The U.S. is a difficult country to live in right now. Migrant children are being held in concentration camps. Our president disputes rape claims by saying the women are ugly. There’s an opioid epidemic, but there’s also an alcohol epidemic; liquor companies just don’t want us to see it. Mass incarceration is the new racial segregation, which was the new lynching, which was the new slavery. We live in a country literally built upon the mass genocide of peaceful tribes.
Whether or not you feel proud to be American right now, the Fourth of July is right around the corner. In so many ways, it feels absurd to even fathom celebrating this national holiday, yet here we are. Part of sobriety is the willingness to embrace the vulnerable, the unknown. To stare truth in the eye and say, “Yeah, I can handle you.”
Part of sobriety is the willingness to embrace the vulnerable, the unknown. To stare truth in the eye and say, “Yeah, I can handle you.”
As a sober community, we have a responsibility to look beyond the commercialization of Independence Day. To understand that every night we sleep in a warm bed is a miracle. To never take our sobriety, or our independence, or our status as a nation, for granted.
Here are four ways to celebrate the Fourth of July when you’re sober, cognizant of the United States’ history of mass genocide, and actively fighting beneath the wheel of the ever-revolving capitalist patriarchy.
1. Donate to an organization that supports American and Alaska Natives.
When Christopher Colombus first arrived on Caribbean shores in 1492, there were between 5 million and 15 million American and Alaska Natives living in North America. At the end of the 19th century, fewer than 238,000 Native Americans remained. The mass genocide of the American and Alaska Native population was conducted via more than 1,500 wars and attacks instigated by the U.S. government. Today, there are 2.9 million American and Alaska Natives living in North America, making up approximately 0.9 percent of the entire U.S. population. There are 573 federally recognized Tribal Nations; approximately 229 are located in Alaska, and the remaining 344 are located in 35 other states.
With so much generational trauma, American and Alaska Natives populations deal with disproportionately higher rates of substance abuse. Approximately 17.5 percent of American and Alaska Natives were in need of alcohol or drug treatment from 2003 to 2011, compared to just 9.3 percent of people of other races or ethnicities, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Recognize the fact that we live on stolen land, and consider donating to a relevant organization on the Fourth of July. A great option is the First Nations Development Institute, which improves economic conditions for Native Americans through direct financial grants, technical assistance, training, advocacy, and policy.
2. Celebrate your sobriety.
Let’s face the facts: From keggers to red, white, and blue Jello Shots, the Fourth of July is a booze-soaked holiday. In a way, though, the name Independence Day is rather appropriate if you’re sober. This holiday, celebrate your independence from alcohol and your ability to go through life without having to constantly numb yourself.
The celebration of a booze-free life is particularly relevant in the context of statistics. During the 2017 holiday, 236 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes, which accounted for nearly 40 percent of all traffic deaths during that holiday period, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Additionally, it’s estimated that the U.S. spent more than $1 billion on beer alone for the 2018 holiday. When you’re choosing not to drink during the holiday, you’re choosing not to become a statistic in more ways than one.
3. Surround yourself with friends and family.
Sure, recognizing the history of the U.S. or your own sobriety can be cathartic. Sometimes, though, holidays that focus on alcohol are triggering no matter what. If you’re feeling particularly vulnerable this Fourth of July, make sure you take care of yourself.
Hosting a potluck for friends who support you in your sobriety is a great way to celebrate safely. Have everyone bring a favorite dish — heck, it can even include the colors red, white, and blue if that brings you joy — and enjoy a day filled with food and laughter. Just remember to check in with yourself throughout the day, and make sure to pay attention to HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. If you’re feeling any of these things, take a step back and remember that it’s ultimately just another day on your long sobriety journey. That, and maybe eat a cupcake from the potluck.
4. Let your holiday be a day of aspiration.
While our country still has a long way to go in terms of rectifying deep-rooted issues, the Fourth of July should also be a day of aspiration. Part of getting sober is knowing there’s a better alternative to your current reality. When the 13 U.S. colonies claimed independence from England on July 4, 1776, they were actively striving for a better future, even if it was centered around white men.
Let your holiday be a day to set goals for your personal life, but also in terms of living in the U.S. How do you want to give back so more people can taste that elusive freedom? Do you want to donate to an organization that supports immigrants? Volunteer for your local abortion clinic? Join local protests? Write down a list of goals for the rest of the year — we’re now more than halfway through 2019 — and revisit them at the end of this year.
It’s easy to look at what’s happening in the U.S. today and feel kind of hopeless about the state of the world, with no desire to celebrate the Fouth of July — and that’s okay, too. But if you do want to do something a little special for this country’s birthday, or if you simply have a day off from work and want to figure out what to do with it, these suggestions can help you spend a safe and sober July 4th this year. And remember: Our country may be hurting right now, but taking action can give you a glimmer of hope that’s akin to seeing the light in sobriety.