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Why is Staying Sober in the Summer So Hard?

A party and social survival guide.

Creative Commons
Source: Creative Commons

Things are heating up—and that means more challenges for people in recovery. Summer is a time in which it is notoriously difficult to stay sober. People in recovery are frequently bombarded with constant barbecues, pool parties, and trips to the beach. How do we enjoy the season and not get off track?

For those who have drinking issues, any occasion can be an excuse to drink and that it is easy to blame their belligerence on the event. Even normal drinkers may drink more in the summer than in other seasons.

In addition, we live in a technological age where computers and text messaging have become the norm in terms of communication. Therefore, in person social events can be more stressful and alcohol can ease that discomfort. Social events can be opportunities to connect with others, meet new people, and enjoy the moment, but when alcohol is placed in the equation, those possibilities may be lost. Those following social media images may see an increase in party pictures and social events, which can lead to an increase in urges to use and/or longing to be “part of” those social scenes.

It is very important for those in sobriety to stay connected to their recovery program, attend therapy, receive treatment for co-existing conditions (anxiety, depression, etc.) and work at re-programming their association with these potentially triggering occasions.

Here are some tips for “clean” summertime fun:

  1. Set limits in terms of the amount of time spent in heavy drinking/using environments.
  2. Bring along a friend or other loved one to a social function for additional support.
  3. Choose not to attend events that would increase chances you may drink.
  4. Leave the event early.
  5. Be sure to have transportation options that will allow you to leave the event early if necessary.
  6. Have a friend who you can call for support during the event and take a "time out."
  7. Avoid spending time with "toxic" relationships.
  8. Practice stress reduction techniques during this time of year (ie, exercise, meditation, massage, etc.).
  9. Spend time with your friends in activities that would not involve substances.
  10. Be honest about your emotions.
  11. Avoid "people pleasing," as this involves trying to keep other people happy while neglecting your own needs.
  12. Let go of other's expectations and opinions of your social life-If you have a healthy relationship, then they will respect your personal choices.
  13. Engage in summer activities that you enjoy that do not involve substances and invite friends along.
  14. “Bookend” the event—commit to speaking with a sober support before and after the event for accountability.

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Copyright Sarah Allen Benton, LMHC, LPC 2019.

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