Family Gatherings Can Trigger Relapse
Being surrounded by loved ones can provide people in recovery from a SUD an extra layer of support but it can also make them feel uneasy if other family members are struggling with their own substance use issues. To prevent a relapse from occurring Nate Moellering, a community outreach coordinator at Allendale Treatment and Fort Wayne Recovery says that It’s important to set boundaries and know when it’s time to leave the party. “Sometimes family gatherings can turn into everybody getting high or drunk together and it’s important to have someone you can reach out to help you get out of that situation,” says Moellering. “Talk to your sponsor or a recovery coach about your concerns and create an exit plan before attending the gathering.”
Family functions can also be challenging if there are any unresolved problems, communication issues, or if other family members are struggling with their mental health. If someone in recovery starts to sense tension or if an argument breaks out, they should remove themselves from the situation as quickly as possible especially if they start to feel triggered.
Streeter says that if someone in recovery knows that visiting family will be challenging for them because they’re still trying to work on their sobriety, it’s okay for them not to attend. “If you’re in early recovery and you’re worried about being around friends and family members at a family function, it’s okay to not go and instead stop by an AA or NA meeting so you can continue to engage and build relationships with people who’ve been through what you’re going through and can provide you with additional support.”
Maintaining Sobriety in Social Settings
People struggling with a SUD may need to distance themselves from certain activities or people while working on their sobriety, but that doesn’t mean they need to isolate themselves. They can still enjoy social activities with family, friends and coworkers but they should take some steps to protect a relapse from occurring. A few suggestions include:
Make a general game plan before attending the event including what time you’re going to arrive and leave and make sure that you have reliable transportation that you’re in control of. If you know that there is a possibility that someone may say something triggering, make sure you have a quick escape plan.
Keep a beverage in hand
While family and friends may know that you’re in recovery, they may not understand that asking you to have just one glass of champagne to toast with could put you over the edge and jeopardize your sobriety. To prevent someone from bringing you an alcoholic beverage make sure that you have a mocktail, soda, or water already in your hand.
Decide how you want to address questions
Even if friends or coworkers are curious about your recovery, you may feel uncomfortable or unprepared answering their questions especially if it’s still early in your sobriety. Come up with some quick responses that either deflect their questions or simply tell them that the question is crossing a boundary and you don’t feel comfortable answering.
If you’re attending an event that allows you to bring a plus one, ask a sobriety ally to come with you to provide you with an extra layer of reinforcement.
No matter what the event is Wells says it’s important for the person in recovery to do what’s best for them and not try to simply appease their family and friends. “People will have opinions about what your recovery should look like but you have to try and not worry about what they think and instead surround yourself with people who understand what you’re going through.”