Summertime is when many families plan reunions. Sunshine, warmth, picnics, friendly yard games, races and other summer fun make reunions enjoyable and memorable.

When you’re in early recovery, you may have some reservations about going to your family reunion. You may see it as a struggle for temptations and emotional upheavals, all while being on the receiving end of judgement from some family members.

By having a plan for how to handle your family gathering, you can get through it a little easier while protecting your sobriety and also having a little fun.

Decide How Much You Information You Should Share

You are the one to decide how much you should reveal. Figuring out beforehand how much you’re comfortable sharing will make the family reunion a smoother experience for you. Your recovery is a personal matter, so don’t feel obligated to reveal everything to everyone.

If your recovery isn’t well-known throughout the family and you’re not ready to share at the reunion, use a script for refusing alcohol or other off-limits substances. Simply saying “I don’t drink” should be enough, but you can personalize or expand the message according to your own experience.

Have an Exit Plan

Always have an exit strategy that makes sure you can leave at any time. Be prepared to leave quickly if the pressure is building, you’re feeling stressed out or you’re having a hard time resisting temptation.

Have your car keys handy. If you don’t have your own car, have the number of a local taxi service readily available and cab fare in your pocket. You could also have a reliable friend standing by that you can call to quickly come get you.

Manage Expectations

You’re sober, but that is not a guarantee that everything will be better right away—and family reunions are no exception. While your family may be happy you are no longer actively using, there can be anger, bitterness and distrust left over from the days when you were using.

Time does heal, but it’s not uncommon for families to bring up the past. Being prepared for negative reactions allows you to handle them better when they arise.

Reconnecting With Family Members

In the past, you may have viewed family reunions as a time of indulgence. Fun meant drinking or using other substances to have a good time. Now that you’re in early recovery, shift your view that your family event is a time for creating new connections and reconnecting with those you love or hold dear.

You have the opportunity to reestablish communication with family members you may have not seen while you were dealing with your days of active addiction. Connecting with family members can provide you with the emotional support you need to continue your recovery.

Navigating family reunions is about knowing your triggers and staying vigilant, but it’s also about reconnecting with family and building a good life for yourself in sobriety. This summer, see your family reunion as a time for rewarding yourself for sticking with your recovery.