Protecting Yourself from Alcohol in Recovery

When people are recovering from addiction, avoiding alcohol is often a significant recovery task. This is true whether the original addiction was to alcohol or another substance. Alcohol can be problematic for people recovering from addiction to drugs because it is often associated with the use of other substances and because it has similar effects on the brain. The support group Narcotics Anonymous notes that thinking of alcohol as somehow different from other drugs has led many to relapse. People whose brains have been changed by drug or alcohol abuse are wise to avoid all potentially addicting substances.

Addressing Alcohol in Multiple Areas of Life

There are multiple areas in which the potential to encounter alcohol can be addressed, including the following:

  • Home – Generally, the home environment is the easiest to control. Sometimes, when people are in rehab they will ask friends or family members to clear their home of drugs and alcohol for them. People may have substances hidden in various areas. Sometimes, people live with family members or roommates who bring alcohol into the home. In this case, it is important to have open and honest discussions about why this is problematic. If people who live under the same roof balk at making the home an alcohol-free zone, people in recovery may wish to consider finding alternate living arrangements.
  • Work – Although alcohol is not present in most work environments, there are times when a business lunch or work-related social event may involve drinking. It is wise to be prepared for such events in advance and to think through possible conversations and actions. Rehearsing scenarios, either mentally, or with others, can help the conversations seem natural and unforced.

There are many ways to respond when offered a drink. The most basic is to simply say, “No, thank you” or “No thanks, but if you have a soda, I’d love one.” Generally, this is all that is needed. If people press the issue, the “broken record” strategy is often useful. This consists of simply repeating variations of “No” such as “Not tonight” or “Thanks, but I don’t want one.”

When dealing with pressure to drink, it is sometimes suggested that people remember the acronym JADE, which stands for justify, argue, defend, and explain. These are things that are sometimes counterproductive. They can make other people defensive or may lead to unnecessary and unhelpful conversations.

  • School – The college environment is one that is commonly very alcohol-saturated. There are some colleges and universities, often private religious ones, which do not allow alcohol on campus. Other colleges provide substance-free housing or programs specifically for people in recovery. The Association of Recovery in Higher Education maintains a list of institutions that host collegiate recovery programs or collegiate recovery communities,
  • Church – For church-attending individuals in recovery, the issue of taking communion is one that may need to be addressed. In many denominations, non-alcoholic juice is used instead of wine. For participants in faith traditions that use wine, there are a variety of options.

A simple option is to partake in the eating of the bread, but skip the drinking of the wine. Some people choose to kiss the cup instead. It is also possible to speak to the priest or pastor ahead of time about substituting a non-alcoholic drink. In some locations, it is possible to find church services especially for alcoholics in recovery. In these services, juice is used for communion.

  • Travel – When planning a personal or family trip, it is wise to choose locations where alcohol is not likely to be prevalent or there are no mental associations with substance abuse. People who travel for business may have less say in the location. Either way, being proactive and planning ahead can help minimize the relapse risk. If, for example, the trip will involve staying in a room with a mini-bar, make sure to ask for the alcoholic drinks to be removed before your arrival.

It is always wise, when traveling, to have a plan for maintaining accountability. This generally involves regular contact with a support group, mentor, or sponsor. Contact can be maintained through the phone or computer. It may also be possible for people who are traveling to find a support group to attend in the city they are visiting.

Among the many possible relapse triggers are four that can be represented by the acronym HALT. These are hungry, angry, lonely and tired. When traveling, it is easy for schedules to be changed and for hunger and tiredness to be more of a factor. It is always wise to take care of physical needs and to be as diligent as possible to avoid increased vulnerability to relapse.

  • Social activities – Choose social activities and groups where you will be able to maintain sobriety. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration lists six stages involved in recovery and relapse. Step one is to abstain from alcohol and drugs. Step two is to separate from people, places, and things that promote substance use and to establish a social network supportive of recovery. An addiction support group is a logical first place to begin building new relationships. New relationships can also be built through common interests.

With a little foresight and planning you can avoid alcohol in most situations, and arrange for extra accountability and support during times that alcohol is present.

Give Us a Call

If you or a loved one is ready for addiction treatment, give us a call. Our helpline is toll-free and staffed with knowledgeable consultants who can help you identify treatment options that are a good fit for you. They can also check your insurance coverage if you wish, at no cost or obligation. The helpline is staffed 24 hours a day, so there’s never a wrong time to call. Why not call now?

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