Maintaining Recovery in an Alcohol Saturated Culture

Maintaining Recovery in an Alcohol Saturated Culture

Alcohol is everywhere in our culture

There are many factors involved in successful addiction recovery. Avoiding relapse is managed in part by learning to identify and avoid as many circumstances that trigger cravings as possible. For many people the prevalence of alcohol in the culture is a significant challenge because alcohol and drugs like Xanax are often abused together, and the sight and smell of alcohol may trigger memories of both alcohol and drug abuse. Sometimes people who have struggled with addiction to a drug believe that they can drink alcohol instead, but because the substances work similarly in the brain, consumption of alcohol can easily lead to relapse and return to drug abuse.

There are various aspects to the task of combating the temptations that may be caused by proximity to alcohol. The first strategy is to make an effort to avoid places where alcohol is sold or used as much as possible. This is especially important in early recovery, when new habits and skills are being developed. On those occasions when proximity to alcohol cannot be avoided, it is important to develop strategies and plan responses in advance. The focus on and development of other relapse prevention techniques is also essential.

How to Avoid Exposure to Alcohol

Steps to avoiding exposure to alcohol include the following:

  • Make your home an alcohol-free zone – Let your friends know your policy so that they will not bring drinks when they visit.
  • When friends plan social gatherings, ask them if alcohol will be served – Let them know that you will not be able to attend if alcohol will be part of the event.
  • Build a network of friends who do not drink or abuse drugs – A natural place to develop such friendships is an addiction support group. Many churches also have a tradition of alcohol avoidance and a large percentage of non-drinkers.
  • Learn which local establishments, such as restaurants and grocery stores, sell alcohol and avoid them as much as possible.

How to Say No if a Drink is Offered

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends preparing in advance for the occasions when proximity to alcohol cannot easily be avoided. They note that being ready to say no if a drink is offered is an essential skill, and their suggestions for doing so include the following:

  • Be friendly but clear and firm.
  • Avoid responses that tend to prolong the discussion such as vague excuses or long explanations.
  • Answer immediately without hesitation.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Prepare a series of responses in case the person offering the drink is insistent. Suggestions include first saying “No, thank you,” then “No thanks, I don’t want to,” then something like “I’m not drinking now because I’m trying to take care of myself. I’d appreciate your help.”
  • Alternatively continue to simply repeat the original response. This is known as the “broken record” strategy.
  • If the person continues to insist, simply say “No, thank you” once again and walk away.
  • Consider practicing the conversations ahead of time either alone or with a friend.

Staying in control can also involve strategies such as having non-alcoholic drinks at hand and leaving the gathering if the temptation begins to build.

Relapse Prevention and Self-Care

Relapse prevention is not just about saying no. It is also about saying yes to many different methods of self-care. One aspect of self-care is building a strong support network. The medical website WebMD notes that support is the key to maintenance of sobriety. They also note the importance of exercise, good nutrition and developing new hobbies or engaging in volunteer work.

An NIAAA publication titled “Alcohol Dependence, Withdrawal, and Relapse” notes that relapse triggers include exposure to small amounts of alcohol, exposure to stimuli that cue alcohol-related memories and stress. Learning to manage stress in a positive way is an essential recovery skill. Stress management techniques include the following:

  • Keep a journal – This can fulfill several functions. It is a safe way to express emotions, and it can help illuminate patterns that might otherwise be hard to distinguish.
  • Determine what tasks are most necessary and important and which can be dropped from the to-do list or left for a later time – An over-scheduled life tends to be a stressed life.
  • Focus on the positive – Making it a habit to reflect on items for which you are thankful can provide much emotional strength. To a large degree, life is lived in the mind.
  • Spend time in nature – Most people find that time spent hiking, gardening or simply reading a book outside is refreshing and restorative.
  • Schedule time to relax – Make sure that me-time is included in the day’s schedule.

We Can Help

If you or a loved one struggles with an addiction to alcohol, Xanax or another drug, give us a call. Our toll-free helpline is staffed 24 hours a day, and we can answer your questions and help you sort through and identify your best treatment options. We can even check your insurance coverage if you wish at no cost or obligation. A new life is waiting for you. Call now.

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