It’s Not Always Easy Being Green: Staying Sober this St. Patrick’s Day

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This weekend, the Chicago River will flow green and people dressed in green across the country will flood the streets, bars, and restaurants for St. Patrick’s Day. The holiday, originally celebrated in honor of the patron saint of Ireland, has become a drinking holiday for many Americans. It can be easy for nondrinkers and those in recovery to feel excluded and uncomfortable during the holiday weekend. So here is Gateway’s guide to activities that do not involve alcohol and some tips in case you find yourself among the pint glasses:

Stay in and enjoy your favorite indoor activities.

Whether you prefer Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, there are plenty of streaming options to choose from. Marathon a new series or re-watch a classic film from the comfort of your own home. For a list of what is available for streaming this weekend, click here.

If sports are more to your liking, then, as you probably already know, you’re in luck—March Madness . College basketball is now at the forefront of the sports world with games playing nearly every minute of the day. Even if your ride or die team failed to make it into the tournament or is already out, there are plenty of exciting matchups and Cinderella stories waiting to happen. For the schedule of all this season’s games, click here.

Read a new novel or re-read your favorite one. For a list of books everyone should read, across different genres, click here.  If you’re in the mood for fresh books with the potential to become classics, here is a link of New York Times’ best sellers released this past weekend.

If you prefer something more hands-on, look no further than the DIY board on Pinterest to find tons of crafts to keep you busy through the weekend—and even through the remainder of the month.

Focus on any of your hobbies, whether it’s playing an instrument or baking. Whatever you decide to do, dedicate time this weekend to something you thoroughly enjoy.

If you start to feel cabin fever…

Use this weekend to see the newest movies in theaters. Blank Panther has shattered world records and received glowing reviews. If you’ve already seen Black Panther or classic superhero movies aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other options now showing, including A Wrinkle in Time and Tomb Raider. Click here for a complete list of movies currently playing.

The time for New Year’s resolutions may be over, but it’s never too late to make a new resolution or to revisit one you made in January. Heading to the gym or a fitness class is a sure way to get your body—and your mind—feeling good. Exercise is proven to signal the release of dopamine, which makes you feel happy.

Surrounding yourself with people who are also not drinking is the surest way to resist temptation. Even if you are not drinking, simply seeing alcohol can lead to cravings.

However, if you find yourself somewhere where other people are drinking, remember to keep your mind and hands occupied. Try to find a sober friend who will accompany you so you have additional support and someone to talk to. Mingle with other guests but shy away from areas where alcohol is located, like bars. Hold a cup of a non-alcoholic beverage, like a carbonated drink or seltzer water mixed with juice. This reduces the likelihood someone else will make a drink for you or ask if you want something to drink.

Always remember you know yourself best, and if you feel uncomfortable, it is okay to leave. Trust your instincts.

There is no wrong way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and regardless of what everyone is doing, you should take the time to do what is best for you this weekend.

Entering Treatment around the Holidays

Champagner on Glass Table with Bokeh backgroundWhen the holidays roll around, people often put things on hold, including work projects, fitness goals, home-improvement undertakings, and much more. Unfortunately, people struggling with substance abuse disorders may allow their addiction to reach this same priority, with intentions to “deal with it” after the holiday chaos has passed. But why wait until the new year to make long overdue changes?

The upsides to treatment during the holidays may take you by surprise. Those in need of treatment may find that fitting a program into their schedule is actually easier in the months of November and December due to the fact that employers regularly foresee absences during these slow business months. Additionally, treatment may be easier to finance, as many people have already met their insurance deductibles.

The most noteworthy benefit of holiday treatment, however, is avoiding the possibility of substance abuse intensifying. The stress of family obligations, gift buying, and holiday celebrations can increase the desires of those struggling to turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping. Also, many holiday parties revolve around drinking alcohol, sometimes excessively in the form of binge drinking.

It can be dangerous to delay treatment, too. There is a higher incidence of drunk driving arrests, fatal accidents, and drug overdoses during the holiday season. Seeking treatment can keep you or your loved one safe, as well as offer the opportunity to start a new year off in recovery. Going to treatment during the holidays means starting the new year already having achieved some important goals. Instead of making a New Year’s resolution to get well, you or your loved one will already have strategies and plans in place.

The sooner treatment is considered, the better. You can learn more about drug and alcohol abuse and treatment options at RecoverGateway.org or by calling Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers for a confidential consultation at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Reduce Chances of Relapse by Planning Ahead for Holiday Social Affairs

holiday planning, stress, relapse prevention, recoverySince the holidays can be a stressful time, the more planning you do ahead of time, the more prepared you will be for challenging situations…and the more you will enjoy yourself this holiday season! Take that extra time to give yourself some T.L.C.

We recommend that you:
• Maintain your regular routines as much as possible, such as sleeping enough.
• Get proper nutrition and don’t overdo unhealthy holiday treats.
• Take medications that may be prescribed for mental health disorders.
• Keep your appointments with your healthcare practitioners.
• Attend 12-step and other support groups. Many recovery groups convene on holidays.

If you will be going to social gatherings where alcohol may be served, here are some helpful strategies to help you avoid a relapse:

• Try to find out who will be attending the family, business or neighborhood gathering. Knowing who will be there will help you feel more in control, and anticipate questions or comments from friends, family or strangers.
• Give yourself permission to excuse yourself for some time away from the people or any situation that is uncomfortable for you. You can go to a quiet place, step outside, or even go home, if needed.
• Bring along your favorite non-alcoholic beverage for your host to serve.
• Call your sponsor before to talk through your goals for the gathering. Keep your sponsor’s phone number handy so you can call for help if needed.

Remember, with Gateway, all you have to do is call. If you, a family member or friend is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse this holiday season, call 877-505-HOPE (4673).

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