How to Stay Sober Over the Summer
Summer is here and the living is easy, right? Well, not necessarily, if you’re in recovery. People in recovery face challenges while staying sober during the summer holidays. Picnics, barbecues, and celebrations all seem to involve alcohol of some sort. Plus, you may run into your old drug-loving crowd at the beach, pool, or a friend’s party. How do you stay sober over the summer when temptation seems like it’s around every corner?
Summer is all about being casual. Everyone rolls up their sleeves and their inhibitions wind down. Yet there’s one thing you can never be casual about: recovery. No matter where summer fun leads, sobriety and recovery should be your number-one priority every day — catching some rays or waves could be your second priority.
Our tips for staying sober during the summer holidays will help you navigate both daily life as well as those special occasions like graduation parties, weddings, and 4th of July parties that all seem to coincide with summer fun. By the end of warm-weather season, you’ll live life without regrets if you maintain your sobriety and continue your recovery.
Does Weather Affect Relapse?
Weather does affect relapse rates to some extent, but there’s no clear-cut relationship between time of year and relapse. People in recovery know they need to be extra vigilant during the period from Thanksgiving to Christmas, for example, simply because there’s an uptick in stress around the holidays, as well as times spent with family and other events that can trigger the urge to drink.
About 60 percent of people with a substance abuse disorder also have a co-occurring mental health issue, and that’s where weather may play a part. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a seasonal form of depression that happens to people who are sensitive to the lack of sunlight and dreary weather during the winter. People with SAD are actually more prone to relapse during the winter, not the summer. Summer’s dangers are more subtle.
Why Is Staying Sober During Summer Holidays Hard?
Like the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, summer tends to have its own rituals and rhythm. There’s Memorial Day to mark its beginning, and Labor Day to mark its end. In the middle is the 4th of July, which usually includes outdoor festivities of some kind. Most of these events include alcohol, and possibly other substances.
We tend to let our guard down during the summertime. It’s easy to forget that addiction is cunning, and it waits for its chance to sneak back into your life. It will take whatever chance it can get. Wintertime blues? Sure, addiction is happy to trigger cravings. Summer fun? Addiction is there to tempt you.
It seems unfair that both sad times and happy times like the summer holidays can trigger cravings, but for recovering addicts, nearly anything can trigger cravings. The trick is to know how to navigate times, places, people and events so that you can stay sober during the summer.
15 Tips for Staying Sober During the Summer Holidays
As you’ve probably learned throughout your recovery, you have to plan ahead and stay flexible in order to respond to life’s challenges. This includes a healthy, measured, and sober response to summertime fun. The following tips for staying sober during the summer holidays will help you keep your hard-won sobriety and continue a healthy recovery without missing any summertime fun:
- Put recovery first: Before the calendar turns to another month, recommit to your recovery program. Make sure that recovery comes before all else. Keep to your meeting schedule during the summertime, and continue working your steps and staying involved in recovery work. The more you’re around people in recovery, the better.
- Attend meetings: Many people in recovery attend more meetings during stressful times in their lives, so their attention is fixed on recovery. If you normally go to meetings a few times a week, try going every day. If you’re traveling, make sure to find local meetings to visit or go to an online or phone meeting. It may be fun to make recovery friends in other countries! It’s also a great reminder that addiction isn’t limited to any one race, creed, or nationality. When you step into a meeting room in Europe or North America, you’re among people who understand you and accept you for who you are.
- Plan ahead: Summer often involves parties and other occasions where alcohol is served. If you’re meeting friends, meet them for a walk instead of at a bar. Plan appropriately, so you’re not caught in a situation where it’s hard to resist cravings. Consider bringing non-alcoholic refreshments so that you have your own tasty options at parties.
- Serve yourself: Don’t let others dictate what’s on the table in front of you. If being around alcohol makes you uncomfortable, serve yourself. You can choose what you drink and how you drink more easily that way.
- Use the buddy system: If you’re worried about how you’ll behave at a party, ask if you can bring a friend. Then bring a program friend. That way, you know you’ll have at least one other person there who isn’t indulging in alcohol or drugs. You can also ask a recovery friend to call you during the party or meet you to check in. This gives you an incentive to stay sober— and a friendly voice on the phone if you need it.
- Prepare answers: If you recently left an inpatient recovery center, friends and family may be curious about what it was like. Feel free to sidestep their questions gracefully if you wish to, or answer in brief, general responses. “Thank you for asking me about that. Recovery is an important part of my life, and I’m happy I had the chance to change direction. What have you been doing lately?” Having a simple answer ready can keep you from feeling awkward.
- Be honest: If you choose to share your recovery story with others, keep it simple and honest. Remember that people who do not have an addiction may have some misconceptions about what it’s like to be in recovery — you can thank television and movies for that. Be honest and open if that’s your choice. You may find out later you’ve helped someone recognize their own problem and take action.
- Plan sober fun: Who says that your friends who aren’t in recovery get to plan all the fun? Take the lead and plan some sober adventures for the summer. An afternoon picnic, a morning breakfast date, renting bikes in the park or going to the beach to swim are all times to enjoy yourself without alcohol or drugs.
- Pace yourself: Former addicts tend to be people of extremes. Pace yourself on vacation and throughout the summer. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re in a wonderful place like a resort, or when you’ve got time off from work. Remember the acronym HALT: never let yourself get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired. You’re more prone to relapse when you find yourself in one of those four categories. Know when enough is enough and you need to retreat for a nap, a snack, or something else to take care of yourself.
- Don’t focus on what you can’t have: It’s easy to “romance the drug” or to mull over fond memories of summers gone by when you thought you could indulge to excess. Summertime may trigger these memories, especially if you’re traveling to areas you used to frequent during your using days. Avoid dwelling on those memories — they can make you forget the hardships that went along with the so-called good times.
- Avoid resentment: The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous talks about resentment and fear being at the root of many of our problems. Resentment can trigger anger, fear, and all sorts of emotions that lead to the urge to drink. You may feel resentful that others can drink all they want and you can’t. Or you may hear from old friends who have the relationships, money, or success that you crave. Make sure you use your program tools to deal with any resentment and personal defects that arise from your encounters with others at parties or other summertime gatherings. Talk to your sponsor, share at meetings, and write about those feelings to release them.
- Change your vacation plans: If you’ve always gone to the same vacation spot, and that place brings back memories of your former days, consider changing plans. There’s no law that says you must go to the same place every year. You are growing and changing throughout recovery. This may lead you to new adventures, or to discovering new interests. Returning to your old haunts may be a relapse trigger. Change your plans if you think it may be a problem.
- Take a sober holiday: With so many people in recovery these days, tour companies, hotels, and resorts are offering alcohol-free vacations. Companies like Sober Travelers specialize in finding resorts, cruises, hotels and other travel arrangements for people in recovery. Not only do these trips avoid alcohol, but they cater to people in recovery, and they can help you connect to others, attend meetings, and enjoy some recovery workshops while on your trip. You don’t have to give up summertime fun in order to stay sober. Nearly every type of travel you can think of these days offers alcohol-free opportunities.
- Volunteer: Giving service, both at recovery meetings and to others outside of recovery, are important 12-step tools. Volunteering is a focused means of offering service. There are volunteer opportunities at camps, religious programs, nonprofit organizations, and more. Whether causes around animal welfare, children’s education, or the environment are near to your heart, you can find volunteer opportunities around the world. It’s a great way to take a meaningful vacation and stay sober.
- Relax: Sometimes expectations about an event like summer vacation make it seem more stressful than it really is. Summer comes around every year. Try to let go of your expectations about the perfect summer vacation or trip. The more expectations you place on yourself, the more stress you add, and the more it hinders your recovery.
Summertime schedules often differ from wintertime schedules in many ways. Parents know they have to adjust their routines because children are out of school. As someone in recovery, you may need to adjust your routine so that while you’re on vacation, you can continue your recovery work.
Fitting recovery work into a vacation doesn’t have to be a chore. The Big Book fits neatly into a backpack or purse. You can slip program literature into your carryon bag on your flight, or load books onto your tablet or other electronic reading device. You can also use tablets to attend online meetings if you have Wi-Fi connection where you’re staying.
A notebook doesn’t cost much, and you’re probably bringing your cell phone with you anyway, so that takes care of the tool of writing and calling your sponsor and program friends. You can maintain disciplines such as journaling and introspection with simple tools like a notebook and a pen, and you can continue your program work via phone calls.
Vacation doesn’t have to mean that recovery work stops entirely. You can choose to continue it, put it on hold, or mix in parts that fit in easily with your plans.
Sober Vacations: What to Expect
Sober vacations range from trips like camping or backpacking, where you can safely keep away from addictive substances by simply not taking them with you, to active 12-step trips where meetings and recovery work are included in the day’s events.
You can use your vacation time to deepen your recovery by planning a trip to a recovery center, major conference, or workshop led by an expert in addiction and recovery. Friends who love cooking may plan two weeks in culinary school, and you could plan your own learning experience around recovery work.
What to Do If You Relapse
Relapse certainly isn’t inevitable, but if it does happen, it’s important not to panic. A slip doesn’t have to mean a permanent slide, but you must take steps immediately to get back on track.
- Call your sponsor: Talk over your relapse episode, and be honest. Your sponsor may recommend that you return to rehab, or take a few steps back in your program work to work on the character defect or other situation that led to your relapse.
- Take it seriously: The worst thing you can do is to laugh it off like it was no big deal. Any relapse is a big deal and can lead to a longer, harder road to recovery later on.
- Get back on track: As soon as you can, get to a meeting. Immerse yourself once again in your program of recovery. Find a way to make recovery a priority, so that a relapse won’t lead to a full return.
When Vacation Ends
Remember that sinking feeling you used to have the night before school started? Don’t let that feeling get you down when you return from vacation. Instead, slip right back into your positive, productive recovery routines.
Writing down your action plan and sharing it with your sponsor before vacation can help you get back into recovery routines quickly once you return home. If you put exercise on hold while you were away, make sure you start up again as soon as you’re back.
Schedule meetings and time to exercise, journal, meditate, pray, and call sponsors so that as soon as you return, the reminders pop up on your phone or calendar. The sooner you can sink back into a healthy routine, the better.
You Are Responsible for Your Summertime Sobriety
Summer often feels like it stretches out endlessly, like the ocean reaching to the horizon on a white sandy beach, but summer ends and seasons change. Your recovery is now a permanent part of your life, one day at a time.
Remaining focused on recovery and staying sober throughout the summer is ultimately your responsibility. Yes, you have a disease, but you also know the “medicine” to take for the disease: recovery work. The strongest, most potent medicine in the world won’t cure a disease if the patient refuses to take it.
Recovery should be your priority today. If you remain focused on staying sober each day, one day at a time, you can continue your recovery plan rain or shine, sun or sand, vacation or not.
Strong Recovery Begins at 12 Keys
If you or someone you love has a problem with drugs or alcohol, contact 12 Keys. We offer a holistic program of recovery that’s helped many people end their drug and alcohol problems.
At 12 Keys, we treat you like the individual you are. We don’t believe in cookie-cutter approaches to recovery. There’s no one size fits all solution to sobriety. Yes, there are certain services we think are helpful for most people in recovery, but the unique combination of them is all about what you need.
Once you call us, an admissions counselor will talk to you confidentially about your problems with drugs or alcohol. He or she may ask you some questions about your addiction, so we can better understand how to help you. We’ll help you find transportation to our Florida facility.
When you arrive, you’ll spend time safely detoxing under the care of our staff. Most of our staff are recovered addicts themselves, so there’s no judgment with us. We know what it’s like to finally make the decision to kick the habit, whatever your habit is, and we’re here to help you with it.
We’ll create a schedule for you based on your personal needs, which may include personal and group therapy, 12-step meetings, and outdoor experiences.
12 Keys is located along Florida’s gorgeous waterfront, so staying inside all day isn’t our style. There’s weekend horseback riding, swimming, kayaking, and fishing trips, to name a few things you can do while you are here. These trips help you get to know others and help us get to know you. They also help you relax and rest a bit from the hard work of recovery.
Yes, recovery is hard work. Although there’s plenty of down time to relax, swim, talk to others, read, reflect, or finish your recovery writing for the day, you’ll need some time to rest during the process. We make it a safe and comfortable place for recovery work.
If you know you have a problem with drugs or alcohol and need help, or someone you love has a problem, please call us. We want to help you get better. Contact us today.