Sunny skies, barbeques in the backyard, and long lazy days by the pool are the hallmarks of summertime. Summer is the season where life slows down just enough for everyone to relax a bit more than usual, and calendars fill up with outdoor festivals, family gatherings, vacations, and neighborhood parties.
And the one thing many of these events have in common is alcohol, and sometimes even drugs. For those in recovery, this provides many opportunities for a potential relapse as the combination of being social with friends or family and the availability of substances can be very tempting. It can remind them, and romanticize past days in their active addictions when they drank or used at parties to relax or to lose their inhibitions, and trigger a relapse.
And while it’s difficult to find hard statistics on the effects summer has on relapse rates, according to a study from NYU School of Medicine, both teens and adults are more likely to try illegal and recreational drugs for the first time during the summer months, for the reasons mentioned above: idle time and increased social events where drinking and drugs are prevalent.
Let’s face it: These opportunities are there for those whether it’s tempting them into their first time using, or threatening the sobriety of those in active recovery. As a matter of fact, many recovery houses and rehabilitation centers report that one of their busiest months is July, right in the middle of the summer season.
However, even though it may seem that summer is pushing you toward events that challenge your recovery, there are many ways you can take measures to avoid alcohol and drugs (and triggers) while still making the most of all summer has to offer.
Below are some of the most effective summer sobriety tips that can help ensure your recovery can become Lasting Recovery.
Start by reassuring yourself that summer is just another season. You’ve been successfully incorporating daily relapse prevention measures to help manage your sobriety, and you need to remind yourself of the progress you’ve made on your recovery and the ongoing commitment to staying clean and sober every morning when you wake up. And never forget to offer gratitude for your recovery progress every evening before you go to bed. That’s the foundation you’ll continue to build upon, but as the summer heats up you may find yourself needing a little more in the way of support with so many opportunities lurking in summer’s long days.
1. Just Say No
It’s a familiar, and effective, mantra for not trying drugs or alcohol, that can also be applied to certain activities and people who may be pressuring you into uncomfortable situations. Remember, you’ve made your sobriety a priority, and while friends and family should understand that commitment and its importance, sometimes they don’t. So be prepared to say no, even if it may seem hard to do because it’s awkward or even hurtful. Simple phrases like “I appreciate the invitation and that you thought of me, but I can’t make it” offer you the ability to decline invitations.
2. If You Do Say Yes…Plan Ahead.
There will be events you will want to attend. Staying sober in the summer doesn’t mean you have to live in isolation like a hermit. However, planning ahead and learning as much as you can about an event’s activities, food, and beverages can better prepare you mentally as to what to expect, and go a long way toward alleviating any anxiety or uncertainty about what you’re attending. Asking the host of the event the right questions before you attend will help you find out what beverages and snacks will be available, the type of activities you can expect, and who else will be there.
If the event you plan on attending has you a little bit concerned about possible triggers, you should bring along someone you can trust to hold you accountable to your sobriety. An accountability partner can make sure the choices you make don’t lead to the possibility of a relapse.
You can also bring your own beverages and snacks to satisfy your cravings while there. Having your own non-alcoholic beverage in your hand can prevent others from offering you a drink.
Most importantly, bring your own car and have an exit strategy in case the event becomes overwhelming and starts to threaten your sobriety.
3. Host Your Own Event
You may notice that many summer events, venues, or parties involve alcoholic beverages, and potentially drugs. It can be challenging to be in these environments while on your recovery journey. So instead of trying to find substance-free activities, make your own. Plan to host your own event with your support group friends and family members.
And since it’s still summer, you can choose from many outdoor fun activities, such as a pool party, picnic in the park, or a hike through your favorite forest. The best part will be the mental health boost you’ll get from being social with your peers and the satisfaction that comes with the successful planning of your event.
4. Stay Connected To Your Support Network
You already have a team of supporters you can rely on and lean into when you need them. During these challenging summer months, know that your support team is STILL there for you and they understand what you are going through and can reinforce the messages of recovery that you need to hear most. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them for guidance, even if you feel you need them a little more than normal. They are there for you.
5. Be Prepared To Utilize Your Healthy Coping Strategies
If you’ve completed an addiction treatment program, or even if you haven’t, you’re likely equipped with various healthy coping skills to help you overcome your triggers. If you’re going on a trip with friends, or on vacation with the family, you should create a list of the healthy coping strategies you’ve had success with and can use so you’re prepared if you encounter a triggering situation.
Choose an activity off this list that will help you get your mind off of negative thoughts and calm you down when you feel stressed or triggered. Healthy coping strategies may include prayer or meditation, listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk in nature, or anything creative like playing the guitar or writing a poem.
As you can see, a lot of what can help you maintain and strengthen your recovery in the summer months are simply reiterations and reminders of ways you are likely already very familiar with. Yes, the summer can offer much in the way of potential stumbling blocks and triggers due to the increased activity around outdoor events, social gatherings, and vacations. But still…be kind to yourself. Addiction is lifelong and there will be times that are more challenging than others to your sobriety. Continue to take your recovery one day at a time, and don’t be hard on yourself if you experience a craving while at an event or just enjoying a long summer day. You've got this.
JacobsWay provides safe and structured recovery housing and holistic restoration for men and women. If you or a loved one are struggling on your journey toward a life free from addiction, contact JacobsWay today for information on how we can help.