Happy Sober Independence Day!

Tomorrow is probably one of the most celebrated holidays of the year—the Fourth of July (Independence Day). For many of us, this holiday means family gatherings, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, concerts, baseball games and fireworks at night. It’s a beautiful day that lets us appreciate our freedom, where we live, and those who live here with us. If you’re like me, you probably can’t wait to spend this special day with the people you love and enjoy the camaraderie and the food and … the drinks. Well, in my case, the non-alcoholic ones.

Being a sober alcoholic, I’ve naturally had to adjust (de-alcoholize!) that part of the Fourth of July celebration, but that doesn’t take away the joy of the day at all. For many years now, I’ve been able to remember every single Independence Day, and I love it. Prior to quitting drinking? Well, it’s a blur. The boozy party atmosphere of long-gone years sure leaves some lingering nostalgia—and not necessarily of the bad kind—but I really prefer to remember my fun. That’s the best way to look at it—not drinking means that you will remember the fun.

There are many other ways of looking at it, of course, but this is probably the crucial one. It’s been years since I had to drink as if it was going out of style, scheme how to get more, hide all the drinking from my loved ones, and frantically insist on having all this fun that was just … exhausting. It takes a lot of energy to be the party king—a lot of responsibility too, to make sure you get drunk (because that’s really the point of drinking for this alcoholic), but also be able to take care of all the people who depend on you and don’t somehow screw it all up. I don’t have to do that any more. Do you know how much relief I feel when I know I don’t have to manage my drinking and others’ enjoyment? That all I have to do this year (and all the years prior, after I got sober) is to have fun and to make sure I don’t get in the way of others having fun?

A LOT of relief.

But I know it’s hard. Especially the first time you celebrate this day (or any other holiday for that matter) sober. Or maybe even the fifth time. It’s going to be hard for a while. You’re going to wonder where that guy or gal (you used to be) is—the one who was so sociable, gregarious, fun … Why was that person replaced with someone who seems timid, anxious even? Don’t worry, you’ll find your way. Maybe not the first time. Maybe not even the fifth time, but eventually you will. And if the Fourth makes you feel absolutely terrified, there are many ways to deal with it that don’t involve locking yourself up in a room and bingeing on Netflix (though you can do that too—nothing wrong with that).

Here are a few ideas that I’ve found useful for getting through a celebration that might be filled with booze and temptation:

  • Hang out with someone you trust – a friend or family member who can validate your experiences and have a meaningful dialog with (beyond small talk and pleasantries)
  • Bring a sober buddy! Or better yet, organize a sober Fourth of July or find out if there’s one happening that you could join.
  • Always have a (non-alcoholic) beverage with you—a can of soda, a glass of water—so that people who don’t know your deal won’t offer you a drink.
  • If there’s a bar where you are, tell the bartenders that you don’t drink and let the catering staff know too—sounds a bit drastic but trust me, it worked for me.
  • If you’re not sure what to do with yourself offer to help—with dishes, with setting up or cleaning up.
  • Hang out with the ones who don’t drink—kids!  If kids are not your thing, have a look around.  You may be surprised to notice that not everyone at that party is drinking.  Or just go and help with the barbecue. But hold that non-alcoholic drink close. You can do it.
  • Phone a friend.  Keep your mobile phone at hand in the event you need support from someone who has navigated these situations in the past.

Let me know what other techniques you’ve used or know of that worked for those who stay sober and sound through boozy celebrations.

Happy Fourth of July!

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