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Getting Through the First Few Weekends Sober

The first few weekends sober can feel daunting. But you can get through them without drinking or using. Here are some tips to help.

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Deciding to get into recovery is a vital first step. The challenge can be getting through the first few weekends sober and building a sustainable recovery. By its very nature, substance use disorder is hard to overcome and may take many attempts. But you’re not alone. Many of us in recovery have had to navigate this same journey. While those first few months can be the most challenging, it is entirely possible to achieve long-term recovery.

It can be difficult to navigate everyday stress and life’s ups and downs—like grief, job loss, or divorce—without substances. The weekends can be especially triggering. In recovery, weekends can suddenly be a lot of time on your hands, especially when you’re staying away from friends you used to drink or use substances with. But you can get through it.

This blog is a collection of tips and creative ideas to help you get through those first few weekends sober.

Tips to navigate your first few sober weekends

The first few weekends of recovery can be challenging but you can make it through them. Here are some tips to navigate through keeping your recovery intact:

  • Keep yourself busy: boredom can be a major trigger for returning to use. Make plans to keep yourself busy by
    • Visit alcohol-free venues, like parks, cinemas, exercise classes, malls, cafes, museums, sports events, or art galleries
    • Socialize: arrange to meet supportive friends who know how important your sobriety is to you. Ask them beforehand to meet somewhere that you don’t associate with drinking and using, where people won’t be inebriated
    • DIY: Finish that home project you’ve been meaning to tackle. Keep yourself accountable by telling a friend you’re going to do it and asking them to check in on you.
    • Head to a recovery meeting: peer-run groups like SMART Recovery, AA, LifeRing, and SHE RECOVERS all run throughout the weekend, even late into the evenings. Plan ahead by downloading the meeting schedule. Workit Health has some peer-led recovery groups for members that take place on weekends, as well.
  • Avoid triggers: people, places, situations, and things associated with substance use, which can spur cravings or intense memories. Make a note of what those triggers are and ensure you avoid them for your first few weekends in recovery.
  • Find professional support: perhaps you could meet with your therapist at the weekend or attend an alumni group at the rehab you went to.
  • Invest in your health and wellness: spend some time moving your body in a way that feels good. This will help boost endorphins (your brain’s feel-good chemicals) which may be depleted in early recovery. You could also create a menu plan, go grocery shopping, and meal prep for the week ahead.
  • Go away: take a partner or good friend to a spa, hot springs, or nature-based getaway to destress.
  • Make a relapse plan: have an emergency plan for the event you do find yourself feeling like you want to drink or take drugs. This could include the top three friends to call, going to a meeting, box breathing, journaling, calling your therapist, and having Narcan on hand, just in case. (This is not jinxing yourself! It’s having forethought to protect yourself in the event that a craving hits you hard.)
  • Volunteer: maybe you could offer to participate in a community clean-up, work at a local pet shelter, or hand out water to unhoused folks.
  • Find a new hobby: take up painting, go to a tai chi class, or visit your local music store. The goal is to spend time on something you’re passionate about or want to learn.
  • Garden: spend some time outdoors tending to your garden or visiting your local nursery. If you don’t have a garden or yard, see if you can find a local community garden and sign up for a plot or volunteer.
  • Read: there are tons of Quit Lit books written by people that have gotten sober. You may find these inspiring or motivating to stay on your pathway of recovery.
  • Go to an event: look at Eventbrite or another local event website to see what is happening in your area. Maybe there’s a TedX event, hiking group, or other groups and events that interest you.

There are so many things you can do in your spare time now that you’re in recovery. Before you know it you’ll be wondering why you wasted so much time drinking and hungover!

Olivia Pennelle (Liv) has a masters in clinical social work from Portland State University. She is a mental health therapist, writer, and human activist. Her writing has appeared in STAT News, Insider, Filter Magazine, Ravishly, The Temper, and Shondaland. She is the founder of Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, Life After 12-Step Recovery, and Tera Collaborations. She lives near Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Instagram @Livwritesrecovery and @teracollaborations

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. Workit Health, Inc. and its affiliated professional entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.

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