Staying Sober on Labor Day Weekend

It’s Labor Day weekend, the first holiday of the school year and the one that indicates the hibiscus©saritzrogersreal end of Summer and the transition toward Fall. Labor Day represents the culmination of Summer barbecues, eating al fresco, long days and warm nights. Stores already have Halloween swag for sale and it’s still August! I wish I was kidding.

For addicts and alcoholics, long weekends tend to mean parties. But as the path of recovery becomes your own, the meanings of holidays change. They become opportunities for making healthier choices, having sober fun, and making long-lasting connections.

Still, for someone new in recovery, holidays might be overwhelming. Holidays may be the first relatively unstructured time for the newcomer fresh out of treatment, or it may be reminiscent of times past where things went awry. The reality is, recovery requires a shift: a shift in social circles, life choices, and a shift in how we represent ourselves to the world. Gone are the days of calculated debauchery and lost memories.

Here are some helpful tips to help you stay on track this Labor Day weekend (and any holiday weekend from here on out):

  • Get active: Play in the surf, go on a hike, or a long bike ride.  Firing up those endorphins is good for us and positive for our mental health.
  • Go to extra meetings; There are meetings going on at all times of the day—early morning to the infamous late-night meetings.  Often times, there are marathon meetings on holiday weekends.
  • Stay in contact with your sponsor and actively engage with your recovery support system
  • Be of service! Helping others gets us out of ourselves and into action. At 21 years sober, I spend more of my time being of service than I ever did. It keeps me present, engaged, and out of my head.
  • Host or attend a sober event. In sober living? Maybe your house will be up to the task of making an in-house sober fun day – BBQS, pool party, et cetera.
  • Engage in a contemplative practice: yoga or meditation. Yoga and meditation are both a direct route to self-care. They cultivate the engagement of the breath, which helps us stay in the present moment. They both ask that we are present: not in the future and not in the past. This, in and of itself, is profoundly self-regulating.
  • Say “No” when and if you need to. Remember, “No,” is a complete sentence. If something doesn’t feel right to you, “no” is a perfectly acceptable answer. It’s a boundary and good practice in recovery.
  • Ask for help: You cannot do this alone. Understanding that asking for help is a learned skill, practice whenever you can.  If you are lonely, or overwhelmed, or emotionally triggered, reach out to someone. Work with moving against the discomfort of asking for help – it does not imply weakness, but rather, tells those around you that you are courageous.

And most of all: have fun this Labor Day weekend. Like Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) once said, “Fun is good.” Try to find joy in the little things: a cuddle with a dog, a great cup of coffee, a cool dip in a pool on a hot day, the majestic cloud formations, a sunset, or whatever strikes you. There are nuggets of goodness everywhere. And if you have trouble finding something joyful, do yourself a favor and jot down 3 things you’re grateful for. It will help you find your way. Have a safe and sober weekend

Fourth of July: Celebrating Our Independance

The Fourth of July is also known as Independence Day. As folks in recovery, this presents  adolescent-drug-recovery-californiaa unique opportunity to celebrate independence from addiction and mental illness. It’s an opportunity to celebrate independence from the circumstances that fueled our addiction and facilitated our mental illness. Some addicts or alcoholics who are in the swing of their addiction may feel the abysmal pull toward darkness: institutionalization, jails, stealing, acts of violence, and even death. Others may continue to function, however, they proceed through life with the pull toward an internalized darkness: spiritual death, loneliness, isolation, depression, numbness, and an overall disconnection with others. Substance abuse is no walk in the park. Finding freedom from that level of deep suffering is truly liberating.


The Fourth of July is the recovering addict’s Independence Day, quite worthy of fireworks and colorful lights!


Because it’s the Fourth of July, there will be parties, fireworks, bonfires, and BBQs galore. In recovery? Ask around and see where the sober parties are! Frankly, I’ve always had more fun at sober parties than I did at the ones with drugs and alcohol. I not only remembered what I did at sober events, I found myself more inclined to be accountable for my actions.


However, maybe you’re not ready for a party; perhaps it’s too triggering, or maybe it’s too stimulating altogether. You still have options! Here are a few suggestions:


  • See a movie with some friends;
  • Go for a hike;
  • Organize a sober camping trip;
  • Schedule a spa day;
  • Have a nice dinner with some close friends or loved ones.


It’s wise to avoid triggering situations. This means steering away from people who push your buttons; It means not hanging out with old friends or in situations that may cause you to lose your footing in your recovery. If you are in any of these situations, make sure you HAVE AN ALTERNATIVE PLAN!


Schedule your time: If you know you’ll be somewhere triggering on the Fourth of July, take precautionary steps. Create an exit plan with a determined start and end time.


Have a support system: Have sober reinforcements: friends in recovery, your sponsor; Let people in your recovery community know what’s going on and let them know you may need to call. If you find yourself in a situation where your sobriety is being threatened, a support person can help you regroup and get back on track.


What if someone offers you a drink or drug? Just say no. You don’t need a clarifier. “No” is a complete sentence. Be firm: if you are unsure or unstable in your response, someone may see that as an opportunity to pressure you to “have just one.” There is no “just one.”


This Fourth of July, let’s celebrate Independence through the lens of sobriety and our recovery.  On July 4, we will honor our independence from the bondage of drugs and alcohol, and the delusion of addiction. We will celebrate our ability to participate in life, fully, and with no regret. Sober fun is the kind of  fun you will remember and can enjoy wholeheartedly.


Have a safe and sober Fourth of July!


Positive Tips for a Safe and Sober Graduation

Graduation is a few weeks away and that means there will be tons of parties and cause for


(Photo credit: uonottingham)

celebration.  Sometimes, grad night acts as a bridge to experimental drinking and drug use, or it can be uses as justification for intoxication. Graduation is a milestone and often symbolizes growing up and moving into adulthood. At times, adulthood is perceived as freedom from childhood where there are no parents breathing down their necks, no teachers calling home when they don’t pull their weight in class, and no one to report to. How many time have we heard,”Gah. I can’t wait to be an adult.” If they only knew, right!?


Graduation time is a great opportunity to brainstorm with your teen about the various positive options available to them if they find themselves in a compromising situation. Likewise, graduation time calls for active parenting where transparency coupled with healthy boundaries and compassion are key.


Check out the following grad-night sobriety tips. If you’re in any kind of recovery, these will be helpful:

  • Have a sober posse with you – a group of friends that you can rely on and who are on the same or similar path as you.
  • Create an exit plan: know what you will do if something goes awry or if you find yourself in a tough situation.
  • Call your sponsor before and after an event.
  • Movie night.
  • Host a sober house party – there’s nothing like good music, laughter, and silliness.
  • Create a scavenger hunt where people have to work in teams. You could do it in your local city with a start and end place.
  • Use the buddy system – don’t go it alone.
  • Ask your school to host fun, alcohol-free parties after graduation.
  • Suggest that parents and teachers run a hotline on prom night. If students have trouble getting to or from the dance or are riding with someone who’s been drinking, they can call for a safe ride with no questions asked.


More than anything: congratulations. Congratulations on completing high school, or college. Congratulations on showing up for yourself and your education. Congratulations on being the leaders of your generation and champions of a better future. May you go on to do great things, safe, sober and alive with joy.

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Coachella: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Coachella is happening and there are tons of opportunities for sober fun!
At Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival

MusicCares is in the house, representing artists in recovery. There are organizations like Soberchella who host 12-step meetings every day of the 3-day festival. Aside from listening to the varied array of musical acts (seriously, there is more variety at Coachella than at the 99-cent store!), you can enter a “Bad Dancing Competition,” or you can Hula Hoop, participate in a “Not-So-Silent Dance Party,” a Three-Legged Race, play Dodgeball, participate in a Joke Contest, or a Pinball Competition. The opportunities for sober fun are many!


There are tons of things to do at Coachella that don’t involve drunk and disorderly behavior.


Still, you should have an out, or a way to take care of yourself in the event that you get overwhelmed or someone in your party relapses or does something unwise. Know that your recovery isn’t contingent on being liked, popular, or the life of the party. It is contingent on self-care, healthy boundaries and a system of solid support. If you go, make sure you have:

1: Your sponsor’s number

2: Your parent(s’) number

3: A safe place to go if you want to leave early


Know your boundaries: Maybe this year, Coachella isn’t for you. Maybe you’re not in a place to be able to maintain healthy boundaries. Maybe “No” frightens you and is connected with your perception of being liked. Maybe your best friend is pressuring you to go but your gut tells you you aren’t ready. That’s tough, especially as a teen. It’s normal to think you will miss something or be left out of something über cool. The interesting thing about this: it will pass and you will begin to recognize that taking care of yourself and your recovery is far more important than being in the midst of temptation.


So, whether you go to Coachella or if you decide to skip it this year, remember to treat yourself the way you want to be treated. Everyone deserves to be loved, respected, and heard. Can you provide those things for yourself? I believe you can!


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The Annual Alumni Ski Trip! It’s Finally Here!

This is it: time for our annual Alumni Big Bear Ski trip,

Ski Bear Mountain

Ski Bear Mountain (Photo credit: miheco)

and we are over the moon! It’s one of the favorite alumni events of the year, and the fact that 6 more weeks of winter have been predicted (thanks, Punxsutawney Phil!), and the fact that snow is falling, we are raring to go.


It’s always an adventure complete with community building activities, epic goofiness, 12-step meetings, fellowship, and a burrito-eating contest. Yes, you read that last part correctly. There’s a place in Big Bear that sells something called the “Big Juan” burrito. It’s a 4-pound burrito and if you can eat it in 45 minutes, you win a T-shirt. There is always someone willing, no matter the warnings of sickness and overwhelm.  It must be some T-shirt! We’ll post pics if someone dares to take this challenge.


The best part of this trip is the alumni community. Alumni are given the opportunity to reconnect with one another, bond and share stories of recovery, downfalls, and encouragement. Some come just for that, even though they don’t ski or snowboard. In fact, there has been many a time where alumni have helped each other out on the slopes, guiding each other down their first hill or their 100th.  Team work, fellowship, goofiness, laughter, hot cocoa, marshmallows, and the inevitable teen prank: It’s all worth every moment.

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Visions Wishes You a Happy Thanksgiving and Chanukah

eat hamIt’s a big night: it’s the night before Thanksgiving and the first night of Chanukah. It’s a holiday mashup if I’ve ever seen one!


There is the inevitable stress (walk into any grocery store and you’ll see what I mean), family shenanigans (some good, some bad), and excitement. I won’t lie, the entire week has been focused on making Thanksgivukkah donuts. Really.  What I will tell you is this: try to find some humor in the madness. There is humor and joy or the possibility of both everywhere you turn.


There are:







Bad jokes:

Why don’t turkeys fly?
They can’t afford plane tickets!

Why do turkeys gobble?
Because they never learned table manners!


Silly videos:


If you find yourself in a situation where you feel too vulnerable, remember these tools for self-care:

  • Take 10 deep breaths.
    • Try one of my favorite calming techniques: Breathe in for the count of 5, breathe out for the count of 6. Do this 10 times! If you can, increase the #s, always making the outbreath longer. It naturally calms the mind and resets the nervous system.
  • Take a time out;
  • Make an exit plan
    • drive your own car
    • have secondary plans or a safe place you can go.
  • Go to a meeting;
  • Be of service. It will change your life.


From all of us here at Visions Teen, we wish you a safe, sober, and fun Thanksgiving and Chanukah.


“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”  Charles Dickens

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How To Have a Safe, Sober and Fun Halloween

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween (Photo credit: Professor Bop)

Did you know that more people drink and drive on Halloween than many other holidays?
“Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that Halloween is among one of the most deadly holidays for drunk driving. For the holiday period — from October 30 through 5:59 a.m. on November 1, 2011 — 74 people died nationwide in a crash involving a drunk driver, a 21 percent increase over the average number of drunk driving deaths per day.” via MADD

We understand that Halloween can be a trigger for some people, particularly those who are newly in recovery, so it’s important to create some guidelines and parameters with which to navigate the holiday. If you were once an enthusiastic celebrant of Halloween, doing it sober may cause you panic and despair. Don’t worry, below are some safe, and fun suggestions. Remember, if this holiday is too triggering for you, you can make it a non-event: go to a meeting, hang out with friends, and keep it simple. If it creates stress, it’s not worth it.

  • Plan something with people who are committed to being sober
  • Surround yourself with people who can hold you accountable.
  • Be honest with yourself and with those around you: talk about your triggers if you have them!
  • Don’t go to a party where you know there will be drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Create a relapse prevention plan using tools you’ve learned at Visions to create a good exit strategy if you should need one.

There are an abundance of sober activities you can do on Halloween, especially as part of the young people’s fellowship. You can:

  • Be of service to your family: take your little brother or sister out to trick or treat.
  • Have a scary movie night
  • Have a monster themed dance party
  • You can go on the Haunted Hay Ride with sober friends
  • Some fellowships may have a Halloween themed dance or event.
  • Host a sober Halloween party with spooky treats and an eerie Halloween music mix
  • Make a creepy, crawly scavenger hunt

This list can go on. I trust that you can come up with a fun sober activity! The most important thing is that you enjoy yourself, stay accountable in your recovery, and endlessly tickle that funny bone.    Embrace this new side of yourself. Being present and aware is a wonderful thing to behold!

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Films About Recovery: Reel Recovery Film Festival 2013

ReelRecoveryFilmFestWriters in Treatment presents the 5th annual Reel Recovery Film Festival. It’s happening right now in Santa Monica through the 24th of October. It features films about, by, and for people in recovery. Writers in Treatment are a non-profit organization rooted in recovery and the arts. They provide referrals to those seeking treatment as well as scholarships for those in need.  Writers in Treatment also offers educational, wellness and prevention programs through their Author/Outreach series.

The films are playing throughout the day starting at 1:00 and there are a wide variety of films to choose from. Follow this link to the Reel Recovery Film Festival’s Schedule of Films.


Laemmle’s Monica 4-plex
1332 2nd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401

The cost:


The Reel Recovery Film Festival is a wonderful way for writers and artists to give back to the recovery community and to share their messages of experience strength and hope. The triune of recovery is Unity, Recovery, and Service; the Reel Recovery Film Festival encompasses all of that, bringing powerful messages of recovery to a large group, and encouraging fellowship and service.  This is a really cool event! We hope to see you there.

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Alumni Adventure: Halloween Horror Nights

Purge-Chainsaw1-500x700One of the most lauded alumni events at Visions is our Halloween outing.  This year is no different as we expand our adventure and take it to new heights: Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, we are coming your way!  I hear it’s scarier, gorier, and more terrifying than ever.  Rumor has it, Halloween Horror Nights makes Knott’s look like kids’ play! Say it isn’t so!


The attractions are fraught with zombies galore, inspired by the Walking Dead as well as some much-needed comic relief. A little screaming, a little laughing: it’s all waiting for you! Check it out:


  • The Mazes take you through the “shadowy confines of the West Georgia Correctional Facility,” which of course is chock full of hungry zombies looking for…YOU. In the mazes, there is no “safe haven.”
  • Once you leave the West Georgia Correctional Facility, you can jump on the Terror Tram, where you will find yourself in a zombie filled town of Willbury. The wilderness is filled with “decaying Walkers.”
  • There is some comic relief available with Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure. I’m sure it’s like, totally most excellent as they take you through the madness of this year’s pop culture adventures.

The rides are there too, albeit scarier than the usual fare. Maybe you’ll be seated next to a zombie on one of these rides: Transformers, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park — in the Dark, and the Simpson’s Ride.


Of course there are also myriad scare zones throughout the park:

  • The Curse of Chucky is in the house, and he is ready to play hide and seek with you.
  • There’s the Purge, where you have to find a way to “survive the night.”
  • We can’t forget the Clowns, right? Those with Coulrophobia (fear of clowns) beware as you find yourself on clown-filled streets of Paris.
  • Next you may find yourself under the shadows of the Scarecrowz Tower, with a new breed of scarecrows waiting for you nearby.
  • And last but not least is the Walking Dead infestation. Stay together, y’all. Zombies are notoriously unpredictable.


The excitement for this event is brewing amongst the Visions kids and I can’t help but share their enthusiasm with you all here:


“I am so excited for the Visions Alumni event this Friday.  I really am looking forward to going to Universal Studios Haunted Horror Nights with all my new friends I have made at Visions and to see all the alumni kids.  It’ll be a great night for sure.”


“I can’t wait! I’m so ecstatic. I personally don’t like scary things, but I’m still so excited.”


“I like haunted houses and stuff so that will be cool.  I like sober fun and going with my friends. It will be fun.”


Whether you are alumni, a current client, or staff member along for this scary adventure, Halloween Horror Nights will be a night to remember.  What a cool opportunity to be a team: stay together and enjoy the ride! This is what sober fun is all about!


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Visions Alumni Weekend, 2013!

Alumni Weekend 2013The Visions Alumni weekend is fast approaching and we are really looking forward to three days of sober fun! Each year, alumni get a chance to reconnect with their fellow alumni, challenge the staff to a softball game, and engage in team building activities that are chock full of laughter and joy.  For us, it’s a pleasure to see the evolution of our alumni as they gotten more rooted in their recovery.


This Alumni Weekend is going to be stellar. Day one: We start the weekend off with an amazing dinner and bowling. Day two: There is an opportunity for service work during the day and a 12-step meeting in the evening. Day three: Softball and the pièce de résistance: we have the Grilled Cheese Truck firing up their griddle and making us sammys! I anticipate great fun.


Many alumni have called asking which staff members will be there because so many folks are looking forward to reconnecting. This is one of the many areas where we shine! We are the Visions family, and with that comes the inclusion of alumni past and present who rely upon us to be the bedrock in their recovery experience.

Without further adieu, here’s some baseball inspiration. We aim to for silliness and fun and we know you do too!

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