July 20, 2021 By EHN

With life beginning to return to a “new normal” in Alberta, we’re hearing more and more concerns of pressures around social gatherings and the anxiety that goes along with these situations. To help, the EHN Sandstone team has compiled healthy coping mechanisms, tips and suggestions to help navigate these feelings and set Albertans up for success in a post-pandemic world.

Now that the world is reopening, when I am in larger groups of people I don’t know I feel anxious and freeze. What can I do to calm myself down?
Mindfulness and grounding techniques can really help with this. Practice visualizing the situation you’ll be encountering before actually going so that you will have an idea of what you may need to feel comfortable. Bring someone you feel safe with, and have an exit plan in case you want to leave. Once you’ve arrived, familiarize yourself with your surroundings and choose somewhere you feel safe to take a five minute break anytime you need to ground yourself.

During my time at home I decided to abstain from alcohol and I’m happy with this new lifestyle. What do I do the next time I’m offered a drink in a social setting?
It is ok to say no without needing to explain or justify. Just say “no thanks” and/or ask for a non-alcoholic drink like juice or pop. It will always be your choice how much information you’re willing to share, and with whom. A sobriety program sponsor or friend can also help you decide who to share these personal lifestyle changes with.

I feel nervous accepting an invitation to a backyard get-together because I struggle with alcohol consumption and I know people will be drinking. How should I handle this?
Bring someone safe with you, like a supportive friend or someone who has been supportive of your life decisions and/or recovery journey. Be sure to bring your own vehicle or have a rideshare app handy so that you can leave if being around alcohol becomes too stressful or triggering. If you aren’t comfortable with the situation at all, you can also politely decline the invitation.

I have experienced loss this past year.  What are some ways I can cope when I start to feel overwhelmed?
The pandemic unfortunately caused many people to lose loved ones, jobs, friendships and relationships. Finding grief counselling or talking to others — whether it be friends and family, a therapist, or a support group — are often very helpful ways to manage grief. Practicing mindfulness exercises can also help you cope when overwhelming moments arise.

I checked myself into rehab at an inpatient centre during the pandemic, but not many people in my life know this. How do I explain this if it comes up with friends or family?
Having a substance abuse disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, but it is entirely up to you what you are comfortable sharing and who you are comfortable sharing it with. While it is up to you, decisions like this can be good to make with the guidance and support of others, such as a trusted friend, sponsor, or meeting group.

I’ve politely declined an offer of an alcoholic drink, but the person is being persistent and pressuring me to take a sip. How should I handle this situation?
Let them know how this pressure is making you feel, and if they still persist, continue to say no. If possible, try to have someone supportive with you when you are attending events or get-togethers. If people aren’t supportive of your lifestyle or recovery, you don’t need them in your life.

I still feel isolated even when surrounded by my friends and colleagues. Will I ever feel socially comfortable again?
Yes. Change can be difficult, but you survived it before and you will survive it again. If you are, or have been, in recovery, some of your relationships may also change. Over time you will become more comfortable, and you’ll realize that you get to be in control of the process.

Since getting sober, I’ve realized I want to distance myself from certain people in my life. How do I go about this without creating conflict?
You may not be able to avoid conflict altogether, but sometimes putting your needs first is what’s most important. If you have a substance use disorder then you have an illness that must be treated and validated. Remember that you are not responsible for other people’s feelings, you can only control your own responses to situations and treat everyone, including yourself, with kindness and respect.

If you are struggling with your mental health or are finding it difficult to remain in control when faced with alcohol or drug use, EHN Sandstone is here to help. Our inpatient treatment facility is warm and inviting and designed to put our patients at ease as they embark on their journey to recovery. Our team of doctors, nurses, counsellors and psychologists provide the highest quality of care and understanding, many of whom have firsthand experience dealing with addiction and mental health issues in their own lives. Call us today at 587-350-6818.

Other stories you may be interested in:

Alberta Mental Health and Addiction Supports

Reclaim Happy Hour — 5 Ways to Make the Switch to Sober Living