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  • St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday with a long history, celebrated with many varied traditions around the world. Today, many of those traditions often include binge drinking alcohol

    For people who are in recovery from substance abuse, the triggers and social pressures of these events can be difficult to navigate. 

    Read on to learn a few ways you or your loved one can stay sober this St. Patrick’s Day. 

    1. Take A Deep Breath And Remember How Far You’ve Come

    Even if this is your first sober holiday, you already have much to be proud of. The self-reflection and hard work you have put in is worthy of celebration in its own right.

    Taking deep breaths is scientifically proven to interrupt the fight or flight response, and help calm the body and the mind. If you feel overwhelmed, take a few moments to breathe deeply. 

    Breathing Techniques

    A common breathing technique is called “triangle breathing,” which gets its name from the three lengths of time involved in the process. 

    Here’s how to do triangle breathing:

    • Breathe in for four seconds
    • Hold your breath for seven seconds
    • Breathe out for eight seconds

    “Square breathing” is much the same, but with a different pattern: four lengths of time at four seconds each. 

    Here’s how to do square breathing:

    • Breathe in for four seconds
    • Hold your breath for four seconds
    • Breathe out for four seconds
    • Hold it again for four seconds. 

    These can be repeated for as long as you need to feel calm. If you have respiratory issues that may be worsened by these, untimed deep breaths that feel comfortable will achieve the same goal.  

    2. Consider Nontraditional Forms Of Celebration 

    Oftentimes, the celebrations we think of as “traditional” are not as old or as common as we assume. Research the history of the day, and see how other cultures celebrate. 

    These nontraditional celebrations may be more in line with the sober lifestyle you want to have than the traditions you are used to. 

    And if you can’t find something you connect to, you can also form your own traditions. 

    Alternatively, there may be events for St. Patrick’s Day taking place at sober spaces.

    This might include:

    • movie theaters
    • bowling alleys
    • local nature centers
    • museums 

    3. Communicate Your Needs With People Close To You

    If you want to go to a St. Patrick’s Day party, ask a friend if they can come with you to the event. If they can’t, ask if you can text or call them during the celebration if you need support. 

    Consider talking to the person hosting the party (or the people you’re going with) about the triggers you want to avoid. 

    Have a plan and share it with them to best address these situations if they arise. 

    4. Bring Your Own Drink

    A great way to not be surprised by the drinks that are available at an event is to bring your own. If all that’s served is beer and spirits, you can be prepared with your own drink in hand.

    You can make mocktails, drink sparkling water or soda, or bring another one of your favorite beverages. 

    Always have a drink in your hand, this will help to stop people from offering you another one. 

    5. Rehearse Responses To Challenging Questions

    When speaking to people who may not understand or respect your decisions about sobriety, you don’t have to share anything you don’t want to. 

    For these situations, plan what you intend to say to them if they ask why you aren’t drinking. 

    These responses could include:

    • “No, thanks, I’m driving”
    • “I like this drink better, but thanks for offering”
    • “I’m not a big drinker” 
    • “I like myself better sober” 
    • “Drinking isn’t great for my health”

    Whether you need to use these responses or not, having them ready may make you feel more confident. 

    And remember, you do not owe anyone an explanation for your sobriety. A simple “No thank you” will suffice if you do not wish to disclose any further information.

    6. Plan An Exit Strategy

    Having an exit plan in mind may be reassuring, even if you don’t end up needing it. This may entail leaving at a certain time, if a particular person shows up, or if a trigger occurs. 

    If you have access to a car, consider driving yourself to the event. This serves a dual purpose: You have a reason for staying sober because you have to drive, and you can leave at any time. 

    If you do not have access to a car, research public transit options in the area before the event, or call a ride-share service. You can also make a plan with a friend to have them pick you up. 

    If you are leaving early and asked why, you can be honest if you feel comfortable. If you don’t feel comfortable, you can simply say “Something came up,” or “It’s time for me to go home.” 

    7. Take Breaks

    Don’t be afraid to take a short break from the event you are at. When you arrive, be on the lookout for quiet places you can retreat to if you need to later.

    These can include a room separate from the other people at the event, a patio, or a car. You can also take a walk around the block. This may help you recenter and feel at ease enough to return. 

    8. Schedule Self-care For After The Event 

    Look forward to the sober period you will have after your socializing is over. No matter how it went, you can reward yourself for facing a challenging event in the best way you could. 

    Self-care means different things for everyone. Your aftercare could include:

    • taking to a friend
    • spending time with a pet
    • doing something creative
    • eating your favorite food
    • sleeping
    • cleaning 
    • watching a favorite movie
    • playing your favorite video game

    Consider journaling about how you felt at the event. Reflect on how you handled the situations that arose there, and what you may want to handle differently moving forward. 

    9. Recognize Any Cravings As Part Of The Journey

    Urges and cravings are some of the long-term effects of alcohol abuse, and they’re a normal part of the recovery process. 

    Whether they happen at a St. Patrick’s Day event or somewhere else, experiencing them doesn’t mean you have to act on them. 

    Be gentle with yourself. Having thoughts of relapse doesn’t mean that you are destined to relapse or that your recovery is stunted. 

    Recovery is difficult, and it isn’t linear for most people. It’s okay to have doubts or cravings; acknowledge their presence without judgment, and then let them go. 

    10. Attend Group Therapy Or Outpatient Treatment 

    It’s a good idea to reach out for community support and treatment on days that may trigger drug or alcohol abuse, such as St. Patrick’s Day. 

    Try to find a group therapy session or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting before, during, or after the holiday. 

    You may also be able to receive inpatient or outpatient drug and alcohol treatment in your area. And if you can’t travel for in-person help, you might call an addiction hotline for support.

    Recovery is not a journey you have to take alone. When you know a major drinking event is coming up, such as a St. Patrick’s Day party, you can be prepared with recovery guidance.

    Drug And Alcohol Addiction Treatment In Massachusetts

    If you or someone you love are ready to face an alcohol or drug addiction in the New England area, help is available.

    Ark Behavioral Health is ready to help if you or someone you care about needs immediate support. 

    Reach out to us today to learn more about treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    FindTreatment.gov - Understanding addiction
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Handling urges to drink
    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Treatment and Recovery
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Alcohol Use: Facts & Resources

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on February 17, 2023
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