Editor’s note: As we experience unprecedented times during this global pandemic, we urge everyone celebrating this Independence Day to be cautious in group settings and follow your state’s health guidelines to ensure the safety of yourself and those around you. For more information on your state’s restrictions and guidelines, visit www.cdc.gov.

With the 4th of July looming around the corner, the celebrations and gatherings to commemorate America’s independence are traditionally accompanied with fireworks and barbecues while spending time with friends and family. The 4th of July also happens to be one of the biggest days of the year for alcohol consumption.  In fact, every year over 1 billion dollars is spent on beer alone with another $568+ million spent on wine and spirits.* Needless to say, that’s a lot of alcohol purchased in a single day. For people in recovery, this can be an extremely stressful time since, as indicated by the sales numbers above, alcohol seems to be everywhere you look on this day of celebration. Being in an environment with copious amounts of alcohol, it’s easy to fall into a “just this once” trap. Unfortunately, this type of slip up is prevalent on days like 4th of July and is one of the most common occasions for relapse. However, there are ways in which to enjoy a substance-free Independence Day, it just takes some careful forethought and planning. That being said, here are some ideas and activities that are guaranteed to be memorable and fun without alcohol or other substances. 

Go to a Meeting in the Morning 

The first few things you do in the morning set the tone for the type of day you are going to have. For those in recovery, this is a great opportunity to go to a morning meeting to discuss your plans and/or reservations about the holiday and be around like-minded people to help establish a positive mindset for the rest of the day.

Due to the Covid-19 gathering restrictions in place throughout the country, Herren Project hosts recovery meetings every night at 7:30pm EST. Meetings are held through Zoom and are a great alternative to in-person meetings you may have been missing due to social restrictions. After you download the free application, it’s as easy as the click of a button to join. Learn more about Herren Project’s online recovery meetings.

Host a Sober BBQ

4th BBQ

What’s better than 4th of July food staples like hotdogs and hamburgers? Sharing those delicious meals with friends and family! Whether it’s friends from group meetings, work, or family members, create an invitation to send through email or flyers with an emphasis on being a substance-free event. Being around other people is a great way to distract yourself from the stresses of yearning for a drink, especially if those people are abstaining as well. Have some activities planned like roasting marshmallows, lighting sparklers or a fun group activity or game like charades to keep the fun going.

Go to a Public Park 

Whether it’s to go on a nice stroll, get some fresh air, or play a game of frisbee – being outdoors is great for mental health.  Weather permitting, the 4th of July is the best time to get some summer sun while enjoying the variety of amenities provided at many public parks. If the park is on the water, bring a fishing pole or a swimming suit to cool off from the heat. If you’re unsure what parks are in the area, visit www.stateparks.org for a comprehensive list of national and state parks in your local area. 

Get Some Exercise 


What better way than to enjoy a nice summer day than going for a jog, walk, or run around the neighborhood. Or, in the event that it’s raining, pull up a workout or yoga video online to get the blood pumping.  Exercise is crucial for mental and physical wellbeing, as we’ve described in a previous post.  And what better way to burn off some of those extra calories we may be consuming during a cookout! While there’s no wrong time for a quick workout, as stated before – the way we begin our day will have lasting, positive effects for the activities and social events that follow. Getting the blood pumping early in the morning can increase energy and have a positive impact on mood and in turn, provide a clear and focused mind while you enjoy the day’s festivities.

Volunteer for a Charitable Event  

The great thing about volunteering is that when we are helping others, we are too busy to focus on ourselves. For many people in recovery, the tendency to be in constant self-observation can become a detriment if we get caught in in a retrospection loop. Giving our time for a good cause can help to break that cycle. When we do good, we feel good. If you’d like to find some charitable causes in your area that are accepting volunteers this Independence Day, visit www.volunteer.gov.

Have a Movie or TV Show Marathon


Have a favorite movie series or show that you’ve been meaning to catch up on?  Why not spend the day or night with some sober friends or family watching a comedy or binge-worthy show. If fireworks, hotdogs, and the smoldering summer sun just isn’t your thing (or it happens to be raining where you are), this is a great alternative or end-of-day addition to share some laughs with friends. Grab some popcorn or candy and you’re ready for a fun, safe, and most importantly, substance-free time with friends or family. 

Going to an Event or Party Where There Will be Alcohol?

For those in early recovery, we strongly suggest refraining from attending get togethers where there will be alcohol and drugs. Recovery is more than just abstaining from alcohol and drugs, it’s an unending process of doing personal, often emotional inventory and discovering ways to healthily cope with the stress or other reasons that lead to drinking or using in the first place. This takes time and it is crucial that we don’t put ourselves in situations that could trigger the urge to resort to substance use. Without the proper tools and healthy coping mechanisms to deal with these triggers, it can prove to be incredibly detrimental when faced with these choices too early on in recovery.  

However, if you are attending a 4th of July party with alcohol, there are a few things that may help you during these festivities.

Bring your own beverages
Bring your own cooler filled with a variety of your favorite non-alcoholic beverages. You can even try a few different kinds of drinks you’ve never had before, such as an exotic tea or probiotic water. If you have your own cooler of drinks, you won’t be rummaging through someone else’s that may have beer or wine mixed in. 

Drive yourself
If you have a car, no one should question why you’re not partaking in drinking if you say you have to drive home. This should eliminate some of the peer pressure you may feel when confronted with the option to drink. This also gives you an escape if you’re feeling anxious or uneasy about the drinking taking place.  

Bring a sober friend
Having a friend by your side that is also in recovery will create an accountability system that you both will benefit from.  Having that friend there as a reminder of how important your recovery is will add an extra element of awareness so that if you are tempted to drink, you can always take that person aside and share the struggles you may be experiencing in that moment.  You can even have a code word that either of you can use to signal when it’s time to leave – no questions asked.


Independence Day for those struggling with substance use disorder can be a difficult time.We are bombarded with constant images in the media that glorify the use of substances as a means of having fun and socializing – especially around holidays.This Independence Day, I challenge anyone in recovery that is reading this to not only celebrate America’s independence, but also celebrate your independence from alcohol or drugs.Use this occasion as a way of acknowledging that recovery from substance use disorder is a challenge and any step taken to free yourself from the grasps of alcoholism or drug addiction is something worth celebrating.

We hope you have a wonderful and safe 4th of July!

If you’d like to share how you celebrated a substance-free Independence Day, tag us on social media @herrenproject and use the hashtag #Sober4th so that we can join in on the celebration of being your best self!

*Source: wallethub.com