don’t feel like doing it, but I always feel better about myself after the fact.

Whatever you decide to do on this holiday, keep in mind that being a help to others is an invaluable practice.

Being considerate goes a long way on the road to recovery.

Staying Sober While Social Distancing

How to Stay Sober While Social Distancing

Just a few short months ago, staying sober while social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak wasn’t something any of us anticipated.

Since then, social distancing and shelter-in-place orders have abruptly and drastically changed our day to day lives.

Even things that seemed simple before, like going to work and visiting your therapist, may be off limits now.

However, there are quite a few creative ways that we can maintain our important social connections while we follow the CDC’s best practices and precautionary measures.

Staying Sober - A woman meets with her therapist over a video chat. Staying sober is more difficult with social distancing. Those in recovery need new ways to connect for support.
A woman meets with her therapist over a video chat.

Staying Sober with a Video Chat

Facetime will never be a permanent replacement for in person social connections, but it can help us through this difficult time.

Ask your sponsors and therapists to make your meetings virtual for the time being. They’re stuck at home, too, so they’ll be happy to hear from you and to offer support in a new and unique way.

Whether it is weekly or daily, your sessions, meetings, and conversations can take place online so you don’t have to go too long without speaking to them.

Use a Virtual Meeting to Spend Time with Your Support Group

Most of us are well-versed in Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Facebook video chats by now, especially those who have been working from home since social distancing closed all non-essential businesses.

You can use these apps (and others) to meet with your support group once per week (or even more). Zoom can be used to merge up to 100 users into one virtual meeting, so no one has to be left out.

These meetings include two-way video, audio, or other collaborative features, and the basic version is free to download if you don’t have it already. If you’re looking for additional support, Facebook has a number of virtual recovery groups available.

Many of them will require a request to join, but they’re typically approved within a day or two, and then you will have access to many other individuals who are going through similar struggles.

Use this platform to swap stories and offer one another support.

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Join AA/NA Meetings Online or Over the Phone

Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are a resource that many people in recovery rely on.

While all large, in-person gatherings are canceled, you can find these meetings in a few other places.

There is a long list of online AA and NA meetings, as well as meetings that are taking place over the phone and speaker tape archives that you can listen to.

Virtual support can fill in the gaps until we can all recover together again.

Staying Sober - A woman does a video conference with her support group during social distancing. She is fighting to stay sober without the in person meetings she usually goes to.
A woman joins an AA meeting over a video conference during social distancing.

Spend Some Time in Nature

Whether we are talking a walk, riding a bike, reading a book, or simply enjoying the warmth of the sun on our skin, spending time outside can be hugely beneficial to our health.

Reconnecting with nature is a free and easy way to find inner peace without breaking social distancing rules.

Use this time to enjoy the fresh air or call a friend to catch up. While we are apart, continue to meet each day with integrity, honesty, and the will to work hard.

If you need help reach out. We are here for you.

Here are links to the resources mentioned in this article:

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Addiction and Loneliness

loneliness-and-addictionIf you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction this article will cover a perspective proven through clinical studies that you must not miss. Society in general has led addicts to feel ashamed of the insidious affliction they suffer from. Addicts cause pain and confusion in themselves and anyone that truly deeply cares for them.

What Does Loneliness Look Like?

Loneliness may not be the same for everyone. The Huffington Post explains, “Being lonely is more of a state of mind and that state of loneliness can change on a dime if one so desires.” Loneliness in addiction can look like:

  • Disconnection from others
  • Little to no interest in relationships
  • Feeling depressed and anxious
  • Thinking there is no one to talk to
  • Believing there is no hope
  • Feeling like no one cares

A History Of Failure

A little over a century ago this country made the decision to ban and make illegal nearly all drugs.  They instituted punishments as an incentive to deter people from abusing these substances.  This makes sense on a basic level of thinking, but the issue is that it is clearly not working, as shown in this chart. In my experience When something doesn’t work, you either have to fix it or throw it away.

overdose-death-stats

From the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Adapting To The Environment

In the early 1920s there were some interesting experiments conducted regarding addiction. They took a rat, placed it in a cage on its own and put two water bottles, one with Cocaine laced in the water and one containing fresh water.  The rat drank the cocaine water until it overdosed and died. Bruce K. Alexander, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University conducted some similar experiments but added some new variables. He made a “rat park” with cheese, tubes, toys, and most importantly friends!  In this rat park he put the same two types of water bottles, one with cocaine laced water and one with pure water.  The following observation was astonishing. The overdose rate amongst the rats dropped to 0 percent.  Most rats didn’t even touch the cocaine water, and the ones that did stopped before overdose. Professor Alexander questioned, “What if addiction is not about being hooked on chemicals but it is instead an adaptation to your environment?”

The message to be heard here is that humans want to bond and connect. If our self-esteem is low, or we have been beaten down emotionally, we will naturally feel a desire to bond with something other than people.  This could look like food, gambling, drugs, sex, television, shopping…really anything that makes us feel okay for a short period of time and provides relief. Therefore, it is counterproductive to punish addicts, remove them from society, label them felons, make them unemployable, shun them, etc…it just perpetuates the cycle.

Finding Solutions To The Drug Problem

In 2000, Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe with 1 percent of their entire population being hooked on heroin.  Portugal decriminalized all drugs and set up social programs to help drug addicts reintegrate back into society. They took all the money they were spending on housing, feeding, arresting, and policing these addicts and put it into social programs where they would set drug addicts up with jobs and pay half their salary for the year, thus incentivizing companies to hire them and affording the addict the opportunity to reconnect with people and find a sense of purpose. Fifteen years after these programs were set in motion the addiction rate is down 50 percent, overdose is down, HIV rates have gone down drastically in addicts, and in EVERY addiction study shows massive decreases.

Hopefully one day our society can catch on and be this progressive and in the solution.

Helpful Tips to Overcome Loneliness and Addiction

  • Build a social network from the ground up. We addicts are intelligent people; we can see who is healthy and working on themselves and who is not – stick with the winners and you will become one.
  • Find someone that you can trust that understands addiction and talk to this person VERY REGULARLY about your feelings of loneliness, anger or whatever it is that you’re experiencing
  • Volunteer work and support groups such as 12-step fellowships are great places to make new healthy connections this will take time and attendance and may not happen right away so you have to keep going.
  • I want to reiterate the importance of cutting out negative connections – not all connections are good connections.
  • Make friends and family a priority in your life.  When you’re down and out it’s not going to be your online “friends” there that save your skin; the real connections that you make will be there for you when you need them the most.
  • Commit to people and make a plan to show up for them and then follow through with that plan!

Contact Us

Pathfinders Recovery Center
Scottsdale, AZ
pathfindersaz.com
info@pathfindersrec.wpengine.com
(855) 728-4363

*This blog post was authored by Lawrence Briggs, Director of Operations at Pathfinders Recovery Center. Ph: 480.320.0752