Most recovery programs are based on abstinence from alcohol and other substances. To support that goal they typically recommend avoidance of situations where alcohol may be around for the first few months of sobriety. But if you work around alcohol, that may not be possible. Instead, you’ll likely go from rehab directly back to an area with alcohol, which can be tempting and triggering. Working to build coping mechanisms, taking steps to protect yourself and your sobriety, and being honest with yourself and your employer will help you to stay in recovery, even when working with or around alcohol.
These tips will help you to get yourself on the right track so that you can stay sober and in recovery as you leave rehab and go back to work.
Can You Legally Work Around Alcohol?
If you have committed an alcohol-related offense or are under court-ordered sobriety, you may not legally be able to work around alcohol. This means you may not be able to bartend or operate in any position which requires you to have a license to serve alcohol. You can work in some liquor shops as well as a server delivering drinks or in a hotel which happens to have a bar.
It’s important to check your state and association regulations before continuing. If you don’t have an alcohol-related offense, you do not have to disclose your substance use disorder and may continue working there. However, you may lose your job if found out. In some cases, a court may protect you. For example, if you have built a career as a bartender and have no other work opportunities.
Is Exposure Necessarily Bad?
While some people are recommended to avoid alcohol during their first few months out of recovery, that’s often worse in the long-term. Avoidance simply sets you up to fail when you are eventually exposed to the substance. Instead, you should learn to cope with triggers and cravings. In addition, working in a daily position around alcohol will allow you to desensitize yourself to the presence of alcohol, which can make you less susceptible to cravings over time.
Talk to your therapist:
- What kinds of alcohol are you around, why does it matter?
- How do you feel with alcohol in front of you?
- Can you not drink it? Why/why not?
Your therapist will be able to walk you through why exposure to alcohol causes problems, how it affects your sobriety, and work with you to develop coping mechanisms for your specific triggers.
Learn Coping Mechanisms
Everyone will experience cravings, and the sooner you are out of rehab, the stronger they will be. In some cases, cravings can mimic the feelings of a panic attack and you may have a racing heart, intense stress, and an extreme urge to drink.
Your behavioral therapist or counselor can work with you to develop coping mechanisms in these instances, based on how you feel, your motivation, and drinking. For this reason, it’s also important to continue seeing your therapist after you leave rehab.
- Take 15 minutes. Most cravings go away on their own in 15-30 minutes although some can last significantly longer. Volunteer for a job that puts you far away from alcohol, take a break and go to the bathroom, or do something difficult at work.
- Call a sober buddy. If you’re not part of AA or another 12-step group, call a friend or your counselor. They can help talk you through cravings.
- Do something physical. Physical activity will distract you from the mental craving, making it easier to resist.
Keep Going to Therapy
Regular counseling sessions are ideal for most people, even those who attend inpatient recovery. If you’re working around alcohol, your therapist can help you to go over the reasons you experience cravings when you see alcohol and can help you keep you in the right state of mind. After all, you quit drinking because you didn’t like being addicted, and glamorizing drinking now is a problematic symptom of your disease, not what you actually want. Therapy can work to prevent you from falling back into problematic thought patterns that will lead you to relapse.
Attend Group Support
Whether traditional 12-step based like AA or a newer science-based support group like SMART recovery, groups based recovery support helps. People who attend recovery groups for long periods of time have a higher rate of continued abstinence than those who don’t. Why? Support groups offer a combination of motivation, social accountability, and support from those who have had similar experiences. Most support groups operate on a similar principle, helping those in recovery to meet people, to discuss shared problems, and to motivate each other with shared stories. In addition, simply having to check in and explain that you were or were not sober that week can add an immense amount of accountability. You must tell people who interact with you every day, who know what slipping up looks like, and who likely look up to you for motivation in the same way you do to them.
Attending weekly (or more) meetings will help you to stay in the right frame of mind, so that you remember why you are sober when around alcohol.
Be Honest with Yourself
Sometimes you will slip up, sometimes you won’t be able to stop yourself, and sometimes mistakes happen. Being honest with yourself and backing off and going back to treatment if that happens is important. This also applies when you aren’t drinking but thinking about doing it. For example, many people begin to withdraw from recovery groups, stop talking to friends and family, and start to rationalize taking a drink to themselves for several weeks before actually drinking. If you notice that you’re behaving in this way, it’s a good time to go see a therapist, go to your support group, and truly review what you want and why.
Similarly, if you catch yourself glamorizing or missing alcohol, rationalizing having a drink, or telling yourself you deserve it, you need to be honest with yourself and seek out help. Doing so can be the difference between a relapse and staying sober.
Learn to Destress
While there are many reasons you might relapse, the most common is actually stress. That’s important, because many jobs around alcohol are often high-stress jobs in customer service and often busy. Learning to cope with stress and to manage stress in your daily life will reduce your chances of relapse by reducing the negative emotions that often lead to relapse. While there are many ways to de-stress, you can consider regular exercise (at least 30 minutes per day), mindfulness or another meditation-based stress management technique, going outside, talking to a therapist, taking up a hobby, doing things you like, and finding ways to enjoy yourself that do not involve alcohol.
If you’ve attended detox, rehab, and treatment, you will likely have learned some ways to reduce or manage stress in your daily life. Use them or follow up with additional training to improve how you cope and manage stress.
Remember Why You’re Sober
No one decides to get sober because it’s something to do. You often must very badly want to be better or to improve who you are, even if it is for someone rather than just yourself. Those motivations likely have not changed since you went to rehab. Consider writing down a list of reasons you want to stay sober, keep them in your pocket, and review them when you experience cravings.
- “I am sober because I want to be a better person”
- “I am sober because I want to achieve my goals”
- “I am sober, so I can be a better parent”
Write your own but consider starting with an I and writing out why you want to stay or be sober.
No matter where you work, proximity to alcohol won’t cause you to relapse. Your own behavior, thoughts, and choices will. Most importantly, if you slip up, it isn’t the end of the line. You can simply go back to therapy (or to rehab if you’ve become addicted again) and recover again. While it’s always better to avoid taking a drink in the first place, a slip up doesn’t have to mean losing your sobriety completely.
If you’re still struggling with alcohol addiction, it’s important that you seek out help. A treatment center can give you counseling and behavioral therapy to help you tackle the behaviors and underlying problems behind alcohol abuse, so that you can recover and live a happy life without drinking. Please contact us today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors, we’re here to help. Beginnings Treatment Centers is located in beautiful and sunny Southern California in Orange County, which has one of the strongest and most active recovery communities in the United States.