Labor Day: No Drinking, No Problem!

Why do all summer holidays seem culturally imbued with alcohol? It doesn’t seem possible to visit a barbecue or cookout without seeing alcohol consumption, often to an excessive degree. And simply trying to abstain can lead to uncomfortable questions! Perhaps those who try to question a person who doesn’t drink feel as if their own substance use is being maligned. Beyond alcohol, many other substances are on display alongside the watermelon and fireworks.  Aside from staying home alone, what kinds of strategies can be employed to successfully navigate a sober Labor Day?

People, places, and things

The most obvious way to avoid problematic substances, whether alcohol or otherwise, during summer events, is not to attend. But who would look forward to a life away from family and friends? There is a happy medium between evasion and immersion. Come prepared, know your limits, and have an exit plan. Come prepared with your own beverage: it’s never a bad idea to stay hydrated with more water in the summer! But if you feel like you might be longing for a fancy summer drink, bring your own fruit juice and accoutrements. Know your limits: depending on where you are in your journey away from substance use, it might be too uncomfortable to watch others overindulge, or breath alcohol fumes in your face. There will always be surprises that come up out of nowhere – that old friend who keeps trying to pour liquor into your cup, a young family member who wants to proselytize the benefits of cannabis, or even a rehash of old misdeeds. Being able to gracefully step away from the person or situation, and even leave if necessary, can mean the difference between discomfort and drama. Finally, having an exit plan is crucial. Even if you do not drive, being willing to take a walk away from the event can give you the time to regain your equanimity.

Write your own invitation

All of our strategies so far have covered the premise that you’re attending someone else’s event. Why not host your own? Many people who are in recovery from substance use disorders have shared about the pride they feel when they can successfully entertain others for a holiday or event! Beyond hosting your own picnic or party, many religious, recovery, and social groups host public celebrations for Labor Day, to which any community member is welcome. Along with terrific food, there are often games, educational opportunities, and networking to engage in. In the most dire of circumstances, if Labor Day is simply too fresh a trigger for you to face this year, there are many films being released; going to the movies for the day is a safe way to escape in the short-term. You can always try to join the festivities at the next holiday, or next summer. Knowing your boundaries and respecting them is one of the many ways you can do service to yourself and improve both your self-image and your self-worth.

For more ways to celebrate or socialize without substance use, please visit our blog, which also offers profiles of Ammon Foundation Scholarship awardees, as well as useful information for anyone involved in the recovery community.