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5 Foolproof Tips for Avoiding Alcohol on Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is an important holiday, or a not so important one, depending on who you ask. The battle it commemorates, the Battle of Puebla in 1862, is very impressive, considering a greatly outnumbered group of Mexican troops managed to defeat the French army. Still, though, Mexico’s real equivalent to the Fourth of July is Independence Day on September 16th, which celebrates the start of the war that freed the country from Spanish rule. Yes, Cinco de Mayo is a much bigger holiday in the United States than it is in Mexico, and that’s mostly thanks to alcohol. In fact, Cinco de Mayo has become the United States’ 5th biggest beer drinking holiday. It’s even bigger than St. Patrick’s Day (number 11), and Super Bowl Sunday (number 10). Considering that people drink 325 million gallons of beer on Super Bowl Sunday, it’s not an understatement to say that beer and margaritas are going to be hard to avoid on Cinco de Mayo, so if you are in alcohol recovery, or simply want to watch a dangerous tendency to binge drink, you’ll need to plan ahead for how to avoid alcohol on this challenging day. With some good advice and a little preparation, you can stay sober this Cinco de Mayo, and still have plenty of fun with your friends.

5 Ways to Avoid Drinking on Cinco de Mayo

1. Offer to be the Designated Driver in your Social Circle

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Offering to be the DD will help you avoid peer pressure to drink.

Offering to be the designated driver for your friends provides a number of benefits for everyone involved. Most importantly, it will hold you accountable for not drinking, because you know that your friends are trusting you, and their lives are in your hands. You will also earn some bonus points with your friends for allowing them to party responsibly, and making sure they don’t drive drunk (or buzzed), which could cause them to lose their license, as well as a whole lot of money they’ll lose thanks to higher insurance rates, court costs, attorney fees, lost wages from time off work, and more. The average DUI will cost an individual about $10,000—and that’s if they survive.

When the time comes to drive everyone home from the party, make sure to be careful out on the roads, stay aware of your surroundings, and drive defensively. If you see anyone driving drunk, call the police and report them as soon as it is safe for you to make the call, and if you see anyone about to drive drunk, do your best to stop them. On the Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend of 2016, there were 257 crashes that led to 78 fatalities. This Cinco de Mayo, you and your friends can feel good knowing that you won’t be adding to these tragic statistics.

2. Buy Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Considering how widespread drinking is in the United States (one in three Americans have a problem with excessive alcohol consumption), it can be awkward to go out and be seen as a non-drinker in a crowd of drinkers. Sometimes it’s just easier to blend in by appearing as if you are drinking alcohol when you aren’t. Luckily, every bar and restaurant offers non-alcoholic beverages. Even if they don’t serve non-alcoholic beer, any kind of soda in a highball glass with a lime on the rim can pass for a mixed drink—or you could order a virgin margarita to keep in theme with the Cinco de Mayo festivities.

If you’re going to a party, however, don’t count on there being any non-alcoholic options available for you, and make sure to bring your own. You don’t want to arrive and find out that your choices are nine kinds of alcohol and one kind of tap water.

Also, while some people consider non-alcoholic cocktails and/or non-alcoholic beer to be lifesavers when it comes to their sobriety, some people in alcohol recovery find the taste of these beverages to be triggering, so be aware of your own comfort level and choose accordingly. Everyone’s recovery experience and coping needs are different, and it can take time to get to know your own.

3. Bring a Sober Friend

Going out with a sober friend is a great way to keep the both of you on track with your alcohol recovery. You can hold each other accountable, and abstaining will feel less awkward if you aren’t the only sober person in a room full of drunks. You’ll probably have a lot of fun watching everyone make fools of themselves while you still have your wits about you all night. Having a sober friend around will also remind you of how far you’ve come and how important your alcohol recovery is to you. Your sober friend can be a living anchor, keeping you from drifting away from your priorities and goals.

You can meet sober friends in treatment, or at AA meetings. You may even already know someone with the potential to be a sober friend—someone you weren’t that close to before recovery, who you can get to know much better now that you’re no longer drinking. When you invite a friend out for Cinco de Mayo, don’t be shy about directly stating that you need a helping hand to get you safely through the holiday. Odds are they’ll feel the same way and will be grateful for the mutual support.

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4. Make an Excuse

When it comes to figuring out how to avoid alcohol on Cinco de Mayo, sometimes a little white lie is your best option. Tell people that you are on an antibiotic or a prescription pain reliever that you aren’t supposed to mix with alcohol, or that you have an important meeting in the morning and can’t afford to be hungover, or that you have a breakfast date and you don’t want to look like a wreck. Since Cinco de Mayo falls on a Saturday this year, you could even say that you’re supposed to take your grandmother to early church in the morning—there aren’t too many people who will argue that you should leave your poor old granny to fend for herself on a Sunday morning.

5. Be Picky About Who You Hang Out With

If you are afraid that the people you usually hang out with are going to pressure you to drink, even though they know that you are in alcohol recovery, then you need to find some new people to hang out with. True friends will support you when it really matters, and would never push you to do anything that is harmful or against your best interests. Don’t feel guilty for removing bad influences from your life—after all, if they were better friends, you wouldn’t have to avoid them.

But sometimes friends may be bad influences without even realizing it. If their friendship really matters to you, then you need to get up the courage to be very direct and honest with them about your needs. It could be that they simply had the wrong idea about your alcohol recovery before. Maybe they thought you were just cutting down, and that a few drinks every once in a while wouldn’t hurt anything. Explain to your friend that you aren’t able to stop at just a few drinks, and that drinking anything can start a dangerous downward spiral that can only end with an alcohol detox. Once your friend truly understands how important your sobriety is to you, and what being addicted to alcohol actually means in your life, they will most likely change their behavior to be much more supportive. If they don’t, then they’re showing that they value getting drunk with you more than they value your overall health and happiness, and you don’t need that kind of friendship.

What if I’m Tempted to Drink?

Don’t Go to a Party:  If you are vulnerable right now, don’t put yourself at risk. For example, if you are in early alcohol recovery, or are currently under a lot of stress, or have been having alcohol cravings lately, then don’t risk your sobriety by attending a party that serves alcohol. If you didn’t think there would be alcohol at a particular party, but discover your mistake after you arrive, or if the cravings hit you by surprise after you get there, don’t just grit your teeth and bear it. Make an excuse and get out of there as soon as possible. Tell the host that you really wanted to come by and see them, but you really can’t stay. Tell the truth about why you have to leave, or offer up a little white lie to excuse yourself. Tell them you just started feeling sick a moment ago and you have to get out of there fast—try grimacing with a hand over your stomach and saying you feel terrible with a sense of urgency in your voice. Odds are, no one will ask you to elaborate, and they’ll be more likely to hurry you out the door than hold you up.

Throw a Party: You could also throw your own sober party with supportive friends, so you can focus on the true meaning of Cinco de Mayo. Throw the party at your own home, or organize a celebration with your local AA chapter. It could be they already have a sober celebration planned, and you’ll just need to find out when and where you need to show up. Or maybe they’ll be looking for volunteers and will be grateful for your help.

Whatever kind of sober party it turns out to be, you can make the Cinco de Mayo event a celebration of culture and independence, and everyone can have a great time without endangering their alcohol recovery. Use the holiday as an excuse to try cooking some authentic Mexican food—or call in the help of some family and friends who are better cooks than you. You might learn something new that can go into your regular at-home rotation of meals. Burritos, tacos, and enchiladas are delicious, and fairly easy to make once you have the ingredients. You might even try your hand at dessert—flan, or a sopapilla. The point is to make this Cinco de Mayo about appreciating Mexican culture, not Mexican beer.

Make Completely Different Plans: Who says that Cinco de Mayo has to be celebrated with alcohol? Doing anything fun that you enjoy can be a nice way to acknowledge the holiday. Even laying out on a blanket in the park, reading a book in the sun can be holiday-special with the right attitude. Or, if the association between Cinco de Mayo and drinking alcohol is simply too strong for you, then you don’t have to acknowledge the holiday at all. Go for a hike, spend the day on your favorite hobby, or go to the movies with a friend. Distract yourself with something enjoyable, and at the end of the day you’ll have multiple reasons to feel pleased with how you spent your Cinco de Mayo.

Having lots of interests and activities you enjoy is a great way to keep you sober and entertained on any day of the year. You probably have a lot of extra time and energy now that you’re no longer drinking, and it’s important for you to use that time and energy in healthy ways that can add dimension and meaning to your life.

Get Help

If you feel like you are close to relapse, or if you have already started drinking again, it is never too late to get back on track with your alcohol recovery. Attend an AA meeting or seek professional help at an alcohol detox center. Look through your local rehab options in our directory, or call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) and rededicate yourself to recovery.

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