For a Safe and Sober Fourth, Pack Narcan and a Picnic

Ryan Hampton

Independence Day is my favorite day of the year. Some people love Christmas or Valentine’s Day. For me, it’s the Fourth of July. I love America, and the Fourth of July is like the biggest, best birthday party ever, for the nation I’m lucky to call home. I love the fireworks, the flags, the parades. I love that we celebrate our nation’s freedom by hanging out with friends and family, grilling, or maybe taking a trip to the beach. I love the stars and stripes, the national anthem.

I’ve always felt like this. In fact, my love of my country has been a huge influence in my career. I was on every student council in grade school. As an adult, I worked in politics, and got to see the amazing fireworks show on the National Mall in Washington, DC. I always celebrated the Fourth of July, although I spent more than one of them in rehab. In 2012, I was locked in a detox unit that had no windows. I could only hear the explosions in the sky outside as I shivered through yet another withdrawal. It’s the only fireworks show I’ve missed.

This year is my third sober Fourth of July. I will be doing all the things I usually do: watching my neighbor’s kids set off sparklers as the sun goes down, enjoying a slightly burned hot dog. I’ll probably get a sunburn. But instead of drinking or getting loaded, I’ll be sober. Staying present makes my favorite day even more enjoyable, for me. I know for sure that it is more enjoyable for the people around me, too. If you’re reading this, the odds are good that you know someone who’s in recovery or is struggling with addiction. Here are some ways that you can help that person have a safe, happy Fourth of July.

Have Fun

It is totally possible to have fun while staying sober. The Fourth of July is an amazing holiday, with all kinds of awesome things to do. Ride your bike, get together with friends, go for a hike, or plan a red, white, and blue picnic. Many towns have parades, free music performances, and other fun events to check out. Grab a friend and explore what your city has to offer.

Don’t Miss the Local Fireworks Show

You can’t have Independence Day without fireworks! It’s literally my favorite thing to do every year. There’s something so special about being part of a crowd that oohs and aahs as the rockets turn into golden stars overhead. It’s magical. Your local newspaper (or their Facebook page) should have a listing of places to see the fireworks.

Eat A Lot

I admit that I’ve been on a diet lately, but I’m giving myself the Fourth off. Fresh berries, hot dogs, hamburgers, amazing desserts, and cold salads are all on the menu. I usually hit up a few barbecues to visit friends, bring a non alcoholic beverage or a side dish to share, and sample whatever’s on the grill. Feeling like I’m not locked into any particular event has been good for my sobriety: if I feel uncomfortable, or if other people are drinking heavily, I can just go on to the next event.

Carry Narcan

Our communities have been hit hard in the last couple of weeks. The overdose rate is increasing. If you’re in recovery or spending time with people who are at high risk, carry Narcan. The shot could save someone’s life. Also, be aware that if you are with someone who’s overdosing, you need to call 911 for additional help. Don’t leave the overdosing person: Good Samaritan laws will protect you if the situation gets sketchy. You can find out where to get Narcan here:

Stay Connected to Your Recovery Community

Holidays, especially holidays where there is drinking or partying, can feel like a trigger to some people in recovery. That’s totally normal. Be smart and stay connected to your sober peers and friends. Many support groups, such as 12 Step programs, hold round-the-clock marathon meetings for people who need a break from the festivities. I have a list of resources on my website to help you find support near you, when you need it:

Share Your Sober Fourth on Social Media

I’m using the hashtag #HappySober4th to share pictures, videos, and posts. Tag your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with this hashtag, so we can see each other on social media. I will be sharing some of my favorites (after the fireworks, of course!) later tonight. Showing that we do recover, and we have a great time, is so important for our community.

This Fourth of July, I’m excited to celebrate my country’s independence. But it’s not just for America: it’s for me, too, as a person in long term recovery. My sobriety today is hard-won. I had to fight for it, and at times I wondered if I’d make it through the battle. As I sit on the grass tonight, surrounded by my friends, I will be appreciating every moment. The Fourth is about freedom, and thanks to my recovery community, I’m truly free today, too.

Happy Fourth!

Love to you all,


Fourth of July

Headline photo credit: Eugene Strouse
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