It’s Labor Day weekend, the first holiday of the school year and the one that indicates the real end of Summer and the transition toward Fall. Labor Day represents the culmination of Summer barbecues, eating al fresco, long days and warm nights. Stores already have Halloween swag for sale and it’s still August! I wish I was kidding.
For addicts and alcoholics, long weekends tend to mean parties. But as the path of recovery becomes your own, the meanings of holidays change. They become opportunities for making healthier choices, having sober fun, and making long-lasting connections.
Still, for someone new in recovery, holidays might be overwhelming. Holidays may be the first relatively unstructured time for the newcomer fresh out of treatment, or it may be reminiscent of times past where things went awry. The reality is, recovery requires a shift: a shift in social circles, life choices, and a shift in how we represent ourselves to the world. Gone are the days of calculated debauchery and lost memories.
Here are some helpful tips to help you stay on track this Labor Day weekend (and any holiday weekend from here on out):
- Get active: Play in the surf, go on a hike, or a long bike ride. Firing up those endorphins is good for us and positive for our mental health.
- Go to extra meetings; There are meetings going on at all times of the day—early morning to the infamous late-night meetings. Often times, there are marathon meetings on holiday weekends.
- Stay in contact with your sponsor and actively engage with your recovery support system
- Be of service! Helping others gets us out of ourselves and into action. At 21 years sober, I spend more of my time being of service than I ever did. It keeps me present, engaged, and out of my head.
- Host or attend a sober event. In sober living? Maybe your house will be up to the task of making an in-house sober fun day – BBQS, pool party, et cetera.
- Engage in a contemplative practice: yoga or meditation. Yoga and meditation are both a direct route to self-care. They cultivate the engagement of the breath, which helps us stay in the present moment. They both ask that we are present: not in the future and not in the past. This, in and of itself, is profoundly self-regulating.
- Say “No” when and if you need to. Remember, “No,” is a complete sentence. If something doesn’t feel right to you, “no” is a perfectly acceptable answer. It’s a boundary and good practice in recovery.
- Ask for help: You cannot do this alone. Understanding that asking for help is a learned skill, practice whenever you can. If you are lonely, or overwhelmed, or emotionally triggered, reach out to someone. Work with moving against the discomfort of asking for help – it does not imply weakness, but rather, tells those around you that you are courageous.
And most of all: have fun this Labor Day weekend. Like Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) once said, “Fun is good.” Try to find joy in the little things: a cuddle with a dog, a great cup of coffee, a cool dip in a pool on a hot day, the majestic cloud formations, a sunset, or whatever strikes you. There are nuggets of goodness everywhere. And if you have trouble finding something joyful, do yourself a favor and jot down 3 things you’re grateful for. It will help you find your way. Have a safe and sober weekend