While most Kentuckians think of Derby Week as a fun and cheery time, the celebrations can present challenges for those in recovery. The good news is that you don’t have to have a cocktail in hand to partake in the festivities.
As the 149th Kentucky Derby quickly approaches, we’re highlighting some of the ways people in recovery can have fun celebrating the Run for the Roses and avoid uncomfortable situations that might put their recovery at risk.
Here are 7 tips for a safe and sober Derby Week:
1. Plan ahead.
Unscheduled downtime, especially in the early stages of recovery, can lead to bad thoughts and worse outcomes. Plan out your days/week by creating a schedule for yourself that includes spending time with friends and loved ones. If you’re noticing big gaps in your day, make plans that will help keep you accountable for showing up in a safe space with supportive peers.
2. Avoid being alone.
For many individuals, finding community is a key to success in recovery. This Derby Week, avoid isolating yourself and spending time alone. If a big group sounds overwhelming, find a friend or two who you can spend time with. You can also attend a 12-step meeting to stay connected to support or call your sponsor.
Remember, you are more likely to stay sober and in the right frame of mind when surrounded by a group of supportive individuals working towards the same thing as you.
3. Spend quality time with a group of sober friends.
There are many ways to spend quality time with friends that don’t require drugs or alcohol.
Make lunch or dinner reservations with friends or plan an activity somewhere where big crowds won’t be such a hassle. Consider heading to a movie theater or bowling alley, or just get out in nature for a walk, run or bike ride. If you’d prefer to stay in, plan a game night and grab some takeout.
4. Host your own Derby party.
Rather than going to a party where people might be using or drinking, host your own alcohol-free gathering. Invite those who you know will not mind spending Derby Day sober. It’s even better if they are friends who are also in recovery!
To keep the party as stress-free as possible, keep your guest list small. Ask your guests to bring a dish or alcohol-free drink for everyone to share and enjoy.
If you are newer to recovery, it’s important that all your invitees understand this will be a Derby event of sober fun. While these conversations may not be easy at first, setting boundaries beforehand will ensure everyone is on the same page.
5. Get crafty and enjoy a Derby mocktail.
There are lots of delicious, alcohol-free alternatives. You can follow this recipe to create a Mint Julep mocktail. This can help set you up for a successful evening and minimize those uncomfortable questions about why you’re not drinking.
6. Make short appearances and drive yourself.
It is always okay to say no to Derby Week functions, parties and get-togethers if you know they won’t serve you well.
If you do decide to go to a gathering, you don’t have to stay the whole time–especially if it will put your recovery at risk. Whether or not you tell the host your reason for leaving, you are under no obligation to stay for a long time. By showing up, thanking the hosts and conversing with a few people you know, you can make a brief appearance without being there longer than you feel comfortable.
Making a quick exit will be easier if you drive yourself. If you have to ride with someone to an event, discuss a plan to leave ahead of time so that you’re on the same page and there won’t be any surprises.
7. Keep it simple and don’t stress too much about what everyone else is doing.
Whether you are new in recovery or have a decade under your belt, try to keep it simple. Establish reasonable goals and don’t get too caught up thinking about what everyone else is doing. Do what’s best for you and your recovery, and don’t worry too much about missing out anywhere else!