Although you might live a sober life, the world we live in isn’t drug and alcohol free. For someone in recovery, triggers and temptation exist everywhere, from sporting events to social events to advertisements on television. But addicts and alcoholics work hard for their sobriety and those fully committed to it will move on, proudly counting their days, weeks and years without giving into temptation.
Every once in a while, however, after eating something at a company potluck or taking a sip of a drink a friend hands you, the realization hits: There’s alcohol in this.
Accidental relapses are fairly common in the recovery community. Most of the population isn’t concerned with whether or not the medication a doctor prescribes is a narcotic or if a mouthwash contains alcohol. But for those who are proudly sober after a long-fought battle, consuming drugs or alcohol accidentally can be a head trip, and make someone question whether or not they relapsed. The consensus in the addiction community is that if you didn’t know – and you stopped consuming it once you made the connection – an accidental relapse doesn’t bring your overall sobriety into question.
In some situations, it might be impossible to avoid an accidental relapse – after all, you’ll be sober for the rest of your life! – but below are a few tips on how to minimize your chances of one occurring.
- Ask what’s in a meal before ordering or eating. These days, people are allergic to all kinds of foods – from gluten to peanut butter to dairy – and have no qualms requesting a dish be made without a certain ingredient. When ordering out, don’t hesitate to ask your server the contents of a dish and ask that alcohol be left out of it. If you’re in a social situation – such as an office party or cookout – survey the dishes and what could potentially contain alcohol, and then pull the cook aside to ask about the dishes contents. If you don’t feel comfortable revealing that the issue is alcohol, just make a generalization that you have several food allergies and want to ensure none of them are present.
- Stay away from “near beer” and other alcohol substitutes. While drinking “near beer” isn’t technically an accidental relapse – since it doesn’t actually contain alcohol – many addiction and recovery experts agree that drinking one does walk a fine line. Some people in the sober community have reported that bringing non-alcoholic beer to parties makes them feel more “normal,” however, drinking them is walking along slippery slope. “The power of the addict’s brain to want to get high is so strong that even using fakes or substitutes is only going to lead to fantasizing about using the real stuff,” says Stephan Gonzalez, drop-in center director for the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse in Santa Barbara, California. As a rule of thumb, avoid it entirely.
- Read the contents of packaging. From cough syrup to mouthwash, alcohol is everywhere. Doing a simple Google search on alcohol-free options will help direct you toward brands and products that do not contain it.
Do you have any tricks or tips for avoiding an accidental relapse?