It’s summertime. And as they say, the living is easy. But when you’re in recovery, especially early recovery, it’s…not always that simple.
You can finally head into the warm air for some relaxation and recreation. When you get there, however, you’re often bombarded with environmental cues that can be challenging to sobriety.
Patio season means that drinking seems to be happening on every corner. (Literally.) Summer festivals are a music-lover’s dream, but often foster the kind of hard-partying atmosphere that may feel more like a nightmare when you’re sober. And while love flows at summer weddings, so does alcohol.
The triggers can appear to be as abundant as summer sunshine. But with some strategizing and self-care, you can handle it.
Here are a few tips from Midwest Counseling & Diagnostics clinician David Shein, LCSW, CADC, to help you—and your recovery—have a great summer.
Socialize with a sober tribe.
Summer concerts, festivals, barbecues, and celebrations are where partying—with or without substances—goes down. As a sober person, you don’t have to steer clear of those events if you don’t want to. You also don’t have to go into them alone.
There’s power in numbers. Leverage that power. Connect with your sober tribe, or seek out sober communities at outdoor events and festivals.
Bring a sober friend as your summerfest buddy or date to the barbecue. Make plans to go to concerts with other people who are in recovery. Some bands—Phish, for example—even have communities of fans that plan sober meet-ups and 12-step meetings at concerts.
If you’re headed to a music festival, find out whether there’s a “sober tent” on site. The recovery-friendly nonprofit Harmonium sets up and staffs sober tents at big music festivals around the country, including Lollapalooza, Outside Lands, and Lockn’.
Have a plan for parties.
When you’re invited to a summer wedding or another celebration, you make time to plan your outfit and buy a gift. Be sure to also set aside time to prepare for supporting your recovery.
Attend a meeting leading up to the reception or party. Connect with your sponsor and supports. Talk to people you trust about the triggers you might encounter, and strategize with them about what you will do if you are triggered.
At the reception or party, it may help to keep a cup of sparkling water or soda in your hand so people don’t even ask if you need a drink. If they do ask, have a few responses ready to go. They can be as simple as, “I don’t drink anymore,” or, “I’m not drinking today.” The important thing is that what you say aligns with your truth and level of comfort in talking about recovery.
And make an exit plan. Talk ahead of time with your date or close family and friends about what you’ll do if people at the party are getting smashed. It’s always OK to leave.
Make sobriety part of your vacation itinerary.
Whether you’re traveling to a beach resort or a cabin in the woods, be smart about your summer vacation plans.
Don’t put yourself in a situation—all-inclusive hotels or cruises, for instance—where many of the activities are centered around drinking. Instead, try seeking out vacations where the focal point is an activity, such as hiking, biking, golfing, or beach sports.
If you rely on 12-step meetings, be sure to embed them into your trip. Google where and when meetings in your vacation destination are held. (AA has links to local meeting locators in the U.S. and Canada and abroad.) Meeting new people at a meeting could be part of the adventure.
Be with your feelings.
Summer can be glorious, but the pressure to have “fun in the sun” can also be overwhelming. Annoying. Even discouraging. Regardless of the season, it’s OK to feel whatever you feel.
Recovery can bring up an array of emotions any time. Pay attention to them. Be honest about what you’re feeling, and talk about it with your support system.
No matter what you feel and when you feel it, you always have a choice to sync the ways you act on your feelings with your values and goals for recovery.
Recovery is an incredible accomplishment. Reward yourself for finding balance this summer.
Splurge on box seats for a baseball game. Clear your calendar and spend a whole day at the beach. Treat yourself to a fancy outdoor dinner under the stars.
Be good to yourself. You’re working hard to make huge, cool changes that will stay with you long after summer ends.
Midwest Counseling & Diagnostic Center, an outpatient group mental health practice in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, can offer support for your recovery. Our extensively trained, highly skilled therapists are down-to-earth, non-judgmental, and committed to helping you find the path forward on your journey. For more information on recovery support offered by Midwest Counseling, please contact Rose Metivier: rose@https://midwestcounseling.com/.