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Tackling Football Season Sober

The long-awaited football season has arrived, and though it’s an exciting time for football fans across the country, if you’re in recovery, you may be tackling some mixed feelings about the season. The thought of not drinking on game day is sure to spark some feelings of worry and anxiety no matter how much time you have.

For years sporting events have been largely associated with the consumption of alcohol and football is no exception. From tailgates, to stadiums, to bars, and even your own home, the pressure to drink while cheering on your favorite team is prevalent. And although there is pressure, drinking is not a requirement to have a good time this football season. In recovery, you may hear your sober support network talk about ‘finding a new way of life,’ but that doesn’t mean you have to give up your love of sports to maintain your sobriety – it just means planning ahead to avoid triggers for relapse.

Fear not, fans – read on to learn Recovery Centers of America’s strategy for implementing a game plan to tackle this football season sober.

Play offense

Football fans know in the game, there are two sides – offensive and defense. To play on the defense means to be reactionary, on the other hand, to play on the offense means to be proactive and come up with a strategy.

In the rooms of 12-Step fellowships, you often hear members talk about being vigilant of ‘people, places, and things’ that might trigger temptation to use. When it comes to planning your game day activities this year, instead of playing defense and quickly reacting in the moment to triggers that may come up, be on the offense. Take some time to think about the people, places, and things that were present during your active addiction and come up with a new way to watch the game that doesn’t include these triggers.  

Seek out supportive fans

We know that one of the keys to achieving success in long term recovery is having a sober support network to learn on. Whether it’s your sponsor, other members of your 12-Step program, or your fellow RCA alumni, identify peers that also have a love for the game. If you’re new to the fellowship, ask around before or after a meeting – chances are, you won’t be the only person looking for sober friends to watch the game with. So reach out, start making those connections, and enjoy the game!

Game day can also be safely spent with friends or family outside of your sober community but be a little choosy. You’ll want to be sure you surround yourself with those you can be honest about your recovery with and trust that they will hold you accountable.

Identify a safe space to watch the game

In early recovery, it’s a good idea to steer clear of the stadium for a while. While there isn’t anything that quite compares to watching the big game in an arena filled with fans, it can also be difficult to navigate in sobriety because of the emphasis on drinking. You may also want to avoid bars and public spaces that only serve alcohol as the environment can create some high-risk situations for relapse. Remember, while you may feel strong in your recovery walking into these spaces, at any given moment, anything can change.

Watching the game from home, a restaurant, or a friend’s house may be a safer, more enjoyable option for you. Before making plans, open a dialogue and create some boundaries with your friends and loved ones about your recovery and how they can best support you on game day. What that means for you is entirely up to you. You might not feel comfortable with having alcohol nearby or watching your loved one’s drink in front of you. Maybe simply asking your host to provide non-alcoholic drink options would make the environment feel safer for your recovery. Most importantly, be sure to ask your friends and loved ones not to offer you anything that may put your recovery in jeopardy.

When all else fails, stay home. Sometimes a situation is easier controlled when it’s on your home turf.  So, if you’re feeling uneasy about the idea of going out for the big game, remember that there is nothing wrong in staying home to lessen the temptation to drink.

Plan to make an exit

If you are planning to go out and mingle amongst your fellow football fans, be sure include an exit strategy in your game day playbook.

1. Walk away – if you’re feeling uneasy in your current environment, it’s perfectly okay to step away for as long as you need to regroup. While you’re away, take some time to practice your coping skills and take a few deep breaths.
2. Call someone – after taking a moment to yourself, call on those in your support network to come in for the assist. Talking with a peer who understands the feelings you are experiencing in the moment will help put your mind at ease.
3. Leave – sometimes a triggering situation can be too much or too overwhelming to safely navigate, and that’s okay. Remember, your recovery comes first, so don’t feel bad about taking yourself out of an environment that may jeopardize it. Before you go out, be sure to identify a safe place in the event you feel compelled to leave. Your safe space can be anywhere – a meeting, your home, a park, anywhere to help you shift your focus.

No matter what your game plan looks like for this football season, you don’t have to allow the temptation to drink risk how far you have come in your recovery journey. Just like in football, every yard counts. By taking the steps and being proactive to plan ahead come game day, the odds will be in your favor to cross that goal line.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder, don’t wait. Call 1-800-RECOVERY today. Our Mission Center team is awaiting your call 24/7.

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