Summer isn’t over yet! The skies are usually still blue and sunny about now. Cars are still passing by with the windows open and some music blaring. People are enjoying summertime activities, like swimming, lying on the beach, going to concerts, maybe cooking out at a few backyard parties.
Summertime means socialization, and often summertime socialization includes alcoholic beverages. People are drinking more often than in other seasons. If you are a recovering addict, an alcoholic who is seeking recovery, or someone on the path to becoming an alcoholic, summer can be a dangerous time. You want to enjoy all the benefits of summer, but stay clean… when the drinks are literally all around you.
It can be very difficult to stay sober in the summer, for people at all levels of addiction. For everyone, temptation is everywhere. For recovering alcoholics, it’s like walking through a candy shop but knowing that just ONE piece of candy can throw you back into the realm of active alcoholism.
Therefore, we have decided to give you a nice large handful of tips on how to maintain sobriety in the summertime. Plus, we want to share some of the health benefits a sober summer can have on anybody. But first let’s discuss briefly why the summer is actually the best time to not only stay sober, but to achieve sobriety as well.
Summer’s Best for Sobriety
The summer is warm, it’s fresh, and it’s always rather welcoming after the coldness of winter – that is if you live somewhere that experiences such changes in season. In fact, it has long been scientifically proven that people are less stressed in the summertime.
Okay, so stress is low, and therefore worries are lessened and there is more time to focus on you. So, summer is the perfect opportunity to focus on sobriety or recovery. Plus, if you have children or young nephews/nieces, it’s your opportunity to bond with them since they are out of school.
7 Tips for a Sober Summer
Now for the good stuff! The premise for these tips is that you’re heading to a backyard barbecue party with a bunch of old friends, but there will be prevalent alcohol use: two half-kegs. There is absolutely no order to this tip list. We simply did our research and wanted to share with you seven excellent ways to remain sober in the ever-tempting summertime.
Have a blast. Unwind. Go to the beach, talk to friends, play horseshoes, go to the movies, go to parties, go to barbecues and skinny dip in the pool if that’s your thing, but please, if you’re a recovering addict, stay sober not just for the rest of this summer… but for rest of your life.
1. Create Time Limits
Wherever you go, especially if you know there’s going to be alcohol involved, set a time limit for yourself. The less time you spend being tempted, the less likely you are to have that ‘one drink.’ All too often, that one drink leads to six or seven, and then to the beginning of your problem all over again. Set your phone or watch to go off every hour and gauge where the party is. If everyone is intoxicated, or you feel too tempted, just take off. There are a million reasons you could come up with.
2. Bring a Friend that Knows
Bring someone with you, a sponsor of sorts, who knows you want to remain sober. It is always harder to say no when you’re alone than it is when you’re with someone. This is because friends boost our confidence. Plus, nobody will be able to accuse you of having nothing else to do when you’re with company.
3. Stay Preoccupied
Say you’re an hour or two into the party, you’re having great conversations with people you’ve known for years, but you keep sort of glancing over at the keg. The temptation is growing stronger. One solution, if you’re set on staying, is to preoccupy yourself with something active. Tell your buddies you want to play horseshoes, or have a fire, or play cards, or check in on the ballgame on TV. It doesn’t matter what you do. The tip is to stay busy so drinking is out of sight and out of mind.
4. Avoid Triggers
If you know you can’t go to that party without having a drink, then don’t go. If you miss the friends, contact them individually and plan something else. It’s the communication age, so surely they’re within reach. Sometimes as a recovering alcoholic you have to make sacrifices in order to maintain your sobriety.
In fact, a major part of addiction recovery is avoiding situations that make you want to abuse – regardless of what the addiction is. Gamblers should avoid Las Vegas and sex addicts probably shouldn’t vacation to the red light district in Amsterdam. If setting a time limit, or having a friend with you, or doing something else simply isn’t support enough, then do not go to the party. It’s not worth it.
5. Just Say No
Yes, that was indeed a slogan used in the American war on drugs during the late 80s and early 90s, but the fact remains that we do have the option of denying a drink. If you find that you are strong-willed enough to turn any offers of alcohol down, then this should come easy to you. However, being a recovering alcoholic is different.
It places you in a situation where it’s harder to just say no. It’s like dangling a lottery ticket in front of a former gambling addict. Yet the power to say no is there. This is only a tip for those who are confident in their ability to maintain the answer of no.
6. Have an Exit Strategy
Sometimes our confidence seems stronger than it actually is when tested. For example, say you’re at a party where there’s drinking and you’re doing fine staying sober. Then all of a sudden, as cravings tend to do, a craving for alcohol hits you hard. You might even be in the middle of a conversation and feel an unexpected desire to drink.
Now is when you have to have an exit strategy. Say you remembered an appointment you have to get to. Say you have to help your parents with something. Excuse yourself to the bathroom and come back with news that you have to go. These are the rare situations in life where it’s alright to lie, so regardless of what it is, have an exit strategy.
7. Drink Something Else
Fill up a red Solo party cup with a drink that is non-alcoholic. From personal experience, people are much less likely to tempt you to drink if you already have a drink in your hand, even if it is a Dr. Pepper. The thing is, people will either assume it’s spiked or simply won’t indulge enough to ask you if it’s ‘really alcohol.’ Also, you might as well make it water and say it’s vodka since dehydration is rampant in the summertime.
Benefits of Staying Sober in Summer
For all walks of life, there are several benefits to staying clean under the summer sun. Not having a summertime hangover and/or withdrawal symptoms is a major benefit. Also, you can spend more quality time with your family and your friends. Not to mention, wallets come out in the summer quite often, and alcohol can be costly. Perhaps the greatest benefit is having the energy to enjoy all the perks of summer.
According to the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, there are essentially five factors that help recovering addicts to maintain sobriety. They are:
- Healthy personal relationships
- Healthy emotions and thoughts
- Recognition of the warning signs of relapse
- Ability to manage high-stress conditions
- Sticking to your treatment plan
Remaining sober will help you achieve and nurture these factors. That’s a guarantee. Plus, it’s important to remember that fun is possible without alcohol. Summer is a great time to remind yourself of that. A sober summer can be a memory-filled one – another wonderful benefit.
An Eight-Year NIH Study
Beginning in the late 1990s, the NIH hosted a study that would last eight years. A total of 1,162 people were included, all of whom were entering addiction treatment. The plan was to have all participants stay in contact for the entire 8 years, and 94% of them did. The idea behind the study was to discover a correlation between intervals of sobriety and the eight-year maintenance of sobriety.
For example, let’s say the study included Dave and Jackie, two alcoholics entering treatment. Dave stays sober for three months, relapses, and basically repeats this pattern for the entire eight years. Jackie, on the other hand, stays sober for five years, relapses once, and then stays sober again until the end.
It turns out Dave has significantly less of a chance at a sober rest of his life than Jackie has at hers. The researchers broke this realization down into four groups: up to one year sober, 1-3 years sober, 4-5 years sober, and 5+ years sober. Letting 100% mean that there is literally zero chance of ever drinking again, here are the results of the NIH study:
|Up to one year sober||36%|
|1 to 3 years sober||66%|
|4 to 5 years sober||84%|
|5 or more years sober||86%|
The fact that the chances of achieving a lifelong sobriety go up with longer periods of sobriety is actually common sense. The amount those chances go up are truly astonishing. This literally means that you nearly double your chances at a sober rest-of-your-life with every 1-2 years of sobriety.
Facts About Relapse
The Addiction Project began in 2007 and is collaborative between HBO, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the NIAAA, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The project “combines film and leading scientific research to shed light on the current state of addiction in America,” according to its website. Some facts they have unveiled are rather shocking:
- Fewer than 10% of the 23 million Americans with a substance abuse disorder are receiving the treatment they need.
- Over 50% of people who quit an addiction will relapse at least one time.
- Up to 35% of those who complete treatment return within a year.
- Fully stable recovery takes at least five years on average.
- The vast majority of relapses occur 30-90 days after discharge from treatment.
Similarly to the winter holidays, summertime can be full of cheer… and beer. It’s sometimes difficult to maintain your sobriety during such times. Use these seven tips, remember the benefits of staying sober in summer, remember how the NIH showed us that longer periods between relapses mean better chances of lifelong sobriety, and keep in mind the above facts regarding relapse.
We have faith in you. We also know sometimes it takes more than that. Please, if you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction of any type, seek treatment today. Recovering from an addiction, at any stage, is not a battle that should be fought alone.