Being new to addiction recovery can be challenging for a variety of reasons. You’re learning how to have fun without the use of drugs and alcohol, you’re beginning on a major journey of self-discovery and you’re working on mending past relationships while fostering brand new ones. You’re undergoing a lot of major changes and although the changes will ultimately contribute to a better way of life you might feel overwhelmed or slightly unstable from time-to-time. One of the best ways to combat feelings of instability in early recovery is to focus on avoiding relapse triggers.
Relapse triggers include things like:
Holding onto toxic relationships.
By staying in communication with friends, relatives and ex-girlfriends or boyfriends that don’t understand or contribute to your recovery, you are putting yourself at risk of relapse. Maybe you have a friend that encourages you to try drinking in moderation every time you see them or an ex-girlfriend that picks the same fights with you every time you see her. Stay away from unhealthy relationships and focus on healing yourself.
Spending time in “unhealthy” places.
In order to avoid relapse it is best to avoid places that might trigger you to drink or use drugs. If you’re a recovering alcoholic, you would probably benefit from staying away from the dive bars you used to frequent. If you’re a recovering heroin addict you should probably avoid spending time in your old dealer’s neighborhood. Unhealthy places could also include the house of someone who doesn’t support your recovery, or any other place that makes you feel emotionally unstable or vulnerable.
Engaging in old behavior.
Engaging in old behavior is a major relapse trigger. One of the most fundamental parts of recovery is creating new habits for yourself and replacing self-destruction with self-betterment. Old behaviors could include not practicing self-care, hanging out at places that aren’t conducive to your recovery and doing things like lying and emotionally manipulating others. Anything you did in your active addiction is probably best left in the past!
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Not being open and honest about where you’re at.
Staying sober relies heavily on being completely transparent about where you’re at in your recovery. If you’re struggling it’s important that you let your sponsor or a sober support know immediately. Remember that you’re never a burden and that telling people about your personal struggles will ultimately help them as well. If you’re struggling or if you’re unsure about attending a specific event, check in with some people that you trust and know that you can rely on.
Taking a step away from your personal aftercare program.
If you step away from your aftercare program (which includes things like 12-step meetings, continued therapy and ongoing self-care) you are putting yourself at risk of relapse. Make sure you’re doing what you need to do to continue prioritizing your own mental health.
Triggers at Sporting Events
It can be difficult to stay sober at booze-driven events like concerts and sporting events. Many times, big group sport games revolve around alcohol. There are tailgate parties before the game, beer drinking during the game and bar hopping after the game. As far as sporting events go, being around alcohol is pretty unavoidable. Fortunately there are several steps you can take to avoid relapsing during a sporting event. Of course it’s important to remember that if you feel unstable in your addiction recovery you will benefit from avoiding the potentially triggering event all together. Keep in mind that your sobriety needs to remain your number one priority and that there will always be more sporting events to attend in the future.
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Some of the issues and challenges you might encounter at sporting events – whether you are watching the game live or at a viewing party – might include:
Being offered alcohol.
If you go to a party of any kind you can expect that alcohol will be offered to you at some point. Keeping this in mind, prepare your answers before you even leave the house. You can simply say, “I don’t drink,” though if you want to be more vague you can say something like, “No thanks, I’m designated driver tonight.” You need to wear your cards on your sleeve when turning down a drink offered by strangers. If you’re at the sporting event with close friends you may want to fill them in on your recovery – this way, they’ll accept your answer without questioning it!
Being surrounded by people who are drinking socially.
It can be difficult to be surrounded by people who are drinking when you’re the only sober one. If this makes you uncomfortable consider bringing along a sober support or avoiding the event entirely. Once you have worked the steps and you’re stable in your sobriety, you’ll be able to go anywhere safely without feeling triggered.
Being asked why you’re not drinking.
It can be frustrating to have ten different people ask you why you aren’t drinking. Fortunately there’s a simple way to avoid this dilemma – simply carry a non-alcoholic drink with you! Fill a red solo cup with sparkling water or soda and no one will harass you about not partaking in the drinking.
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People playing “drinking games” during the event.
It isn’t uncommon for people to play drinking games during sporting events, especially if you’re attending a viewing party at someone’s house. People might want to drink whenever a touchdown is scored or play beer pong during halftime. Whatever is happening, remember that you can politely decline to participate. You can do this by saying you don’t drink or by simply saying “no thank you.” More often than not, people will respect your boundaries and they won’t push the issue.
Certain experiences and events can bring up emotional triggers. For example, say that you and your father used to go to baseball games when you were little, and he’s since passed away. Going to a baseball game might trigger some deep-seated sadness or unresolved trauma. For this reason it’s important to work through unresolved trauma before you go to places that might trigger relapse.
People who don’t understand your situation might encourage you to just “have a couple.”
Being around people who don’t understand alcoholism or addiction can be frustrating for those in early sobriety. As you get more secure in your recovery experiences like these probably won’t trigger you – you’ll understand that not everyone has been through the same experiences, and not everyone understands on a personal level. You will also know how to better respond! For advice on responding to suggestions like these reach out to your sponsor. Everyone in recovery has had this experience at one point or another!
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People repeatedly offer you alcohol despite your refusal to drink.
Again, this can be avoided if you keep a ful, non-alcoholic beverage on you at all times!
Remember that if you aren’t stable in your recovery you are likely to be more triggered. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to stay away from drinking events completely. Instead organize your own viewing party with your sober friends!
Staying Sober at Sporting Events
There are several other steps you can take in order to ensure that you stay sober at sporting events. Make sure that your sponsor knows where you’re going and that you may be calling him or her if you start to feel triggered. Bring other sober supports to the event with you. Know what your personal triggers are and make a game plan of what to do in case you start feeling triggered. Remember that you can always leave – this is easier if you map out an escape plan. Remind yourself why you’re sober and play the tape through. If you drink a beer will you really drink just one? Or will you wake up tomorrow unsure as to what happened, feeling overcome with shame for having given into your impulses?
For more tips and tricks on staying sober at sporting events please give us a call today!
Reviewed for accuracy by :
Serving as the Inpatient Clinical Director at Immersion Recovery Center, Susan will work directly with staff members, clients, and family members to ensure the clinical program remains as effective and individualized as possible. Susan is no stranger to the fields of behavioral health and addiction. She has over 25 years of experience, working in an inpatient setting, an outpatient setting, acute stabilization and nearly all other settings in the realm of addiction recovery.