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.

Tips for Staying Drug Free

In honor of the upcoming Red Ribbon Week (October 23–31, 2016), Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers want to encourage those just entering recovery from a substance use disorder to find the support they need to continue living a life free of drugs and alcohol. Recovery consists of several stages. Completing treatment and returning to everyday life can be one of the most challenging for those who have struggled with substance use—changing routines and confronting triggers can be overwhelming. As well as attending outpatient aftercare and/or support groups, there are things that can be done in your personal life to help stay focused and feel supported. The following are a few tips to help remain drug free during this difficult but transformative time in recovery.

Stay busy by setting short-term goals. Occupying your time combats the boredom that can cause relapse. Before bed, make a to-do list for the next day. Perhaps you’d like to submit a job application, mow the lawn, and call a friend. Making habits to stay busy during the day will gradually disrupt the association to drugs and alcohol, and will also boost productivity and confidence.

young fitness woman tying shoelaces on trailSweat it out. Try to squeeze in at least 30 minutes of physical exercise. According to a study at the Mayo Clinic, exercise helps reduce stress, improves mild-to-moderate depression and anxiety, improves sleep, and boosts mood. If you’re new to working out, don’t be intimidated. The study suggests that a simple brisk walk is enough to reap these benefits.

Cut out toxic relationships. Don’t “test” yourself with unhealthy friendships or romances. Take responsibility for your recovery by being honest with unhealthy influences. Ask for their respect in your new lifestyle and need for space. Ending it doesn’t mean the other person is “bad.” You’re not assigning blame—only maintaining your own well-being.

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Utilize your support system. Support networks may include family, friends, colleagues, recovery meeting participants, sponsors, or therapists. You may find that verbalizing your feelings, even when you don’t want to, will help you conceptualize and take responsibility for the next steps necessary. Also remember that your support system isn’t only there to help you through the bad—together, you can celebrate the good!

Self-care and awareness are the focus of these tips. When times get tough, remind yourself that you’ll want to remember this time of adjustment. Valuable lessons and insights are being gained for your use down the road.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drugs or alcohol, learn more at RecoverGateway.org, or call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers for a confidential consultation at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

12 Tips for Staying Sober During the Holiday Season

tips for staying sober, holidayRemaining sober can be especially challenging during the holidays.  Family gatherings, holiday parties, and other social occasions can be very difficult for someone who is in early recovery.  Thoughts of past holidays can bring up memories of celebratory drinking or drugs.

Although it seems hard to get used to the idea of a sober holiday season, especially if friends seem to be having a great time drinking or using drugs, completing treatment is an accomplishment that you should be proud of.

Here are some helpful and practical tips to make staying sober easier:

  1. Write yourself a letter – “How I stayed sober over the holidays:” The act of writing your ideas on paper is a very powerful to reinforce your intentions. Think about your values write down all the activities that will help you have healthy, happy and sober holiday season.
  2. Plan each and every day of your holiday season:  Plan to spend the majority of your free time with friends and family who are supportive of your recovery. Likewise, plan downtime for reflection and rejuvenation.
  3. Keep a daily gratitude list: The quickest cure to get you out of the holiday blues is by counting your blessings and being grateful for what you have every morning.
  4. Sober community support: Come to Gateway’s holiday celebrations in addition to your recovery group get-togethers to share your experience, strength and hope with others. Check out Gateway Foundation on Facebook to find schedules for recovery groups, alumni meetings and special events hosted at our treatment centers.
  5. Tell your family and friends how they can support you: Those who are truly supportive of your recovery will be happy to help you throughout the holidays.
  6. Create a contact list: Make a list of 10 people you can call. You are always welcome to call a counselor or confidant at Gateway Foundation. Carry your cell phone and list of names at all times.
  7. Don’t skimp on exercise: Regular exercise is an essential component of any balanced recovery program and will help you weather the stresses that often accompany the season.
  8. Avoid unhealthy hangouts: There is no reason to ever check out your former favorite establishments—no matter who is in town.
  9. Begin for new traditions: Start an annual bowling tournament or flag football game with fun awards and prizes. Host a cookie baking party and trade cookies with your guests. Use your imagination, be creative and have fun.
  10. Volunteer for a charitable organization: There are many people in your community who are less fortunate than you. You will be helping not only the needy but yourself!
  11. Avoid H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired):  If you are hungry, get something to eat. If you are angry, talk to somebody about it. If you are lonely, go to a meeting or call a friend. If you are tired, get a good night’s sleep.
  12. Take one day at a time and enjoy your sobriety: Stay in the moment and live one day at a time. Never mind about what happened or what could happen. Enjoy today. Live today. Celebrate your sobriety.

Take this opportunity to celebrate not only the holidays, but also your new life of sobriety, which is something really worth celebrating. If you find yourself struggling during the holiday season, please remember that you are not alone. Help is only a phone call or meeting away. 877-505-HOPE (4673).

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