Summertime Alcohol Relapse
If you’ve spent your previous summers under the influence of alcohol, a sober summer is a formidable task. Fortunately, there are many wonderful relapse prevention strategies and sober things to do that will keep you feeling happy and healthy
Summer is, of course, about sunny beaches, cookouts, and Fourth of July fireworks. Grassy lawns and relaxing gardens are perfect for a cold beer or a refreshing cocktail and you see a lot of people, including friends and family, enjoying their drinks outside. This increase in public drinking means that a recovering alcoholic will be faced with more temptation under the guise of carefree, good times in the sun, making them forget that they have an alcohol problem.
Why do people relapse during the summer?
There are a number of reasons for why newly sober people may be at high risk of relapse during the summer months.
- Most people are thinking about summer vacation and the summer celebrations such as July Fourth. Those who are recovering from alcoholism may associate vacation time with heavy drinking and find it difficult to imagine have a good time without alcohol.
- As outdoor events are numerous, there tends to be more drinking outside during the summer months. Tempting as it may be, do not romance the drink as you watch people looking as if they are having a good time because they have a drink in hand.
- The sunny, warm weather triggers all types of positive emotions, but the risk with this is that the individual may be feeling so positive that they forget that they have an alcohol problem. The person may mistake these positive emotions as a sign that they are now safe to drink again.
Preventing relapse during the summer months
Here are a few suggestions for helping prevent relapse during the summer months.
- Talk it out. If the thought of relapse worries you, share those worries with others. Discuss these feelings at your next recovery group meeting or attend more meetings as to reinforce determination to stay sober. Call on family and close friends for comfort and reassurance as they will help look out for you. Most importantly, seek help immediately and do not ignore your feelings if they seem to be getting out of control.
- Nix nostalgia. Avoid romancing the drink as you watch your friends enjoying alcoholic beverages. This is simply false nostalgia – snap back to reality. You know that alcohol is a problem and remember the pain caused by your addiction. If you do not feel very secure in your sobriety, it is best to avoid bars – only go to these places if you have a valid reason for doing so.
- Explore options. The hot sun is not a reason to drink an alcoholic beverage. It dehydrates your body and is much more harmful on a hot, sunny day. There are many better options to quench your thirst – ice water – iced tea – and to a lesser degree, cold sodas. Bring your own nonalcoholic drinks to barbeques, to the beach, or wherever your friends and family gather over the summer. It is important to drink plenty of water on those days when it is hot outside – carry a bottle with you everywhere. The risk is that if you become thirsty it may trigger intense cravings for alcohol.
- Move and keep moving. Become physically active and direct your energy into productive and fun exercise. Not only is it good for the body, it is good for your mental well-being too. Hike – bike ride – train for a half marathon. There are so many things to do outside and they are all better and easier to without alcohol.
- Be thankful and reflect. Look over your accomplishments in your efforts to stay sober and how far you have come in your recovery. Remind yourself of all the reasons to stay sober. Reflect on those who love you and who are supporting you in recovery.
Staying sober on vacation
Most of us take a vacation during the summer and often travel involves a destination of sun, fun and evening gatherings. Though this break is usually well-deserved, those who have had drinking problems often indulged in partying to excess. It may be extremely difficult to imagine fun without alcohol. Here are a few suggestions to remain sober during a vacation:
- Alcoholics Anonymous recommends that members do not make any major changes in the first year sobriety. A vacation could be a major change if not part of an annual routine.
- Ensure that the people you are vacationing with understand and respect your need to stay sober.
- Try to have another person in recovery be part of your vacation.
- Check the availability of some recovery meetings at the location you will be staying.
- Take along some recovery resources such as books – with the availability of tablet devices, it is much easier to access to e-books, videos and forums.
- Speak to your therapist about your vacation plans before you leave.
- Make sure that there are going to be many non-drinking activities available for you on this trip.
- If you want a specialty beverage, try a non-alcoholic cocktail.
- Make sure when ordering food in a restaurant that it contains no alcohol. If you are unsure, it is always best to ask.
- Online options such as Skype are a good way to stay in touch with your recovery friends back at home.
Staying sober at parties
Prior to attending summer gatherings and parties, it is important for a recovering person to make a promise not let the event breakdown a hard-won abstinence.
It is important to note that those who are recovering from substance abuse that did not include alcohol are still advised to abstain from alcohol consumption. Any intoxication qualifies as a relapse. Recovering individuals should bring their own non-alcoholic beverage to a party to avoid going to the bar or drink table. Also, people are less likely to offer a drink to a person who already has a beverage. For this same reason, it is recommended to keep a non-alcoholic drink in one’s hand throughout the party. To avoid any drink confusion after putting down a beverage to dance or use the bathroom, it is always best to get a fresh drink – so it is wise to bring more than one beverage to a party in the event the host runs out of non-alcoholic beverages.
Find support during the summer months
Here are some options for support during the summer months:
- Your addiction therapist is an excellent source for support and encouragement.
- Regular attendance at recovery meetings is a good way to get support during the summer months
- Friends who have been sober for a long time are usually a good source for advice and support.
- Friends who have never had a problem with addiction can be a very helpful provided they respect your situation related to alcohol.
If you are newly sober, you may worry about how you are going to manage during the summer months, as this may be a time of year where you have traditionally used alcohol heavily. The good news is that so long as you follow the previous steps to protect your sobriety, you may be about to enjoy the best summer ever.
Good luck and Happy Summer!