Summer poses a special challenge for recovering alcoholics. There are family reunions, vacations, social engagements, weddings, and a host of other potential pitfalls where alcohol is often available. Being outside on a patio, next to a campfire, or on the lake are things that alcoholics often associate with their drinking habits. We understand these challenges and wish to offer some options that will help make summer a time of fun, fond memories and safety from relapse.
Fortunately, many men and women who become clean and sober, stay that way. But, that isn’t the case for everyone. Many addicts convince themselves that they can have just one drink; but once that happens, one is never enough and frequently leads to a return to ongoing use. Staying clean, especially at the beginning of recovery, is difficult; but it gets easier as time goes by and recovery skills become stronger.
Here are some suggestions for making it through summer without a relapse.
Stay vigilant. Vigilance is key to recovery, and always remember to live in the moment. Romanticizing the past is a pathway to relapse. Long-term recovery comes from staying sober and working through your issues. At some point you’ll either want to prove to yourself, or to someone else, that you can handle a drink. Don’t do it. Live one day at a time, not the past or the future.
Be positive. Be proactive. It’s easy to say, but harder to do. Keeping a positive attitude is important and not at all easy. That’s why you need to rely on your sponsor or support groups. Keep that important person on speed-dial, because just knowing their support is there can build your ability to stay positive. When times and situations are tough, you need company you can trust.
Remain in support groups. As you continue down the road to recovery, you’ll be faced with life’s issues that you’ll have to confront without the use of drugs or alcohol. Familial, platonic, romantic and even work-related relationships could be causing problems. You need to learn how to handle these situations in a healthy, nondestructive way. Continuing to attend support groups throughout your sobriety will provide you with coping mechanisms and help you avoid a relapse.
Be patient. Sobriety comes slowly, sometimes over many months or years, but a relapse happens immediately. The good news is that as time goes by, it does get better. The last thing you need is to feel sorry for yourself. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight but it does happen. It just requires patience.
Sleep, exercise and eat healthy. During recovery it’s easy to get too much or not enough of all three of these. Addiction makes it difficult, if not impossible, to get the rest and sleep you need to maintain your health. The same is true of not getting enough exercise and of eating poorly. Summer is the perfect time to get outside, go for a bike ride or long walk and to eat healthier. Reestablishing healthy sleep patterns will also help with recovery.
Avoid being around drugs and alcohol. It is risky to be around the places, people, and situations where drugs and alcohol are being used and are available. Why walk through a minefield when you don’t have to? Stay away from drugs and alcohol, especially in the early phases of recovery. Take your power back, pick your situations and the people you choose to be around.
What you are experiencing is normal. During your recovery your emotions are going to be running amok. That’s because you are no longer managing your emotions with substance abuse. It’s an overwhelming time that all recovering addicts have to deal with. You may become depressed or develop resentment for your situation and the people you associate with your alcoholism and recovery. It’s not pleasant, but it is normal and given time surmountable. Just remember you are not alone. Do not become an island. Reach out to your sponsor and engage in support groups. Utilize all of the resources available to you.
Make plans with sober friends. Not everyone relies on drugs and alcohol to have a good time. There are many different resources available to help find exciting activities with other sober people. Social networks, like Facebook, have groups you can search and become members of, along with additional gathering sites such as MeetUp.com. Eventually, you will form a friend group who is drug and alcohol free and are there to support you during your recovery.
Do something for someone else. Helping others keeps you focused on productive tasks and gives you a ‘feel-good’ feeling knowing you are making a positive change in someone’s life. There are many different ways you can volunteer your time, so start by asking, “What matters to me?” Whether it’s helping someone close through a tough time or volunteering through an organization, find a cause that matters to you and get involved.
Prepare your exit strategy. Plan your reason for needing to leave if a situation becomes uncomfortable due to others using alcohol or drugs, and define the moment(s) that you could potentially encounter that are the sign you need to leave. Understanding what makes the situation uncomfortable and having a known exit strategy allows you to make the decision quicker and remove yourself from the situation.
Don’t let this summer be your summer of relapse. Follow these suggestions as they will make it easier to stay the course during your recovery!
If you, or someone you love, is suffering from alcoholism or alcohol withdrawal symptoms, contact The Walker Center for a confidential assessment.