Staying sober during the Calgary Stampede can be a challenge for those of us in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. While there is plenty of Stampede fun that doesn’t involve excess drinking or using, the amplified party culture is always close by. As socializing becomes a major focus, avoiding drinking and party drugs can get a whole lot harder.
“This time of year we want people to pay extra attention to their thought process and making healthy choices that support their ongoing recovery needs,” says Co-occurring Addiction Recovery Essentials (CARE) for Women Senior Recovery Clinician, Mary Ann Streukens. “It’s important for people to put their sobriety at the top of the list and plan accordingly. Knowing your individual triggers and avoiding these triggers in early recovery will likely increase your chances to stay clean and sober.”
1835 House Alumni Clay Hughes agrees. “There are going to be triggers everywhere. Talk about it with someone trustworthy. If you can’t handle a situation, don’t go.” Clay will celebrate six years of recovery this fall and emphasizes the importance of processing the thoughts and feelings that come up with an urge to drink or use. After working a recovery program consistently, he no longer gets triggered by the Stampede. “It’s actually a deterrent. When I see that barrage of drinking, and people hammered, it makes me glad I changed my life.” Through his experience at 1835 House, today Clay enjoys the family benefits of staying sober. Now, the Stampede means appreciating his daughter Emma’s performance in the Grand Stand Show.
Enjoying the Stampede in a healthy way can include making a plan, having supports in place and understanding your recovery needs. “Learning the thinking process behind trigger response is a part of the planning skills that we teach women in the CARE Relapse Prevention program,” says Mary Ann. The following four tools can help you avoid a relapse:
1. Avoid all triggers
Avoid people who are triggers and places that are triggering. Avoid making substances easy to get.
Be aware of thoughts that give you permission to use or be in trigger inducing environments with people who are using. Confront these thoughts with statements such as “I have a plan and I am sticking to it” and “I know better and I can do better.” Play the tape all the way through and remind yourself about your long term goals. Consider how you will feel tomorrow if you use. Whatever you do, do not ignore these thoughts. Address them and respond with a different thought. This can restructure brain patterns. Remember, the average urge to use lasts approximately three minutes. You can do anything for three minutes.
Move yourself out of the current environment and get doing something else. Walk the dog, call a friend, go to a meeting, research a topic, have tea, take a bath, write in your journal, read a book, garden, clean the kitchen. This list is endless. Create three distracting plans in anticipation of being triggered to use.
Make a list of reminders for why you stopped using in the first place. This could include health issues, broken relationships, legal issues, financial difficulties, etc. The more items on the list, the reasons you have not to relapse.
“We do ALL these strategies, not just one,” says Mary Ann. “It is also helpful to remember that the need to avoid people, places and triggers usually doesn’t last forever. Once you achieve stability and develop better coping strategies, it gets easier and much more enjoyable.”
If you or someone you love needs help recovering from an addiction contact 1835 House at 403-245-1196, or CARE for Women at 403-229-0795. You can also reach us or find out more about our addiction treatment programs online at https://recoveryacres.org/.